John Madden
John Madden
Eagles are Giant problem
By John Madden
ALLMADDEN.com

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
I have always said you play until Thanksgiving to put yourself in position to make a run into the playoffs and the Philadelphia Eagles have done just that. With a win on Sunday, they will clinch the division. That doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot because you have to continue to play. The only break they might get is if they get an injury that just needs a little time to heal then you have that luxury but they still have to go out and win games and fight for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

There are a couple of different defenses that are really tough to play against, and this defense coached by Jim Johnson is one of those. They never do what you think they are going to do. When you think they are going to bring a blitz, they drop off into coverage and when you think they are going to drop into coverage, they bring the blitz and overload one side or the other and confuse offenses, and, in particular, a young quarterback like Eli Manning.

The Eagles offense will probably give the Giants defense some fits as well without both of their starting defensive ends. Michael Strahan and Keith Washington have both been lost for the season and that will make it very difficult to contain the balanced attack of Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons also have put themselves in a great position to make a run into the playoffs. The question is how they are going to play in the playoffs, what seed are they going to be when they get to the playoff. That is what you play for from now until the end of the regular season.

When you look at this team you have to say Jim Mora has done a heck of a job. You get a new coach, new assistants, a new system that everyone has to adjust and adapt to with very little carry over from the year before and to be able to do that and win as many games as this team has that is a pretty amazing feat!

I think the way for the New Orleans Saints to have success against Michael Vick is to go after him and don't worry about containment. If you start worrying about him running, and you say don't let him run, then you find your guys doing nothing and the Saints defense is already doing that way too much. If you pass rush him and you get him, that is great but even if you miss, at least you make him make a decision quickly. And you don't let him sit back there and find his receivers because you are worried he is going to break containment. I think the Saints have come to that point in the season where they can say to heck with it, let's see if we can get to Vick and make our presence felt.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
I feel like this New England Patriots offense is going to give the Baltimore Ravens defense some problems. Although they are not a high scoring offense, they do have a lot of weapons that allow them to spread things out. In Week 10 Tom Brady was able to complete passes to 10 different receivers against the Buffalo Bills and that was without Deon Branch. He gets Branch back last week, who is his fastest and best receiver, in addition to all the other weapons.

Charlie Weis, the offensive coordinator, does a really good job calling a game. He keeps you off balance, you never know where the ball is going because they don't have just one guy that they rely on in the passing game. So you really better be ready to cover all five guys that are eligible on any given play. The only thing that you know for certain is that if they run the ball it is probably going to be Corey Dillon running the ball.

The Ravens on offense are going to have trouble running the ball and that's not just because their star running back Jamal Lewis is going to be out. The middle of the Patriots defensive line is pretty solid with Keith Traylor or Vince Wilfork at the nose tackle stuffing it up really well. Having said that, they are very weak at the cornerback position, they are playing with rookie free agents, guys that are practice squad guys and wide receivers out on the wide receivers. If the Ravens are going to do anything against this Patriot defense the pressure is going to fall on Kyle Boller's shoulders. He has come on a lot in the last few weeks and he is going to have to have a big day.

I still feel like this Patriot team is the best in the league. Now I know you can make the argument that they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Steelers beat the Eagles as well but just the way that the Patriots play the game I think makes them the class of the league. They don't have the best players but Bill Belichick keeps plugging guys in and they just seem to get the job done and it's the darndest job of coaching that I have ever seen and this team represents everything about the word TEAM!

Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers
This Washington Redskins team is going to have some real problems this weekend against a strong Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Their three-man line presents so many problems in addition to the problems the Redskins already have trying to score points. Although the Redskins defense may give the Steelers offense some problems, they are not going to have any problems with their defense against the Redskins offense. That offense has been a little disappointing this year. I thought when Joe Gibbs came back, I have all the respect in the world for him, he would be able to get his offense installed and they would have more success than they have. Now that I look back on it I guess you have to say that maybe he just didn't have the players!

Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
This is a perfect example of what I was saying earlier about putting yourself in position come Thanksgiving to make a run at the playoffs. Both of these teams are at 6-4. The question now is what they are going to do down the stretch. Both teams could get in, one team could get in or neither team could get in, it just depends on the stretch run and it all starts this Sunday.

I think if the Minnesota Vikings can get a win and hold enough to get Randy Moss back and healthy then they could be tough to contend with down the stretch.

You can hear me with Adam Schein on Sirius NFL Radio on Friday and Monday afternoons on "Afternoon Blitz" and Sunday mornings on the "Sirius NFL Tailgate Show."


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