John Madden
John Madden
Parcells made right call
By John Madden

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
First you have to look at the Dallas Cowboys. Last year they won 10 games, made the playoffs, and of course lost to the Carolina Panthers who went onto the Super Bowl. That put some higher expectations on this season and there was no way that they were going to win more games than they did last season.

Bill Parcells has taken a lot of heat for his decision to pull Drew Henson at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day game in favor of Vinny Testaverde, and I agree with Parcells. It was a move that he had to make in order to get the win, and now Monday night Testaverde will again be back in his starting role.

The one thing the Cowboys do have is a good offensive line and in particular the left side with Flozell Adams, the left tackle, and Larry Allen, the left guard, and now they have found their running game to run behind it in Julius Jones. They no longer have to depend on their passing game for all of their plays and it allows them to get a good mixture.

I get the feeling sometimes that maybe the Seattle Seahawks just can't stand prosperity! I thought this team was going to be better this year and anytime you think they are going to win they lose and when you think they might lose they get a win and after all of that disappointment they still find themselves in first place in their division! The Cowboys are in a more difficult position, in order for them to make the playoffs they are going to have to run off four or five wins here in the last five weeks but all the Seahawks have to do is win as many games as the St. Louis Rams and the way the Rams are playing that doesn't look like any big deal.

Every time I see the Seahawks they are dropping passes on Matt Hasselbeck and I think that has frustrated him a little bit. I know that a quarterback can't show emotion and can't get mad at his receivers but I don't know that I have seen any NFL team drop as many passes as the Seattle Seahawks. You look at completion percentage, that's down, the receivers are down, and pretty soon you start to lose confidence here and there. That is not the way to have a smooth offense. The one advantage that they have is Shaun Alexander. If they get frustrated then they can go to the running game and just pound the ball in there for a while, get your composure back and then go back to the passing game. They can do those kinds of things but they sure don't do them consistently.

For the Seahawks defense, Ray Rhodes does a good job of scheming them and getting them in the places they have to be. What he is going to see is Julius Jones running the ball and that opens up the offense for a good mixture, that gives them the play action pass. Then you talk about tight ends and spreading the ball around the Cowboys have a pretty good tight end in Jason Witten. The Seahawks are going to have to keep and eye on him. He is a young up and coming tight end that can put some pressure on defenses to cover the middle.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
This San Diego Chargers team is the definition what the league has become. Years ago you knew before the start of the season what teams were going to be the best, what teams would be in middle of the road and what teams would be at the bottom and that would hold true throughout the season. Today teams that look like they are going to be good in preseason don't always live up to the billing or come out and shoot the lights out the first few weeks and then fall off the map. This Chargers team has done just the opposite, they start out 1-2, talk of their No. 1 draft pick Philip Rivers being the starter over incumbent Drew Brees, and they get that turned around with Brees and now find themselves in first place in the AFC West going into a week 13 matchup with the second-place Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are a team that has a hard time playing uphill, they need to get on top early. I think Jake Plummer is the real deal and I like the way he plays. The offensive line is very good and can lead the way for a good runner like Reuben Droughns. On the other side of the ball their defense can be a little suspect at times. If they fall behind and Plummer has to play from behind he tends to force things. Antonio Gates has turned into a heck of a receiver and he is a heck of a wild card. If you look at passing games today what the defenses are doing is using that cover two shell that Tony Dungy made famous in Tampa and that leaves the middle of the field open for guys like Gates to go wild. It seems like every time I see a highlight of the Chargers, Antonio Gates is a part of it and always making big plays. After him you have the running game with LaDainian Tomlinson and then you have the ability to run play action off of the run and the receivers on the outside. It really looks like this team may have the whole deal.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
We all know that Jerome Bettis has filled in very well while Duce Staley has been out and this week they get Staley back and both backs will be available. Staley will start and Bettis will come in to spell him and that is a pretty good position to be in. Some positions you don't want to have multiple guys that can do the job, quarterbacks you want to have one guy that you stick with but having two good running backs is a luxury that is nice to have. The Steelers will be able to put Staley in and see how he is going to be and then if he needs a break or isn't quite 100 percent then you stick the Bus in there.

The one thing Jack Del Rio has brought to this Jacksonville Jaguars team is toughness and you are going to see a tough defense this Sunday night against the Steelers. The Jaguars defense is going to bring plenty of pressure. If you have a veteran quarterback you show him coverage, if you have an inexperienced quarterback then you give him heat! That is what Ben Roethlisberger is going to see, the Jaguars are going to try to confuse him with some pressure.

I think the Jaguars are one of those teams that are a year away. They are going to get some wins and play some teams tough this year and as result of Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor getting better every week I think next year will be their year. Don't get me wrong this game is not going to be an easy one for the Steelers, they are going to have their hands full but the way the Steelers are structured I don't think they will over look this team. Their defense is one of the toughest defensive systems to play against. The 3-4 that Dick LeBeau uses allows them to give so many different looks, you can bring pressure from either side, you can zone dog, coverage, etc., and then they are a tough, physical bunch!

Houston Texans at New York Jets
I know I have said it many times before but you play until Thanksgiving to put yourself in a position to make a run into the playoffs and the New York Jets have done just that! They dodged a bullet by continuing to win while Chad Pennington was out with a shoulder injury and now they get him back this week, it is perfect timing for him to get back and that is big for the Jets.

The Jets defense is going to have to find a way to stop David Carr. He has been playing with so much confidence the last few weeks, and he has been on the move and that is when he is most effective -- when he is able to run the bootlegs, rolls out and throws the ball down the field. That is going to be a tough thing for the Jets defense and that all starts with John Abraham. When he comes up that weak side with his quickness and gets pressure on that weakside tackle right now and then the line has to give the tackle some help and that makes it tough for the pass protection.

Green Bay at Philadelphia Eagles
Anytime you have Brett Favre and the weapons that he has, you know you are going to be in the game! Having said that I think they are going to have to find their running game if they are going to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Ahman Green may be back and his health and durability with that rib injury will be a question. Najeh Davenport stepped in and ran well last week but he is nicked up as well so it will be interesting to see if the Packers can get their ground game going against a team that you can run the ball against.

Mike Sherman has been calling the plays for the last six games and he is 6-0. I know he does not want to get Favre into a shootout, he wants to find a nice balance. At one point during the game last Monday night the Packers had 27 runs and 27 passes and that is exactly where they would like to be, but to be in that position they better have at least one healthy running back.

The Packers are beginning to get a little pass rush and that started when Grady Jackson came back from his knee injury. He is a good run stopper and that helps the other guys like Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to get some pressure on passing downs because they don't have to worry about stopping the run. But watching Donovan McNabb I don't know that that works. You see someone get some pressure on him he spins out of the tackle steps up and throws the ball. On the other end of that pass is Terrell Owens and I am sure that the Packers will have Al Harris out on him but I think that Owens wins that battle.

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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