Saturday, December 24
'Hawks, Colts game of the week
By John Madden
This game should be a good game but the question will be how they will play it. The Indianapolis Colts have wrapped up everything they can for the playoffs and the Seattle Seahawks are just a win or a Chicago loss away from wrapping up the top seed in the NFC. The winner of this game may be the team that plays their starters the longest and not necessarily the team that would win if they were in a playoff situation.
If I was coaching this Colts team I would play all my guys until the game was decided and try to get the bad taste of that loss last week out of my mouth. Before last week they had everything going for them and they came out with a loss and like I have always said when you lose a game you not only lose the game but you lose a little confidence. When you lose that little confidence then you lose that little swagger and you have to get that back. I know they have everything clinched and there is a risk of injury if you play your guys but if they were to sit their starters this week they wouldn't play again for a month. They would darn near have to have another training camp.
In watching the loss last week to the San Diego Chargers it just looked like they were a little behind the Chargers. Bill Walsh use to always use a boxing analogy and that is that you have to get off first, you have to punch them before they punch you and I just felt that San Diego just got off first.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
As I talked about the Chargers are coming off a big win last week and are still alive in they playoff picture. But for them to be a playoff team they have to find some consistency. That is one thing that they have not had. Some people argue that this team might be the second or third best team in the NFL but they might not get into the playoffs and that is because they haven't been consistent. If they can get into the playoffs, and that is a big if, I think they might be able to do some damage.
I really like the way the New York Giants are playing right now. The deeper you get into the season the more important the running game is and Tiki Barber is having a great year. The other thing you need to have when you get to this point in the season is good defense. The Giants two defensive ends are playing super right now and they look like they could be the real deal. I know you want to get to Eli Manning and being a young quarterback but as long as he doesn't make mistakes with that running game and their defense they are in pretty good shape.
The Washington Redskins are coming off a surprisingly lopsided win against the Dallas Cowboys. I didn't get to see the game and the first time I was able to see the score it was 28-0 and I couldn't believe it. Gregg Williams is a very creative defensive mind and he will take advantage of playing against a young quarterback. He will show him every different defense that there is and make him do things that he doesn't want to do and do things that he is not comfortable doing. That is why you don't want to put a lot of this game in Eli Manning's hands. I think it has to be the running game, special teams and defense. I hate to use the term "manage the game" but he has to just go into the game and not lose it for them.
For the Redskins they have to get the running game going as well. Clinton Portis has to get into the flow of the game early and often. I have always said that the best friend of a quarterback is the running game and if he can get that going then it will make it a lot easier. Mark Brunell is having an amazing season and that is one that I have to admit I made a mistake. In watching him last year I thought here is a guy that can't play anymore and if he did it would be a back up at best and he has come in and led this Redskins team to where they are.
If this Washington Redskins team can win the next two games they will be in the playoffs. I am really happy for this organization and in particular Joe Gibbs. He made a gutsy move coming out of retirement to coach this team. He had so much success during his first run as the head coach was inducted into the Hall of Fame and then comes back doesn't have too much success the first year, there was talk that maybe he had lost it, they were in over their heads, the coaches were too old, ect& Joe Gibbs and I go way back, Joe's first coaching job we coached together, so we go back that far. I just couldn't see that was the case because I knew it wasn't true. He went in there and didn't have a lot of players, it was going to take him a little time to get his guys and put together his type of team but it looks like he is getting there.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off that really tough loss and they need to figure out a way to get back into the win column and this Carolina Panthers team is not going to be an easy game for them. They will give the Cowboys some real problems especially with their pass rush up the middle. When you play against a quarterback like Drew Bledsoe that is exactly what you want to do.
The Panthers are looking at the film of Dallas' game last week and you might think they are really licking their chops but the thing you have to know is that in professional football the things you do or have done to you the week before normally doesn't repeat itself the next week. But the thing to remember is if you are not a good team then correcting the problems from the previous week can create other problems.
Looking at the Panthers and their offensive attack most teams think run first and that opens up the pass but sometimes you come out and throw the deep pass first. If you ask what do I have to take away from this team and that is the deep threat of Steve Smith. So maybe the Panthers know that and just say to heck with it lets just throw it out there and see if they are going to be able to defend it. That can also soften up the defense. They will tend to run guys off a little deeper, double team Smith or even chip him with a third guy. You get them so concerned with him that it opens up the run game. I think that is probably how you do it with these Panthers.
The thing that you have to have to defend Michael Vick is speed. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers definitely have speed on defense and they were able to use that speed earlier in the year to beat these Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. You can't just have that speed at one position all 11 guys have to be quick and be able to run down Vick. If you look at last weeks game for the Falcons against the Chicago Bears a big part of the game was that Bears defense that I thought played great but it was also a tough weather game. You talk about Vick or anyone else having to run and play in cold like that that is tough.
I feel like this Tampa Bay team is nothing more than an average team. When they play well they overachieve and when they don't play well they probably underachieve and if they play where they should be they are probably 50-50. They are not a playoff team or a team that is going to be competitive in the playoffs but they are a team that is going to give a playoff team a lot of trouble.
This New England Patriots team is really starting to play like the New England Patriots of the last few years and I think that is really important because I have always said that the team that is going to go the deepest in the playoffs is the team that is peaking at the end of the season and the Patriots are one of those teams. It is kind of funny the Patriots have won three out of the last four Super Bowls, they won last years Super Bowl, they start off as the defending champions and they come out and lose a few games and somehow get under the radar. Maybe it was because they lost those few games and maybe it was because the Indianapolis Colts were playing so well. They get counted out and low and behold they are not out and here they come. I think when you have a team like this that has the championship game experience and is peaking at the end of the season they can be very very tough in the playoffs.
The Patriots defense in particular has been playing very well with Richard Seymour back and healthy, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest all of these guys are some of the best guys at their position. When Seymour is healthy he is close to the best defensive lineman in the NFL. The linebackers play as a group like the best group in the NFL. When all these guys are healthy and playing together this is a really tough defense and Bill Belichick is one of the best defensive coaches and he gets his guys in the right positions to make plays. You can just see he has his guys back and healthy, weather is becoming a factor in games and these are the type of situations that the Patriots thrive on.
Watching Tom Brady last week, he is not healthy, playing against a solid defense like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he just gets it done. He can consistently come up big in big games. If you had to look for one word to describe Tom Brady it would have to be winner. He knows how to play the game and he knows how to win. The question is always asked if you were down by a score and there is 2 minutes left on the clock which quarterback would you want to play and of all the quarterbacks playing right now it would be easy for me. That guy would be Tom Brady.
As for the New York Jets they have been bit by the injury bug and when you lose players and can't get it back you start to lose games and it probably starts at the quarterback position. You put everything on Chad Pennington he is going to be the guy he's going to be back and healthy and lead our team and then he goes down and the whole season just kind of goes down from that point. Then you start to lose defense and it's one of those things that just runs away on you.
Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.