John Madden
John Madden
Giants, Cowboys game of the week
By John Madden

Sometimes a team will come out in the first four, five, six weeks and do something that really doesn't mean anything and then they'll settle into mediocrity. But for some teams it's a start of something pretty good. So I think when you look at the Giants you have to ask are they for real? I don't think this game against the Cowboys is going to give you the answer, but it will give the start of the answer. The Cowboys are going to play them tough with their new defense, three man line, Bill Parcells has his type of guys and they are playing pretty good.

The biggest surprise to me about the Cowboys is how well Drew Bledsoe is playing. I remember when they first signed Bledsoe the attitude was we are going to improve our defense and have a good kicking game and a good running game and ask him to just kind of manage the game. Then boom, the games start and Bledsoe is throwing bombs to Terry Glenn and finding Jason Witten all over the ball yard and they are moving the ball pretty well. The defense of the Cowboys is about what Bill Parcells expected and I think the offense has played better than he expected.

Last week the Redskins had to go to Denver and play a tough Broncos team and I think this is going to be the same type of game although the Chiefs defense isn't as good as the Broncos. That said, the Chiefs do have a good offense and the Redskins have a good defense. The question is going to be can the Redskins offense score against the Kansas City defense? Neither one of those areas is a strength for either team.

The thing that has happened to the Kansas City offense is they don't have any receivers on the outside that scare you and make you believe you have to give a double team and take them away, therefore the guy that you double or take away is TE Tony Gonzalez. I think what happens is Trent Green drops back reads the coverage and that takes him away from Gonzalez and takes him to a wide receiver, running back or a second tight end. One thing that might help is running Gonzalez a little deeper route, I don't think they have done that at all. The patterns that he is running, the ins, hooks and crosses are easily doubled with linebackers. The other thing is get someone else in the passing game a couple touchdowns and that will take away the double teams on Gonzalez and open up the passing game for the Chiefs.

The Patriots have always been able to replace an injured player and not miss a beat. Remember last year they lost their two starting cornerbacks and everyone thought that was the end of them and they went on to win the Super Bowl. Now it is going to be tougher this year with the loss of Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, the middle of their defense and it looks like their defense is wavering a little. That is where Denver can do some damage especially if they can get the running game going, get the lead and get to their bootlegs and play action passes because that's when they are at their best. I have talked about this before that they are not a good offense when they have to play uphill. Those things don't matter with Tom Brady he can play uphill, downhill, sidehill any type of hill that you want. The point is if the Broncos are going to be successful they are going to have to get ahead.

I have always said that the best friend of a quarterback is a good running game. That means that not everything falls on the quarterbacks shoulders and then you can play action pass and throw on first down. There are so many things that go with the running game. If the running game is going that forces the defense to bring an extra man into the box to stop the run and that leaves three men deep to defend the pass.

The Jaguars and the Steelers have two of the best defenses in the National Football League and you have to enjoy this type of game. Sometimes we get carried away with stats like yards gained, how many deep passes a quarterback threw and how many long runs. When you play defenses like these you are not going to get those big plays because they are not going to give you those big plays.

The thing that impressed me with the Steelers defense is that they have no weak tacklers, and the same is true with the Jaguars, everyone is a tackler and if you go inside or outside, to a man they all tackle like linebackers whether it is a nose tackle or a cornerback. This is a league that hasn't been great at tackling for about 10 years, but these are two teams that are very, very good tacklers. That has kind of been a lost art and in this game of tackle football that is a pretty doggone bad thing.

This Chargers team has a 2-3 record, but if you look at their losses they could easily be 5-0. They have lost some close games but in this league as Bill Parcells would say 'you are what you are'. The thing with the Chargers is they have two of the best players in football in LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates so the offense is pretty doggone good and is going to move against everyone. Their problem is defense. If you look at their defense and Wade Phillips their defensive coordinator, he does a good job of coordinating defense but they really don't have any dominate players. They play pretty well, they play ok together but dog gone they have a tough time holding a lead.

If you look at the Raiders roster and see all the big names that they have you would say boy the Chargers defense are really going to have their hands full but if you look at their record as well they only have one win! So they have to be able to take what is on paper on put it on the field because on paper it is dangerous as heck but on the field it hasn't been quite as dangerous.

If you like offense this is the game for you although it looks like the Colts are playing much better defense this year but they are still going to be about offense. If they are going to go all the way and be a Super Bowl team they are still going to be about Peyton Manning and it's going to be about throwing the ball to Marvin Harrison and running the ball with Edgerrin James and making you defend that and then they can go to other things. Even though their defense has improved this year they are still an offensive team and like I said if you like offense with your hot dogs you are going to get it here.

Defenses have had a few years to scheme for this Colts team and they are beginning to know what Manning is going to do, what Tom Moore, the Colts offensive coordinator, is up to, they know Harrison is always going to line up on the right side and they can do things to him and force Manning to throw the ball to other places where he's not quite as comfortable but in the long run it is still those guys and they are still going to be there. Sometimes we make mistakes too early in the season jumping to conclusions about who's good, who's bad, offense, defense and players and what they are doing. This is a group of players that you may be able to slow down for a while, you may be able to control, you may be able to get something on them defensively but eventually they are going to get you. They are too good to not be one of the best in the NFL.

These Colts are able to really put you in a bind with their personel. They have receivers that they can put out there and when you double Harrison then you are left with man coverage or if it a zone coverage you are rotating away from the other receivers and then the bigger thing is that gives James some running room so as a defense you kind of have to pick your poison. If you want to load up on the run then you have to unload on the pass receiver, which you don't want to do. If you want to load up against the pass then you are going to give James some pretty good running room.

The first thing for the Rams is their ailing head coach Mike Martz and you have to hope that he is going to be alright. He has an infection in one of his heart valves and is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team. That is bigger than anything else, one is life the other is a game so you just hope that he is ok and then you look at the football after that. This year Martz was able to get through the training camps, pre-season, and the first five weeks of the season and all the systems are in place. They have their offense in place, defense in place, special teams, they know what they are and what they do it is just a matter of calling the plays because Martz was the play caller so now someone else has to assume those responsibilities. The bottom line is that it is the same football, the schedules are in place, the systems are in place and you just have to go on without the head coach.

Right now Dwight Freeney is playing the best defense in the NFL and if I was starting a team right now I would take him first. This week he is not lining up against a guy who doesn't know what he is doing, he is going up against Orlando Pace and you say Freeney is the best defensive end right now, but Pace is also one of the best if not the best offensive tackles. That is going to be a good match up, he is not going to just have his way in the pass rush although he is a real battler and just keeps going and does all those things. Behind Pace is a quarterback in Marc Bulger that if he gets hot he can light you up! He doesn't have Isaac Bruce right now but he can still lean on Torry Holt pretty heavily and has a lot of three wide receivers going and they get the same kind of thing as the Colts do in that if you want to load up against their passing game they will run the ball with Steven Jackson and if you want to load up against the run they will throw the ball down the field.

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

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