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

We have reached the point in the season where teams begin to separate themselves and you just get the feeling that these Panthers could be one of those teams to get on a roll, win some more games and separate themselves from the crowd. Their defense is playing pretty well and Steve Smith is just a big play type of guy and anytime you have a guy like him that really affects the defense and that is what the Buccaneers are going to have deal with this Sunday. He is a guy that can beat you deep and when a defense faces a guy like that they have to put two guys on him and that opens you up to other things.

The thing that I like about Jake Delhomme is he is a tough guy that doesn't take the easy throw all the time. Last year there was a stat, the quarterback that had thrown the most deep balls in the NFL. So you start thinking of quarterbacks in the NFL Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, etc. but that guy was Jake Delhomme. He is one of those guys that tries to make a living throwing the ball down the field.

I would look for the Buccaneers to get some running game going in this game. Against the San Francisco 49ers, the 49er defense just pinned their ears back and went after Chris Simms and were successful doing that. So I think the Panthers are going to see that and do the same thing. You say they have to protect him but that is going to tough I don't know that Tampa can win that battle. There has to be some running game and some of the pressure has to come off of his shoulders. This isn't the type of game that Simms can go into put his team on his shoulders and win. This one is going to have to be about their running game, defense, special teams, creating turnovers those types of things if the Buccaneers are going to have a chance.

I think the Eagles loss to the Denver Broncos looked worse than it was because there was a point where Denver had all the momentum and Donovan McNabb hits Terrell Owens on a 91-yard touchdown, they get the ball back and score again, I said to myself boy that momentum has really shifted and the Eagles are going to win the game. Their defense were in a position where they had to stop the Broncos on a run and they weren't able to stop them. The Broncos then marched down the field and scored and then got the ball back and scored again. The end result was it looked like the Eagles defense didn't play very well and their offense couldn't get much going but Philadelphia is one of those teams that can look, but they are still very very scary.

It is easy to look at the Eagles and say boy they need to run the ball more. So you say ok who is going to run it? Brian Westbrook is their back and he is just not a banger. He is not going to run the ball 25 times a game that is probably what they need and what they have to do. Now if they had a guy like Clinton Portis that is what they would do, but Andy Reid knows that Westbrook is not that guy. Now you don't want to get into that situation where you become one dimensional, that is what defenses want, but I don't think you want to take Westbrook out and put someone else in the game to run the ball effectively and that is the key word! If you can't run the ball effectively then you throw the ball.

Reid has always been a guy that throws more than he runs. He has always had those passes in lieu of runs, screens, loop type passes and that is what they are. Their inability to run the ball has probably contributed to McNabb getting beat up, he is just a sitting duck back there in the pocket. When he was healthy and defenses would come after him he would move around and pick up a first down, move around and throw the ball but he is pretty limited in those areas right now. I would look for the Redskins to do the same thing the Broncos did. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is one of those guys who makes good adjustments and has an array of blitzes that he will bring.

Now Andy Reid knows all of these things as well and I think he will make an adjustment and do something different, I don't know what it might be, but I would look for him to have some solution to those things.

Having been a part of this rivalry for a lot of years I know that playing Kansas City in Kansas City is always tough.

These two teams are both teams that you just don't know what to expect out of them. The minute that you think they are good they play bad and the minute you think they are bad they come out and really look good. Maybe they will go through the whole year like that, maybe that is who they are. Teams that on any Sunday can either win or lose because they are not consistent. For the Raiders if they can get Lamont Jordan going and their defense can stop the run and play tough inside then they can be pretty good. Those things are what you have to do against the Chiefs. They are an inside team with their running game and passing to Tony Gonzalez and the running backs in the middle of the field. If the Raiders can take away those things and force the Chiefs to beat them with their outside receivers they have a tough time doing that.

This is a game that when the schedule first came out you had to mark it on your calendar. Even though these teams are not in the same division they seem to play each other every year and it seems to be an important game and the Colts just can't seem to get that monkey off their back.

If you ask who comes into this game with the most confidence? I would have to say the Patriots because they know that they can beat the Colts and that they always. The Patriots know it is going to come down to the fourth quarter and they know they are going to win the game. They know that because that is the way it has been so they have to continue to believe that. Conversely the Colts come in, they think they can beat them, they think they are the better team but they haven't done it. So until you do it you don't have that real confidence. I don't care what they say, how they talk, that thing is still in the back of their mind. We have to get this monkey off our back, anytime we go into New England bad things happen to us. Right now the Colts are the better team but that doesn't mean they are going to win the game.

Edgerrin James is having a good year and he is where the Colts offense is better this season. Defenses are taking away the pass of the Colts and that is opening up the running game and making it much more effective. I do know this about this game, whatever it is that you do well Bill Belichick is going to take that away. He makes you beat him with the things that you are not comfortable with. That is what he has done to Manning in the past. He knows what he likes to do and he takes those things away. Now there are going to be other things that he can do but they will be things that he is less comfortable with. James makes taking things away from Manning a little tougher. If Belichick thinks he has to take away the run then Peyton Manning might finally have the success that he has been looking for against this Patriots team.

The secondary of the Patriots is once again a little banged up and I know that Belichick won't leave his corners out on these wide receivers in single coverage. He is probably going to do something that is some type of zone, take away the deep pass, take away Marvin Harrison and make the Colts beat him with their other receivers and that is why you can probably run against them. Then if James starts to run against them that will put them in a bind because the things that they are doing to the passing game weaken their run defense so I think that is going to be a big part of it.

The key for the offense of the Patriots is going to be how to stop Dwight Freeney. The Patriots are starting two rookies on the left side of their offensive line so you know they are not going to be able to go one on one with their pass protection because Freeney would just eat them up. Therefore when they pass they have to figure out how to get that extra blocker to that left side to help protect Tom Brady. When the Patriots have to do that that takes one person out of the passing game and you don't like to do that because now you are always thinking about getting help to that left side and sometimes don't think about how you are going to get first downs and touchdowns. You can wear down this Colts defense but if you are too worried about helping out your protection and less worried about getting first downs and keeping that defense on the field then you will never wear them down.

As important as this game is for the Colts and getting the monkey off their back I don't think they have to have it. They come in with a cushion and even if they don't win they could still gain home field advantage but if they believe they are going to be a Super Bowl team they have to be able to win this game! They come into this game undefeated but this game is their "yeah but", yeah you're undefeated, yeah you're better than you were last year, yeah you're defense is better, "yeah but" you haven't beaten the Patriots.

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

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