John Madden
John Madden
Steelers, Bengals game of the week
By John Madden

The return of Ben Roethlisberger will be a big deal for the Steelers, but there is no way he can take a shot like he took on that knee sit out a week and be 100-percent for this game against the Bengals. If you look at Roethlisberger you wouldn't think he is a runner but he does run well. He is able to bootleg, he escapes, and is so big and so strong that guys just bounce right off of him and then he can run to pick up first downs or throw on the run. You wonder if he is going to be able to do those things.

You just keep waiting and asking the question 'is this Bengals team for real?' You're waiting for the test. They are 5-1 and you keep saying this is the test this week we'll see if they are for real. I think this is one of those tests for them. I don't believe you really know who the good teams are until you get to at least the midway point, you know Week 8 or Week 9, but in the first five or six weeks you start to get a pretty good indication. When you start to get that indication about the Bengals it looks like they are going to be a playoff team.

This Bengals offense if up against a very good defense and I think they are up for it. Carson Palmer has proven that he is the real deal, I don't think you have to go any deeper into the season to realize that and the big think against Pittsburgh you have to be ready to protect on passing downs. When you get to second and long and third and long situations you have to be ready for some very exotic blitzes, which is what Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator, does. He will play you kind of normal on first down and then if they can get you in second and long or third and long that is when they are going to come after you and you have to be able to recognize them and get them blocked.

Shaun Alexander is the thing that is saving the Seahawks offense right now, a couple of weeks ago they lost both of their starting wide receivers and you might have said oh jeez it is going to be tough for them to throw the ball, that is going to be a tough deal for them. As long as Alexander can run the ball defenses are forced to play a different game. They have to play to stop the run, bring that eighth man down into the box to play the run and that makes it a lot easier on Matt Hasselbeck and the passing game.

The Seahawks' defense is their weakness. Their offense is going to produce and I think they can compete with anyone in the league. They are one of those teams like the Chiefs that has good offense but not very good defense. The question is how far can they go? They keep trying to improve the defense but it's still not a championship defense.

Out of the Cowboys four wins they have only had one blowout win and haven't looked particularly good in those wins, but that is what having a good defense will do. If they come out and look bad there will not be a big separation in scoring their defense will keep it close. If you look up and say boy the Cowboys aren't playing very well but the score is only 7-3 and one play offensively they could be in the lead. The guy that has surprised me is Drew Bledsoe. If he gets hot and starts throwing deep to Terry Glenn they get a big play and you say boy I didn't think they had that in them and then the next week you think they are going to open up the offense and Bledsoe and Glenn will have big numbers and they put up nothing. The thing about this Cowboys team is they probably aren't good enough to say they are one of the top teams but they aren't bad enough to be a bottom team, they are probably closer to the top than they are the bottom.

LaDainian Tomlinson is a guy who makes the opposing defensive coordinators really play the run. They don't normally like to that because that makes them bring an eighth man down near the line of scrimmage and out of the secondary. He also makes you think twice about bringing a blitz because if he is able to hit that gap, is able to get on the safeties and a run that would have only been three or four yards becomes 20 or 25 yards. When you think of the things that the Eagles like to do defensively, rush the passer, blitz, double a receiver, most of those things are for getting to the quarterback and covering receivers you can't do those things against the Chargers because Tomlinson will kill you.

For the Eagles if you are looking for some sort of balance between the run and the pass they do it a little differently. Brian Westbrook is not a big guy that is going to do a lot of inside running with 25-30 carries he is going to get 10-15 carries and he will also have 10 catches. Those catches the Eagles use in lieu of the run to get him out into open space so if you just count the carries they don't do a lot of that but you have to include those passes in lieu of the run as part of their running game.

These Broncos have run off five straight wins and are really doing it with defense in particular the front seven and that starts with Trevor Pryce. The Broncos picked up those four defensive linemen from the Cleveland Browns in the off season and that is what everyone is talking about but the guy that is really making the difference is Pryce and then those linebackers. Al Wilson is really a special player, Ian Gold and D.J. Williams are outside guys with great speed. So they have the big guys up front, they have Pryce who can get a big push and then linebackers with great speed and that is what makes up that front seven. The advantage that the Giants have is that they are playing at home. Historically the Broncos have been a much better team when they play in Denver than on the road. So they are going to get the Broncos on the road and the Broncos road game which isn't usually as strong.

The Giants have been one of those teams that have been all offense and no defense. I think that they will match-up well offensively, they will move the ball, they will get some things going but I think it is going to be on the other side of the ball, can their defense find a way to stop the Broncos offense because the Giants defense is not their strength.

