John Madden
John Madden
Patriots-Jets rivalry headlines Week 7
By John Madden

New York Jets at New England Patriots
This AFC East rivalry, which renews itself twice a year during the regular season, has a little different twist to it this year. Both teams come into the game undefeated and are fighting for the division lead. That's about as big and good as a rivalry can get.

The Jets are going to have to come out with a good mixture. Against a team that's as good as the Patriots, you have to be able to run the ball as well as pass. If you become one-dimensional, the defense becomes one-dimensional, and if that happens they only have to key on one thing. That creates big problems for the opposing offense.

There is going to be some pressure on QB Chad Pennington to perform long with RB Curtis Martin and the Jets' coaching staff. The reason I say the coaching staff is because I think they're going to have to make an effort to keep the defense off-balance by running when you're supposed to throw and throwing when you're supposed to run. Good defenses predict what you're going to do by looking at your tendencies, taking away what you like to do and making you do something you're not comfortable with. So what you need to do is the opposite of what they expect you to do.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady is a big-game quarterback, and you can definitely make the argument that he's the best quarterback in football. You don't have to look any further than him winning two of the past three Super Bowls. That is what it's all about! You can compare stats, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, etc. But at the end of the day, all that matters is winning, and that's what Brady is able to do.

When you look at these two undefeated teams, you have to say that the Patriots are the better undefeated team. I just don't think the Jets are a great undefeated team. You can only play the schedule you're given, and that's exactly what the Jets have done -- and they find themselves 5-0 going into Week 7.

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
Don't think the Eagles are overlooking the Browns -- Andy Reid is not the kind of coach who overlooks anyone! While there is always that possibility, and any team can beat any team on any given Sunday, I don't think Reid ever lets his team get satisfied with their performance. Reid knows this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that the Eagles have to take it week by week -- and that it's how they play against the weaker teams. The Eagles are not the type of team you're going to sneak up on.

Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Someone asked me last weekend who I thought was the biggest surprise team in the NFL this season, and they listed several teams but didn't name the New York Giants. Well, I said the Giants. I saw the Giants on film after the first week of the season, and they looked awful! I thought they were the worst team in football. They kept working at it and just gelled. The offensive line is playing well, RB Tiki Barber looks like he's off to a great start, QB Kurt Warner is the real deal and their defense is playing well. I think they'll just keep rolling coming off the bye last week. They are a very good team.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
It was just Week 4 the last time these two teams met, and the story is still the same. When you play the Colts, you have to play good defense -- that means holding their explosive offense to something like three touchdowns and a field goal. That was exactly what the Jaguars did in the their first matchup. Then your offense has to come out and score four touchdowns, and I'm not sure the Jaguars' offense is capable of that.

Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings
If the season ended this week, QB Daunte Culpepper would be the odds-on favorite to win the league MVP. Every week, it seems he throws five touchdown passes. I think it's going to be a little different for him this week without WR Randy Moss. There is talk of Moss playing in certain situations (like goal-line), but it's not the same.

The thing about Randy Moss is that you better stay deep and you better keep a couple of guys over there. So that opens up a whole lot of other things on the other side of the field. I'm not saying that's the whole reason Culpepper has been able to do the things he's done, but it is part of the reason. He can still do it, because his offensive line is playing really well and his running backs are running well, but it might be a little tougher to do without the threat of Randy Moss.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
These teams have played themselves into their holes one game at a time, and now they have to play themselves out of their holes one game at a time. There is no place to sign up to quit -- quitting is not an option, so you have to just keep fighting and work yourself out of the funk.

Both teams were in the playoffs a year ago, and had you asked me which of these teams would be more likely to only have two wins at this point in the season, I would have said the Cowboys. I really felt they overachieved last season in winning 10 games. This season, they don't have a running game and Vinny Testaverde is at QB, so they just didn't look like they were going to win as many games. Coach Bill Parcells himself said the Cowboys are a better team, but they might not win as many games, and I agree with that.

I thought the Packers would be on the same level as the Vikings, not as good as the Eagles and of course not like New England. But the Packers still have QB Brett Favre, RB Ahman Green and a good offensive line. Their defense has let them down, and I thought the Packers would be better than the Cowboys coming into the season.

Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are going to have to find a way to stop RB Reuben Droughns. He has been on a tear the past two weeks. If you don't stop him, that gives the Broncos everything they want. They'll be able to play-action pass off the run and bootleg off the run and do everything they like to do on offense. In watching Droughns last week against the Oakland Raiders, he is a perfect back for coach Mike Shanahan's system.

Shanahan likes to hand the ball off, have the back make one cut and then head downhill. RB Clinton Portis is a great back, but he wasn't the "take one break and head downhill" kind of back. He was "take one break, take another break, take another break (etc.)" ... and then head downhill. But now that Droughns is back there, what the Broncos do is start the play to one side, and then on the backside they cut, so if the defense overcommits Droughns cuts back to the other side and hits the hole for a nice gain.

The Broncos have improved at wide receiver by getting Ashley Lelie on the field. Rod Smith is a heckuva receiver, and the tight end has become less of a weapon this year. When Lelie was drafted, they wanted his speed, and that's what he is for the Broncos. The defense can't just squat back 12 or 15 yards off the line of scrimmage because they will run Lelie on some posts and corners and spread the field. When the Broncos had Smith and Ed McCaffrey, they were a ball-control offense, and basically they still are -- but Lelie gives them a deep threat that can open up some of the shorter stuff.

Mixture will be important for the Bengals. The offense is going to have to run as well as throw the ball. If they rely too much on the run with Rudi Johnson, the Broncos will bring an eighth man to the line of scrimmage to stop him.

So if the Bengals commit to being a running team and the Broncos are able to stop that, and if the Broncos' offense scores some points, then at some point the pressure is going to fall on QB Carson Palmer's shoulders to make some throws. So if the Bengals know that, they don't want to wait until they have to throw -- they want to stay out of that position. So they have to be able to dictate and throw it when they want to throw it.
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