ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” Excerpts:

Are expectations too high for the Jets?
Johnson: “The expectations aren’t high enough. When you look at what they have accomplished in the off-season, those are big expectations … This city is going crazy right now with the addition of Brett Favre and the things they did in the off-season. Eric Mangini knows that. Everybody knows that. They know that they are a playoff contender right now. They have to get it done.”

Carter: “The Jets are looking as the team that shares a stadium with the Giants. I am excited about, defensively, what they’ve done. (LB Calvin) Pace, (DT Kris) Jenkins…realizing this league is quarterback driven, but you better put some pressure on the quarterback. So, I like the money that they spent on their defense.”

Jackson: “$140 million. I think they are a football team that already thought they were competitive before they got Brett Favre. Four, No. 1 draft choices on the offensive line, don’t think Brett didn’t notice that before he signed with the New York football Jets. Now they have the most productive quarterback in the history of football. I caught one of his balls on the field when we were doing ‘Monday Night Football,’ he throws like a 25-year-old still. So he’s got all that knowledge, he still has the arm, and as far as system goes, he picked it up enough where coach Mangini said, ‘you can sit the last pre-season game, I’ve seen enough.’ I’m saying it, going on the record, Brett Favre is going to tear them up, period.”

Ditka: “They brought him in there to make this team better. He’ll make the running game better because they can’t stack the box on him. He’s going to make the receivers better, because, if they’re not on their toes, the ball is going to hit them between the eyes. He’s going to make the defense better because they are not going to be on the field all day. Better than that, he’s going to make the special teams better because they’re going to create good field position. They’ll be a better football team.”

Berman: “Two years ago, remember, they made the playoffs with Eric Mangini in his first year as head coach … I just like the way they can move the ball other than Brett Favre’s arm. I think they can make the playoff, but of course, they have to beat their old friend Chad Pennington right out of the gate.”

Which Brett Favre are the Jets getting?
Jackson: “When you see him run a guy through the second window as you saw in that demo (with Cris Carter on Jets receivers) and throw that slant, that’s not about system … When you see him get the ball in the hands of the receiver and get it there quickly, something that Chad Pennington could not do, that’s not about system. That’s about his ability to play football. If you look at his productivity, nobody has played football better than Brett Favre. I expect them to get to the playoffs.”

Carter: “I’m so sick of people talking about system. In the National Football League, most of the systems make the players. But, when someone like Brett Favre shows up, he’s an elite player, he’s a rare talent. When he shows up, you create a system for him because of his ability.”

Johnson: “You can’t stop his arm strength … When does he lose his fast ball?”

Carter and Jackson (in agreement): “Not now. Not yet.”

Cowboys: Can they get over the hump this season?
Carter: “I love the talent that they have assembled. They have a very good coaching situation. A great high school coach taught me, ‘It’s not the Xs and Os Cris, it is the Willies and the Joes.’ The Cowboys, we can say what we want, they have as much talent as anyone in the league.”

Jackson: “13 Pro Bowlers, a possible 14 with Pac Man Jones in that lineup, but they went backwards last year. So this is not about the talent on the football field. They lost under Bill Parcells, a botched snap by (Tony) Romo. They got beat up by the New York football Giants last year. So, this is about the integrity, the mentality, the way you approach the game. It is not about the players that you have. It is about the way they play at the most important time of the season. I still haven’t seen it yet.”

Johnson: “I like the Dallas Cowboys, I really do. But when you look at it, and I watch it from one end to the next, the coach is Wade Phillips and the coach waiting in the wings is Jason Garrett. To me, that’s the coach … With all that talent in the world, will they go back to last year? Will everybody start to point the finger?”

Ditka: “Another coach on ESPN says, ‘Not so fast.’ Here’s the deal. This is a talented football team. We all know that. What’s going to happen when they get hit on the nose? Are they going to hit back or are they going to bleed? If they don’t hit back, they are going to be ‘also ran.’”

Berman: “If things don’t go well, how will they respond? And to quote another Hall of Fame coach, he was a high school coach once, Marv Levy, he once taught me, I learnt a lot from Marv, ‘I don’t want Pro Bowl players, I want Super Bowl players.’ Maybe they can be both. We’ll see. They haven’t won a playoff game since Emmitt (Smith), and Troy (Aikman), and Michael (Irvin) and the boys were there.”

“Cover 2” – Can the Packers win the NFL North with (Aaron) Rodgers at quarterback?
Jackson: “I don’t think so. I am going to pick the Lions to win the division. But it is not about the Lions. Everything is going to be about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers … The people in Green Bay expect Aaron Rodgers to get them to the Super Bowl. Unless he gets them to the championship game, to the Super Bowl, then his season is a failure. The reason is because, we are going to compare, fair or not, everything Aaron Rodgers does to what Brett Favre does in New York.”

Johnson: “The only thing that he needs to worry about doing is getting the team into the playoffs. Those expectations aren’t realistic. He’s a young quarterback. You can’t expect for him to come in there and lead this team to the Super Bowl.”

