John Madden
John Madden
Patriots, Panthers game of the week
By John Madden

Before a game the New England Patriots pick what they do best and then force it down the opposing teams throat. They look at the best thing that Tom Brady does and that is in the game plan. They look at the best run plays Corey Dillon does and that is in the game plan. They look at the best routes that Deion Branch runs and that is in the game plan.

On defense they do the total opposite, they say what does the opponent do best and then take it away. If a team relies on the running game then they are going take it away. So if the offense is going to beat the Patriots they are going to have to beat them with their fourth, fifth, or sixth option.

The Panthers are coming off a disappointing Week 1 loss against the New Orleans Saints in which they lost one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, Kris Jenkins, who tore the ACL in his knee. One of the things you have to remember is that they still have Jake Delhomme. I think he is one the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, he is a guy that makes plays down the field. Last year he had more passes of 20-plus yards than any other quarterback in the league. What that does is stretch the field and when a guy like Bill Belichick is putting together his game plan and sees he has to take away the deep ball that opens up a lot of the field underneath those deep balls as well as the running game.

I think for the Jaguars this game is going to be put squarely on the shoulders of Byron Leftwich because the Colts are going to score points and he is going to have to be able to do the same. The only way to play the Colts is as tough as you can on defense and get your offense to score points. Your mindset has to be that you are walking into a shootout! As the Jaguars get ready for this game they not only have to think about their offense going against the Colts defense but also outscoring the Colts offense, they have to find a way to match them point for point but find a way to beat them in those areas.

This is a rivalry that goes back a lot of years and I have been a part of a lot those games. When I was coaching the Raiders we always liked the opposite of this situation we liked to see the Chiefs on the road first and then host them later in the season. You talk about a highly emotional game, the Raiders opened the NFL season against the Patriots on a Thursday and didn't look bad for a half but came out on the losing end of the game and now have had a long time to prepare for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs looked good on opening day routing the New York Jets. Their defense looked improved under Gunther Cunningham in his second year as the defensive coordinator. Last year they brought him in to make this defense better but they didn't make any other personnel changes, this year they brought in some different players and that gives them a chance to get better.

Any time you face the Raiders with Randy Moss you have to defend the deep pass, you have to keep him from getting those quick, easy, deep ones on you. In doing that you have to be able to stop LaMont Jordan and the running game with seven defenders. That will be the test for the Kansas City defense, can they stop the run with just seven men, if they can then they can double cover Moss all the time.

The question for the Raiders defense is can they play better than they did last year? In the opener they looked a little better but they still lost. The defense is going to be the key to this team's success. They faced a tough test in the opener and now they are going to have another big test, if they can stand up to this offense then they have a chance to be pretty good. If they can't, understand that it's the second game of the season, it could be a long season for the Raiders.

The Falcons are coming off a big win last week in a rematch of the 2004 NFC Championship game with the Philadelphia Eagles and that was a very physical game and now they head to Seattle a little beat up.

The Monday Night matchup was one of the best games, hardest hitting games that I can remember in a long time. The combination of Warrick Dunn, Michael Vick, and T.J. Duckett, "DVD" as they are referred to, is a great combination. Dunn is a heck of a player, he often times is looked at as a great guy that does a lot of humanitarian things off the field but he is also a good player, he reminds me a little bit of guys like Tony Dorsett and Barry Sanders, now I'm not saying he is the same caliber player but this guy is a class running back.

After they take him out then you have to contend with Duckett, their big pile driver, out of the backfield and then of course you still have Vick to worry about running the ball. The Falcons have all kinds of organized runs for him. They have one that I had never seen before, they ran a quarterback lead draw! You say Dunn and Duckett are the runners but then you have another fantastic runner in the quarterback and you can't forget about him. That is a tough thing for a defense.

I thought the Eagles did a pretty good job the other night of trying to contain Vick and maintaining their aggressiveness. That is a tough thing for a defense to do. This is going to be a tough game for the Seattle Seahawks defense.

When these two teams are on the ticket it just sounds like NFL football, the Redskins at the Cowboys!

The Cowboys have a pretty good back in Julius Jones and one of the things that I see they are trying to do more is show him more of a receiver out of the backfield. They think that defenses are just loading up against him on the run and playing the other guys on the pass. They want to make him more of a two dimensional guy.

Knowing Bill Parcells he is going to come into a game like this run the ball a lot, keep the clock running, run the play action pass and play strong defense, and throw it when he really needs to and it looks like Drew Bledsoe is kind of thriving on that. I know in preseason when I was at their camp Parcells didn't want to put everything on Bledsoe and I think they've done a pretty good job of that but there comes a point in every game the quarterback has to make plays and it looks like this guy can still do it.

The Redskins are going to be starting Mark Brunell at quarterback and I think this is the same situation as with the Cowboys, Joe Gibbs doesn't want to put all the pressure on the quarterback's shoulders where he has to win the game but the same is true for him, he is going to have to make plays.

The thing about this team that I like is Clinton Portis. I think if you block for him and give him a little crack here and little crack there he can make some big plays. He is a very dangerous runner and if they can get that going and then off that Brunell can make the plays they have a chance.

You know the Redskins are going to play good defense and their offensive line is improved this year and I just don't know what Mark Brunell we are going to see. In the early part of last year he was the starter and was benched, last week Patrick Ramsey was the starter he gets shaken up early, the doctors gives him the OK to come back and Gibbs leaves Brunell in the game. If it is the Brunell of five or six years ago he could be a lot of fun to watch and be a big help to this offense. If it's the Brunell of last year it could be a long night offensively for the Redskins.

Defensively for the Cowboys I think they will gang up on the run first because they know Mark Brunell isn't going to come in here and throw the ball all over the yard all night long. I don't think this is a game that Mike Zimmer, the Cowboys defensive coordinator, will put in a lot pass rushes and pass coverage's, you better start with defending against Clinton Portis. They have gone to a three man line and DeMarcus Ware, their 11th overall pick in the draft, is going to be coming off the edge who I think is going to be a star in this league.

Recent history in this rivalry, the Cowboys have won 14 of the last 15 meetings, might lead you to believe that the Cowboys are a sure thing, but when you talk about a rivalry of this magnitude you can throw things like that out the window. Especially when you consider there is one Hall of Fame coach in Joe Gibbs on one side and another that will certainly be in the Hall of Fame in Bill Parcells on the other.

New York Giants at New Orleans Saints played in New York

Because of the devastation to the New Orleans area the entire season will be played on the road for the New Orleans Saints and this is the first of those games and will be played at the Meadowlands. At first glance you would say that this is an advantage for the New York Giants getting home field but I don't know that you want to play the Saints right now. This is a team that is not only playing with intensity, passion and emotion but probably with more of it than any other team in the NFL. You don't like the reason they are playing with such passion but the fact is there is not any team in the league that is playing with more than the New Orleans Saints.

Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.

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