John Madden
John Madden
Turn on the afterburners
By John Madden
ALLMADDEN.com

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
This time of year is when you need to get yourself playing well and get ready to make that run into the playoffs. And, I have always felt that any team that kind of limps into the playoffs isn't going to do very well. The Jets are a team that is getting themselves in a good position going into the post season. They have Chad Pennington back and look like they are getting stronger. Now I think they might get into some tough spots against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers because anytime the Jets get into a passing situation, Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator, is going to have something for them. I think the first thing they need to do is get Curtis Martin going early and keep themselves out of third-and-long situations. If the Jets can keep themselves out of those situations then that confusing 3-4 defense and all of those exotic things that can be run off of it become less effective.

On the defensive side of the ball the Jets are going to be without John Abraham, their defensive end, and I have always felt like they feed off of him. His quickness coming off that weak side -- he could go inside or outside that tackle, is always on the quarterback and getting good penetration against the run -- and when you lose a guy like that not only do you lose what he does but also you don't have that 110-mile per hour motor to feed off of. They are going to have trouble against the run and that is one of the things that Pittsburgh can do with both Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis, they will pound you and I feel like the Jets can be pounded.

The Steelers are coming off of a great performance last Sunday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. I think at some point you have to say a rookie is no longer a rookie and Ben Roethlisberger falls into that category after that game. He has enough games under his belt and gotten through some of those rocky times that any young quarterback has to go through and is beginning to look more like a second year guy. The offensive line, their running game, the toughness of their defense, good tackling, all of the things that you have to have to be a good NFL team, the Steelers look like they have.

Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
These New England Patriots just know how to win games. They are not a team that is going to blow you out. They are not like the Indianapolis Colts, they won't put 50 points up on you and be up 50 to 10 and make you play uphill. They always stick to their conservative game plan and very solid defense. New England is the better team and the best in the NFL but the thing is they do let you hang around and if Cincinnati does have a chance I think you take the game and fast forward to the 4th quarter and then if you have something special bring it out then.

The combination of Tom Brady under center and Corey Dillon behind him is a tough matchup for the Bengals defense. Corey Dillon has been quite an addition for the Patriots this season. You might ask what kind of help did they need winning two out of the last three Super Bowls but they did that without a running game and that forced them to make a lot of short passes in lieu of runs. Now they've eliminated that and where it really helps you is short yardage and goal line and then when you get a lead and you want to protect a lead and run some time off the clock. Those things are made a lot easier now with Dillon than it was before. Then Tom Brady reminds me of Joe Montana! He does everything that the other quarterbacks do in the NFL but he makes it look a whole heck of a lot easier.

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
You have to wonder about both of these teams! The Seahawks start the season 3-0, have the St. Louis Rams down big and let them come back in the fourth quarter and win. That sends them on a three-game losing streak ,and low and behold, the same type of thing happens to them last week against the Dallas Cowboys. I don't know how much confidence they can have, their defense isn't playing very well, their linebackers are all banged up, they don't tackle but they do have some offense. Shaun Alexander is having a great year, Matt Hasselbeck is a streak passer and can get it going. But after you get a few of those losses where you think you have it all under control and you get to that late stage of a game and you have the lead and you start to think, "Uh oh, we're at that point again and it's happened before what's going to happen now" &and it happens again!

I think that the Minnesota Vikings offense holds the biggest mismatch in this game because Daunte Culpepper is something special. He is so big and strong and even if you get a rush against they just bounce right off of him! Not only Culpepper but Randy Moss, I think he is the most dangerous player in the NFL whether it's directly or indirectly he adds another dimension that the Seahawks will have trouble with!

The thing to remember is that anything can happen and once you get down to the fourth quarter. It's not who goes out and wins the game but it's who doesn't go out and do something stupid.

St. Louis Rams at Carolina Panthers
I have always said that winning is a good deodorant and when the winning stops and you have a bunch of injuries and things get tough and you can hold it all together, put other guys in and come back and win, that is when a coach shows he can really coach and that is what John Fox has been able to do.

If you look at the St. Louis Rams you realize Marc Bulger is a good quarterback but he is not Peyton Manning. With the Rams they want to throw the ball every down and never seem to get to the run and stay with the run. I just can't see them going into the game and running the ball 30 times to find out if Steven Jackson is the real deal. I think that is their big problem, they go into a game and want to run the ball more but they don't really give it a chance.

Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans have a fan base that brings a college-type atmosphere and that should provide a pretty good setting for the Monday Night Football game. That along with Jeff Fisher and the mentality that the Titans bring, you always know they are going to play hard no matter what their record is. I think Fisher showed last week that he is willing to pull out all the stops to try and get a win, whether it is three onsides kicks, going for it on fourth down, throw a center eligible pass. I just feel with a coach like Jeff Fisher and a team like the Titans if they get backed into a corner instead of going down or taking a standing eight count they come back after you!

I am surprised to see these two teams are in the position that they are in. I thought both of these teams were playoff teams at the beginning of the season. I don't think you can keep saying injuries because every team has injuries and you have to coach yourself around injuries and I think you have to play yourself out of injuries. I think the bottom line is that they didn't get the job done.

I have seen the Kansas City Chiefs several times and seen them at times when they looked like the best team in the NFL. They have an offensive line that could be the best in the league and when you have that you can do some things. Trent Green is a streak passer and then they can run the ball. On the other hand I have seen them look like the worst team in football. So if you say what is the problem? The answer is they can do it sometimes and it's probably true of all bad teams in the NFL or all teams that have a bad record but they can't do it consistently.

As for the Titans, last week Billy Volek got the start at quarterback and might this week as well and he is not bad. I have seen him play over the years and he's not one of those second-string quarterbacks that just stands on the sideline and holds a clipboard and when it comes time to play they go in and embarrass you. This guy can play. That is the thing that might surprise some people they might look at him and say "Billy who?" and all that type of thing but this guy can throw the ball.

The Titans defense is going to have its hands full with the big play ability of the Chiefs and a lot of that will fall on the shoulders of Keith Bulluck, their right side linebacker. They will have to play pretty good defense and even after that they may look up and see that the Chiefs have been able to score 25 or 30 points and then you have to count on your offense to keep the pace

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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