Could the Patriots suffer from Super Bowl hangover?
“I remember the team that I was on 1998 – the Vikings – that went 15-1 during the regular season, came up short in the NFC Championship against the Atlanta Falcons that went to the Super Bowl. We had no continuity coming back for that 1999 season. With almost the same amount of players, we were the New England Patriots of that time – over 500 points, broke the NFL record. My problem with the whole, ‘moving on to the next fight,’ how can you move on to the next fight when your nose is broke?”

Jackson: “I am going to continue with the fight analogy. Mike Tyson had that invincibility. Buster Douglas knocked him out. Other fighters approached him differently after that. Other teams will approach the New England Patriots differently. In order to protect Tom Brady, I do worry about his foot a little bit, but it is about the game plan. If you don’t back up 40 to 50 times a game to throw the football, you are going to have more success and you will protect him by doing that. But if you ask that same game plan of him that you asked last year, everybody is going to use exactly the game plan that they saw the Giants use in the Super Bowl, which is rush the passer, knock the quarterback down, that’s our chance to win.”

Johnson: “That game plan was put in last year because of defense. That’s why (head coach Bill) Belichick, first pick, linebacker. He realized their linebackers were a little older, not as fast … So, he’s retooling for that offense starting with the defense, bringing in guys like when they won the championships.”

“Tip Drill”
Jackson – Saints must re-establish power running game: “They’ll (Saints) be back in the hunt if they can get back to the game plan they used in 2006 to get on top of this division. And that is to key everything they do with Deuce McAllister. He has to be the set up guy, just like Brandon Jacobs is for the New York football Giants, then you bring in Reggie Bush as the change of pace guy and everything else in the offense is going to flow, especially for quarterback Drew Brees. The tip today, watch early if Deuce McAllister can establish a strong running game that allows everything else to come off it. ”

Ditka – Eagles: real contender to win NFC North: “I really think so. In the 1960s, there was a song called ‘Bridge over troubled water’. Well, they’ve crossed that bridge. Their troubled water is behind them. With that offense, a good solid young defense, I look for this football team to make a move against the Giants and the Cowboys in the East.”

Johnson – (David) Garrard vs. (Vince) Young: Mismatch: “The defenses of both teams are solid. The running games are sold. My tip, if it comes down to quarterbacks, you’ve got quarterback David Garrard with three interceptions a year ago, quarterback Vince Young, 17. That could be the key point in this game.”

Carter – Bengals: The ship is sinking: “One thing you can watch in Cincinnati, the tip for them is, watch the consistency of the football team. If you look over the last two years, Marvin Lewis has had less and less power as far as decisions who he is going to have on the football field. When you get rid of stellar citizens like Rudi Johnson and Willie Anderson, and you start bringing back players that you said will never play for the franchise, in Chris Henry, it starts to undermine your power. It starts to really hurt your locker room. Watch for the Bengals being inconsistent throughout the season.”

“No Huddle”
How will head coach Mike Holmgren’s last season affect the Seattle Seahawks?
Jackson: “Not early on. If they are winning later on in the season, I think they fall behind him. If they are losing, they’ll start looking toward the next coach.”
Carter: “With (Jim) Mora’s head coaching experience, it can really help with the transition.”
Ditka: “Players don’t play for coaches, it will have no effect.”

Shawne Merriman: Brave or crazy?
Jackson: “The younger guys have educated me, it is crazy because there are millions of dollars at stake and I’m not going to get them if I get hurt.”
Carter: “I wouldn’t jeopardize my body or my career for no team.”
Johnson: “Everything I keep reading says he’s crazy.”
Ditka: “This is a perfect position to exercise discretion over valor.”

Chad Ocho Cinco: Do you like the new name?
Johnson: “I don’t like it. What happens if he goes to another team? Ocho Dos?”
Carter: “I don’t like it. I don’t like it.”
Ditka: “I like it better, if it was Ocho Stinko.”

Earlier on “Sunday NFL Countdown,” Chris Mortensen predicted the top-five coaches on the “hot seat” going into 2008 NFL season.

No. 5: “Eric Mangini, Jets – Owner Woody Johnson says he has Mangini’s back but Jets fans and New York media see $140 million spent on free agents and a guy named Brett Favre has raised expectations.”

No. 4: “Scott Linehan, Rams – A Rams source says before late owner Georgia Frontiere died that she asked the front office for patience with Linehan but the team is for sale and the third year is always critical for a coach who hasn’t won yet.”

No. 3: “Lane Kiffin, Raiders – Just resign, baby. Kiffin has gotten good grades around the league but he’s the fourth coach since Jon Gruden left and the previous three didn’t last more than two years. Al Davis expects a big turnaround in Kiffin’s second season.”

No. 2: “Mike Nolan, 49ers – It’s his fourth year and now his fourth offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, and journeyman quarterback JT O’Sullivan have to rescue Nolan from Alex Smith’s misfortunes.”

No. 1: “Wade Phillips, Cowboys – This is the thanks Phillips gets for going 13-3 in his first year but that home playoff loss to the Giants stung owner Jerry Jones, who also paid Jason Garrett $3.5 million to stick around as offensive coordinator, or head-coach-in-waiting.”