The running game is the key to the Broncos attack. When Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson are able to get it going then that opens up the bootlegs, play action pass Jake Plummer finds Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie down the field for big plays and all of that is dependent upon getting the running game going.

In order for the Kansas City Chiefs to get themselves to the top of the AFC they are going to have to get their offense back to being that big play, high scoring offense that they have had in recent years. They have been waiting for their defense for years and it hasn't come for them and it's still not here this year. Now everyone is saying they have to get Tony Gonzalez more involved in the offense and I agree with that. The Chiefs told me earlier in the year that they thought that their defense was better and they could play that low scoring, ball control offense type of game and now they have found out that isn't going to work. If they are going to win they are going to have to do it the way they did two years ago, they have to score 40-50 points. They have to think they have to score every time they get the ball. I think they are a better offense when they go out there like two years ago and a little last year and say we have to score every time we touch the field.

The fans in Atlanta are fans that get very excited about their football team and this year they have reason to because they have one of the most exciting players in all of football in Michael Vick. When defenses face a guy like Vick they want to be aggressive and under control but those two things don't go together. You want to be aggressive in that you want to rush him and make him make quick decisions but if you do that then you don't contain him. So on the other hand you say look we want to stay in our rush lanes, contain him and not let him get outside and then you become passive and you don't do anything. The thing Donnie Henderson, the Jets offensive coordinator, has to decide is how he is going to be aggressive and contain Michael Vick at the same time.

Stopping the Falcons running attack doesn't stop with containing Vick they also have Warrick Dunn, he is really a good running back. He is so good off the field and I have talked to him about this that sometimes all that is talked about is what he does off the field and sometimes they forget what he does on the field. I think the way that you have to defend Vick helps Dunn in that because you have to contain him so he doesn't get outside what you do is tend to shade outside more. You tend to stunt to the outside and what that does is open up some pretty good inside running lanes. If you look at Warrick Dunn you would think he would be an outside running guy who is going to get out quick, get to the corner and do those types of things but he is a very good inside runner.

For the Jets defensively they have one of the best young linebackers in Jonathan Vilma what he has that a lot of guys don't have is speed. When you have the instincts of a middle linebacker like he does and then possess the speed that he does you can get all over the place. He is going to be tested on Monday because with a guy like Vick he will see play action passes and bootlegs along with Dunn who is still a threat. Now you have to worry about Dunn carrying the ball inside but then Vick fakes the handoff now you have to get on your horse and get out there and get him. That is where his speed is going to come in. He has to be big enough, strong enough, and instinctive enough to take care of that inside run and fast enough to get to the corners to help out on Vick.

For the Jets, Vinny Testaverde is going to be the starting quarterback again this week and I thought he did very well in his first week back, the second week I thought he would do well if Curtis Martin could get the running game going. Martin gained 148 yards and they still lost. I still think the same thing against the Atlanta Falcons. Curtis Martin has to be a big part of the offensive game plan. It could be a tough thing to get him going with their center Kevin Mawae lost for the season but they need that running game to calm the Falcons defense.

The Falcons defense was dealt a pretty big blow when they lost Ed Hartwell for the season, he was their middle linebacker and now they have to shuffle the other guys around. Keith Brooking who was playing outside with Hartwell has now had to take over middle linebacker duties Michael Boley will start at his vacated position and last week against the New Orleans Saints they had a tough time stopping the run that was without its top runner Deuce McAllister.

I know one thing and that is that the Falcons can't come into this game and be overconfident. They may think oh jeez the Jets have Vinny Testaverde in there, Mawae is out so they are not going to be able to run. The minute you think someone can't do something in the NFL is usually when they do it to you.

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

Madden on KCBS Radio
John Madden checks in regularly during the NFL season on KCBS Radio in San Francisco.

Ace Hardware
John Madden knows Ace Hardware is the helpful place.

Shoot through to an Outback wherever you are, mate.
Just click on the link below to find the Outback Steakhouse nearest you.

Outback Locator

Madden 2006
In its 16th year, Madden NFL is the undisputed leader in authentic football simulation. Its combination of jaw-dropping graphics, in-depth play modes, and innovative features is beyond comparison.

Madden 2006 | The Madden store

Sirius Radio
Now you can listen to Madden on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. when he appears on The Stadium Tailgate Show.
Monday Night FootballMonday Night FootballESPN.comNFL on ESPNMonday Night FootballABCSports