Saturday, December 31
Redskins, Eagles game of the week
By John Madden
It didn't look good for the Redskins a few weeks ago and everyone was a little quick to jump off their band wagon. If you look back to last year and at Brunell you said gees I don't know if he still has what it takes, he comes back this year, takes the team on his shoulders, then the team begins to play well and they hit a bump in the road and lose to the Oakland Raiders and it looked like their season may take a turn for the worse. They come out of that and put together a few more wins and that game turns into a bump in the road. If they go the other way after that loss and lose a few more games then that game becomes a heck of a lot more than a bump in the road.
Offensively for the Redskins they have that combination of speed on the outside, a pass catching threat on the inside like Chris Cooley, along with a running game that really puts defenses in a bind. Defenses have to stay deep for Santana Moss and then you better not just go to that Cover 2 and leave the middle open because they have Cooley in there and then you better not play soft because they will hit you with a heavy dose of Portis and the running game.
You can say that you are going to run the ball, play good defense, defense will create turnovers, kicking game all those things but there is always a point in the game where your quarterback is going to have to make a play to win the game.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to be sitting around watching and waiting to see if they need a win to get into the playoffs or if they are just playing a meaningless game heading into the off season. But I talked to Bill Parcells this week and some other people down in Dallas and they all feel that they need this as a win anyway. They know that making the playoffs is your ultimate goal but if that can't be accomplished then a 10-6 season is something to play for. If that record isn't enough to get them into the playoffs then having that record is a good foundation to build on and get started for next year. Parcells finally has his guys and this is a team that he has built and again they may be a team that isn't in the playoffs but they can be a 10-6 team that is better than they were a year ago, a lot better defense than a year ago, and they are going to be better next year than they were this year.
This game is fairly meaningless to both teams. The Chicago Bears have already wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the NFC so they will have next week off and then host a game during the divisional playoff weekend. The question for this Bears team and Lovie Smith is how much does he play the often injured Rex Grossman? I think he needs more reps than rest. I would play him because he has been out for so long and now he has come back and really given them a spark. He looks like he is the real deal but you have to find that out. If he is going to get hurt every time he plays 2 or 3 games then you know you can't count on him over the long haul. At some point he has to prove that he can go in and play and doesn't live in a glass house. He is going to have a week off before he plays another game anyway so any bumps and bruises will heal and if he is going to get another serious injury then heck that is going to happen anyway.
The Cincinnati Bengals have won their division and are playing to hold onto their 3rd seed for the Wild Card Weekend so they do have something to play for. But we always talk about playing your guys I think there is some middle ground on that. If you have a guy that is banged up and could use a little time off then now is the time to do that but if a guy is rested, healthy and ready to go then that is something different. It is a tough thing for a coach because part of him wants to play everyone and go into the playoffs with some momentum but the other part says hey wait a second if there is any question about someone's health then I am not going to play the guy.
I always talk about peaking at the right time and that time is December and going into January and this Patriots defense is really hitting on all cylinders. I know that Tedy Bruschi was hurt last week and his status for the playoffs is uncertain but that front seven is really something special. It all starts with the defensive line and those guys are tough. They two gap and take on everything with those linebackers Rosevelt Colvin, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and even if it's Monty Beisel that front seven is as good as any in the NFL. Their problems, when they have had problems, on defense have been their secondary. They have had 12 different starters in their secondary this season. And then of course Tom Brady. You say ok you have first pick to start a team, I take Brady. They will run the ball with Corey Dillon when he is healthy but even when he is not healthy they will modify their offense and throw the ball every down and beat you that way.
Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.