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

Someone asked me the other day who I thought was the best running back in the NFL is right now and after watching LaDainian Tomlinson last Sunday night I would have to say he is it. He is certainly one of the top or three any way, he is just so strong and quick and does so many things that at times he looks impossible to stop. I have always said that the best friend of a quarterback is a running back and it just seemed like once Tomlinson got going Drew Brees and everyone else on that team became a lot more comfortable in that offense.

The Patriots have been bitten by the injury bug, but you have to remember a year ago at this time they had lost both their cornerbacks in Tyrone Poole and Ty Law and it didn't look good. But Bill Belichick has the unique ability to plug a guy into a hole and the team never misses a beat and go on to win a Super Bowl so I wouldn't count them out just yet. I know it's tough when you lose a Tedy Bruschi before the season starts and then you lose a Rodney Harrison, but this defense, this team and this coach seem to make adjustments and just keep going. As long as they have Tom Brady and Belichick I wouldn't bet against them.

This Patriot team is so confident that even coming down to the end of a game and they are trailing you can just see that they know they are going to win the game with Brady and Adam Vinatieri. You can almost see it in the opposing teams' eyes as well. It's like they can see it coming and say uh oh here we go again. Now I'm not saying they let it happen to them but they kind of do know it's coming.

Brady moves better than any other quarterback inside the pocket. When he drops back he doesn't look at the rush, he's always looking down field but he feels the rush and knows to move just a little to the right or a little to the left to avoid the rush and finds his receivers down field. I think if Corey Dillon is able to get going this week that will make it easier on Brady but I don't feel like they have to get it going. There are some teams in the NFL that I feel have to get the running game going in order to pass, but this is not one of them.

One thing that has surprised me about this Patriot team is how slow a start Dillon has gotten off to. That is the part that they need to get on track and once that happens then it will open up their offense to things like the play action pass and those kinds of things.

For the Chargers defense I would look for them to come in and play the pass early and then if the Patriots running game gets going, which is just a matter of time, they will have to adjust and play a little more honest.

The Chiefs are coming off a game in which they were flat in every area! That has to concern Dick Vermeil and his staff and the players. Sometimes you will play a poor offensive game but you played pretty well on defense or you have good special teams play. They were flat in all three areas. They couldn't get anything going offensively with the pass or the run, defensively they were on their heals the whole game and on special teams the Chiefs are used to getting big plays out of Dante Hall and they didn't get that either. In order for them to compete with the Eagles this Sunday they are going to have to get the ball to Tony Gonzalez, get Priest Holmes some running room and they are going to have to get a play or two out of Hall.

This Eagles defense is a very good defense and Jim Johnson, the defensive coordinator, is going to bring pressure on Trent Green because if the Chiefs aren't able to get their running game going the pressure is going to make it very difficult for him. As well as the Chiefs offensive line is without Willie Roaf it is not nearly as good. The tackles are not great without him but the middle of the line, both guards and the center, are at the top of their game but where they going to be in trouble is when Johnson brings pressure off the edges and exploits those tackles. The next phase for the defense is double and triple teaming Gonzalez and just daring the Chiefs to beat them on the outside with their receivers.

The big concern for the Chiefs defense is going to be Brian Westbrook running the ball and of course Terrell Owens on the outside. Donovan McNabb is beat up right now but through the years I have seen him play very well when he is beat up. I would never put anything past McNabb. I think he is an excellent quarterback and I think he is still an excellent quarterback when he is hurt. There are some guys that can play well when they are relatively healthy, play average when they are banged up. McNabb is one of those guys that plays darn near as well when he is hurt as when he is hurt as when he is healthy.

Is there anyway these Redskins coming off a bye week can carry the momentum of their big win in Dallas week 2 into this week or the rest of the season? I just don't think so. Their offense has to get better. Coming off their bye week they have probably got a training camp type of week, not the two a day kind of work but trying to get their offense in some kind of rhythm.

Against the Cowboys they did come out with a big win but for the first 55 minutes of that game they looked pretty bad and for the last five minutes they looked great. Now they have to straighten out those first 55 minutes. Mark Brunell has to get comfortable with the offense and they have to get more comfortable with him. Their defense is always going to keep them in games. Greg Williams does a great job with it, they know what they are doing and they play well. You are not going to take advantage of them. But the offense has got to get better!

Against this Seahawks team the first thing the Redskins defense is going to do is stop the run. Williams is going to play tough run defense on first down, take Shaun Alexander away, leave you with a second and long situation and then third and long that is when you bring the blitzes. That is when you can do all of the exotic stuff. Conversely for the Seahawks Alexander has to get five or six yards on first down and keep it in a manageable down and distance to keep those exotic blitzes from killing you.

If Marc Bulger is given time he is a very accurate quarterback. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are able to run those deep ins, big patterns, those comebacks as well as anyone and Bulger can throw them as well as anyone if he has time. In order to get time his offensive line has to do their job and then the running game needs to be going. Not to beat a dead horse but it is a lot easier to pass if you have the threat of the run.

Jake Plummer is a great downhill quarterback. If the Broncos are able to get a lead and he doesn't have to pass and it's not all on his shoulders and he can run, bootleg, throw on the run and if there is nothing there he can throw the ball away that is when he is at his best. Now if you go the opposite way like they did week 1 against the Dolphins then he has to throw every down that is a different Jake Plummer. Part of what the Broncos have to do is run the ball successfully, play action pass and bootleg. In doing this they have to get points and they have to get a lead. If they play from ahead they are a totally different team than if they are behind.

Both of these teams are desperate for a win and it's one of those things, you look at the Green Bay Packers at 0-3 and you just know it is just a matter of time. You can't see the Packers going 0-4. Now it could very well happen but it's one of those who would have thought before the season started. No matter what you think of the Packers, Brett Favre is always tough, always there, may not win the whole thing but always competitive and win a lot of games and so far they haven't won a single game.

Sometimes when you have a great player like the Packers have had in Favre you forget that you still have to surround him with other good players. Then you start losing players, he starts getting older and all of the sudden the thing doesn't work. It is hard, you lose a lineman here, a lineman there, a wide receiver, you lose a tight end and pretty soon you look and all you have is Favre!

I think Jake Delhomme might be missing Muhsin Muhammad. He was kind of his guy that if he needed that underneath thing, that possession completion he had Muhammad. He still has Steve Smith and his speed outside that is a big thing and he has Stephen Davis running the ball. I just feel like the thing that is missing is that mid range guy that can make those types of plays for Delhomme.

If you are looking to get well offensively this Green Bay defense is one that you would welcome to town. I don't know that the Panthers are going to bust out and put up a bunch of points but they can certainly look forward to playing against a porous defense. If they can get their running game going that will take the place of those short passes and then every once in a while you get a big one they can do it.

Offensively for the Packers the combination of Ahman Green and Brett Favre have to get going! Favre has some young receivers that he is not always certain where they are going to be and they have had yet another week under their belt together is going to help a little but the running game has to get going. We talk about Favre doing this and Favre doing that but when the Packers are clicking offensively Ahman Green is running very well too. It is Monday night, Brett Favre has always has been special and will be special.

I think that this Panthers team has a real chance to make the playoffs and that is because they have good defense. Julius Peppers is a special player as a defensive lineman, Dan Morgan as their middle linebacker, their secondary is good. If you have a good defense and you have a good running game you have a pretty good chance of being a playoff team. That is what this Carolina team is. If they can continue to run the ball consistently and play stout defense then the playoffs could be in this teams future.

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

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