John Madden
John Madden
Colts, Jaguars game of the week
By John Madden

Over the years these Jaguars have played well against the Colts and you'll find that in divisional games and in particular with well coached teams that have a good defense. The Jags have the ability to put pressure on Peyton Manning right up the middle so he can't step up and make the throws.

I am not sure that anyone can beat the Colts right now the way they are playing. Their offensive line is playing very well, Edgerrin James is running very well and of course so is Manning. This team has a unique ability to force teams into whatever defense they want. If they want a team in a base defense they will put two tight ends in the game and then split out Dallas Clark to create a mismatch and if they want them in nickel they can bring in Brandon Stokley to go three wide receivers, put him in the slot and still run the same plays. They just have so many weapons that to stop them opponents just have to pick their poison and I just don't see any way that this team loses this season unless they step on their own toes.

The Colts defense is playing better and the guy that has really impressed me is Bob Sanders. He is one of the toughest safeties in the NFL. Sanders has the ability to play that deep safety position or a linebacker spot. He is really something special.

This Jaguars team kind of reminds me of the Titans from a few years ago. They are a well coached team that play good defense with a bunch of no name guys and they were never out of a game.

When I think of the Steelers of the last few weeks I wonder what happened to their defense. It is easy to see that their offense has been effected by Ben Roethlisberger being out and offensively they were not the same team with Tommy Maddox at quarterback. They couldn't run the ball, couldn't throw the ball, they couldn't do anything. I am just surprised at how poorly their defense is playing.

This Chicago Bears team is all about good defense, running the ball and Kyle Orton managing the game and not making mistakes. Their defense is so strong and especially their front 4. They can get pressure on the quarterback without bringing any extra players that allows them to play coverages that force turnovers and wins games. That is Chicago Bears and Lovie Smith type of football.

Winning with defense is a blue print that has won Super Bowls. If you think back just a few years ago to the Baltimore Ravens they had Trent Dilfer who just managed the game and they won the Super Bowl with their defense.

This weekend is going to be a real test for the running game of the Steelers. They also have not been on track for the last few weeks and that is what these Steelers are, defense and running game. If they are going to get back into this thing they are going to have to run the ball and get that defense going again.

Larry Johnson is a guy who has really burst on to the scene after Priest Holmes went on injured reserve and I think it is a matter of him having confidence in himself and the organization having confidence in him. He got off to a slow start being a number one draft pick, came to the team and got himself in Dick Vermeil's dog house, Holmes was playing really well and when he went down it gave Johnson the opportunity that he needed.

If you look at this team they have a good offensive system for a running back and they have a good offensive line. It is going to be very important for the Chiefs to get out to a lead because the Dallas Cowboys don't play well up hill.

If Drew Bledsoe is going to be effective he has to have pass protection. He is not one of those guys that are going to be able to avoid the rush, get out of the pocket and make something happen with his feet. He is a pocket passer and when you have two young tackles starting that is a tough thing because that is where they are going to attack. So the Cowboys know that they have to give help to those tackles in pass protection and the other thing they have to do is run the ball effectively, if you can run the ball that takes away some of the pass rush. I will say that this Chiefs defense is not the same as the New York Giants so they are going to get a little bit of a break there. I don't mean to say it is going to be easy, it is going to be easier.

This is going to be a defensive struggle, these teams are not going to get into a shoot out. If they do get into a shoot out then that favors the Carolina Panthers because they have Steve Smith and they are more capable of doing that but these are two teams that win games with ball control and strong defense.

If you are a defensive team the offensive part of that is the running game. When Carolina can run the ball that makes them much better because then the defense brings that 8th man into the box to defend the run and that opens things up for Smith on the outside. When you don't have the running game the defense can lay back and double and make it a lot tougher on the offense.

These San Diego Chargers may be one of those teams that if they can make the playoffs they may be able to go a couple of steps in the playoffs but the problem is they may not even make the playoffs. They are playing well right now but to make the playoffs they are going to have to continue to play well and maybe even win out. If you look at the AFC you probably have to say that they are playing the second best football right now.

For the Atlanta Falcons they need to play consistently. The minute you think they are good on defense they don't play well and the minute you think they are bad they come out and play well. The offense is the same way. Just when you think they are going to play well and the running game is going they can't run the ball and when they don't look like they can move the ball they will come out and play well. If this team is going to be a playoff team they are going to have to get consistent. We are getting down to the last few weeks so teams are either going to play well, get better and get into the playoffs or you're going to stay the same not win enough games and not make the playoffs.

As a mobile quarterback Mike Vick can't have a thought process, it has to be instinctive. Once he drops back he has to do what his instincts tell him to do. If that is take off and run then take off and run, if it is take off run, stop and throw then he has to do that. When it becomes a thought process he loses a lot. He is his best when he is out there playing all on instincts.

The problem for the Falcons defense has been that they are not playing strong enough at the point of attack and they are missing too many tackles. They have had injuries and had to move guys around then they play a gap defense and they don't get their fits and the running game gashes them and the running back is all the way to the safety before anyone can get a hand on him, they miss a tackle and a big play happens.

The problems for the New Orleans Saints are the same and that is that they can't be consistent but they probably have every right to not be consistent. If you look at what they have gone through this year, playing here, playing there, practicing in different places, for them to be adjusted and well prepared is a very very difficult thing.

Aaron Brooks is one of those guys that you really don't know what you are going to get. Going into a game you might say something like Brooks is going to have five, it could be five touchdowns or five interceptions and I would believe either one of them.

No NFL team should be treated like the Saints. They are not acting like an NFL team if you just look at things now with practice facilities, meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc... that teams have today they are really at a disadvantage.

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

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