Keyshawn Johnson on the State of the New England Patriots

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week  ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris CarterMike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL action with Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Excerpts:

On Andrew Luck vs. the Baltimore Ravens’ defense… 

Ditka: “I like the Colts. They’re leading the league in time of possessions and first downs, and there’s something to that. Well how are they doing that? They’ve got the 18th--ranked rushing game. How do you do it? You got it because you got Andrew Luck. Nine different receivers he hit last week and that’s where they’re doing the job. I mean, you understand, you got so much on defense, but they’re taking it with their offense. Luck is the key to this football team, you know that. I think he’s gonna do it.”

Johnson: “The Ravens’ D is playing pretty good this year, but they haven’t faced a quarterback quite like this with these receivers, and the things that they’re doing at home in that dome I think this offense overall can get the best of the Ravens. It’s the highest scoring offense in the National Football League thus far this year.”

Jackson: “Coach mentioned time of possession – it’s 36 minutes per game for the Colts. That is a remarkable number for Indianapolis. So, what is your best defense? It’s your offense.”

Carter: “They have a combination that we haven’t seen guys. You talked about time of possession, alright, we’ve seen teams that have 35 minutes in time of possession and we’ve seen teams that dominate as far as scoring, leading the league in scoring. But it’s very, very rare do we have both. And that’s what makes Indy – not only are they eating up the clock, but they’re scoring touchdowns once they get in the red zone. So what they do is they put your offense on hurry up because you know they’re going to get a lot of possessions and they’re scoring a lot of points.”

On Peyton Manning vs. the Arizona Cardinals’ defense…

Jackson: “What I’m concerned with is the Broncos being 28th in the league running the football. Because in the end that’s what they’re gonna have to do in order to compete against the San Diegos, the Seattle Seahawks, those teams that they may meet in the Super Bowl and the teams that will challenge them to get to the Super Bowl.”

Ditka: “Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this game, so that bodes pretty well for Peyton Manning. One thing about the Cardinals they like to blitz a little bit on defense and, you know, that plays right into his hands, but they do a good job of disguising the blitz, so let’s see what happens out there. If they don’t disguise the blitz, Peyton reads it, it’s going to be a long afternoon for the Cardinals.”

Johnson: “Arizona’s defense is physical – there’s no question about it. But it’s not the Seattle Seahawks… And yes, they do need to run the football, but when has Peyton Manning really ever had a true running game?”

On quarterback Kyle Orton: Can he lead the Buffalo Bills?

Carter: “You draft a guy. You trade up last year for him. So you’re basically giving him the keys to the franchise. So less than a year and a half after that, all that confidence and all that intel you did about EJ Manuel, you throw it out the window for Kyle Orton?”

Ditka: “Buffalo is not a good football team. Since 2008, in the last 12 games, the best record they have is 5-7. That’s a fact. They fold at the end of the year. But they’re not a good enough football team to say okay Manuel is the problem. He’s not the problem. They’ve got a lot of problems.”

On struggling young quarterbacks and whether players have an advantage looking at a quarterback compared to personnel people…

Johnson: “We know immediately what he’s doing on and off the field, how he’s preparing, when he’s coming in, if he’s picking up that playbook, if he’s staying late, if he’s coming early, if he’s lifting weights. All of that really does matter when you play any position in the National Football League.”

Jackson: “Nobody gets a better look at the talent of the guy who’s gonna play quarterback than the guys, his teammates around him. And do they all struggle when they come to pro football? Yes. John Elway struggled when he came to pro football. But when I saw him at that initial rookie camp and saw the talent, I was like, told Billy Thompson, we’re going to go to some Super Bowls.”

Carter: “We have more throwers than we’ve ever had in the National Football League. I think that the players are at a disadvantage and I believe the coaches and the general managers are getting fooled because the quarterbacks look like they’re more ready to play, but in college and high school the coaches are making the calls and the reads for them.”

On Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick and which quarterback faces a tougher test…

Carter: “It’s gonna be a tough test for both of them. Alex Smith’s got a tough test going back in, still trying to play within himself. It’s hard to play against a team that’s given up on you because it becomes personal.”

Johnson: “We watched Alex Smith pretty much shred the New England Patriots’ defense. This is totally different. This is the San Francisco 49ers. Even though they’re missing some players, this defense is way better than New England’s. You’re going up to San Francisco, not only the emotional side and the distractions that come with going back into a place that you were drafted to, you had some success at – he doesn’t have the weaponry around him from an offensive standpoint the same way Kaepernick has.”

Jackson: “Look back last week at what they [the 49ers] did to Philly and take the special teams game out of it. They would have skunked the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Ditka: “I think there’s a lot more pressure on Kaepernick. Playing against the guy that he replaced, he wants to make sure he proves to everybody the 49ers made the right decision.”

On San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh…

Ditka: “He’s one of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever been around. And I think that’s good. Contrary to that whole thing over there, it’s good to be competitive, it’s good to want to be the best, it’s good to want to win. And sometimes when you do that, when you’re climbing that mountain, you’re going to rub some people the wrong way. You might step on a few fingers when you’re goin’ up the hill. But he’s doing it the right way. I mean, the guy takes ‘em to the championship game. He’s won 75 percent of his games.”

On the state of the New England Patriots…

Johnson: “When you start believing in I don’t have to have players because my scheme and the Patriot Way works at some point in time is going to catch up to you… you have to have players. And until they learn that you need players in the National Football League – whether it’s through free agency, trade or drafting – they’re going to struggle.”

Jackson: “You can’t have it where we don’t need anybody to win because we can excel with whoever’s on the field, but now we don’t have enough people to win because of who we have on the field.”