The Madden Cruiser on Thursday afternoon was approaching the home of Notre Dame -- South Bend, Ind. -- a perfect time to talk football and food with NBC analyst John Madden before the Buffalo Bills' game Sunday night with the New England Patriots.
It's been so long since Madden has been here that he forgot that the only way to taste real chicken wings is to come to Western New York.
"The last time  I was there," Madden said by phone, "the big thing was chicken wings. You had to go to Buffalo. Now they have Buffalo chicken wings in every restaurant in the country."
Not exactly. There are chicken wings and there are Buffalo chicken wings. "I thought everyone just copied Buffalo wings," said Madden, before conceding you can only get the real McCoy here.
Madden provided plenty of food for thought about the Patriots' chances to go unbeaten, the Bills' chances against them, Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, the state of quarterbacking in the NFL and Ralph Wilson Stadium as a game setting.
In an NBC release, Madden was quoted as saying the Bills "could keep it close and make it a pretty good game." The quote was reminiscent of what Madden said before the Bills' 1992 Super Bowl loss to Washington. Madden was careful before the game to avoid implying it wouldn't be close. After the Skins' dominated, 37-24, he said he expected it. What does he really think of the Bills' chances?
"There is a way they could make it close," Madden said. He outlined San Diego's winning formula against Indianapolis -- run back a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.
"That's the way I could see Buffalo being in the game. It is not going to be J.P. Losman is going to get into a shootout with Tom Brady. Buffalo loses that," he said.
He watched the Bills' 13-10 victory over Miami on his bus and is impressed by Bills linemen Jason Peters and Derrick Dockery and running back Marshawn Lynch, a California player he has known for a long time. Losman, not so much.
"He doesn't look real consistent," Madden said. "If he's going to do anything, it is going to be run the ball, run the ball, short pass and hit a deep one to Lee Evans. . . . It is hard to say that everyone is wrong and that J.P. Losman is the answer to the quarterback situation right now in Buffalo.
"Things don't come easily and automatically. Brady looks like's sitting back in a rocking chair. I don't know if anyone who played the game played it better than he's playing it right now at that position. Everything looks so easy and we all know it's not. J.P. doesn't make things look so easy."
However, Madden concedes the state of quarterbacking isn't very good. "There's not enough quarterbacks to go around," he said. "Such a load is put on the quarterback pre-snap. Then he has to get back and make reads. There are very few guys . . . you don't get to 10."
He said Losman remains in the developing stage with quarterbacks like San Diego's Philip Rivers. "Any young quarterback is going to have a bumpy road. The better the team, the less bumpy that road is going to be."
The Patriots' road has only a few possible bumps, but Madden doesn't expect them to go unbeaten if they wrap up all the playoff advantages early. "I really think there's going to be a dilemma," Madden said. "Do you decide to go for the record or for the championship? What if Tom Brady got hurt and couldn't play in the playoffs?"
Even if the Bills aren't a big hurdle for the Pats, Madden said it will be fun.
"When you think of the top venues, you think Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City. It feels half like a college game, half like a pro game. That's a pretty good mixture."
If he made a wish before snapping a chicken wing, his ideal scenario would be for a physical game with no serious injuries.
"You just hope that the Pats just don't jump out quickly with a big lead and deflate the Bills," Madden said. "But you take what's presented. It is going to be a good feeling. It will be excitement in the stadium. Excitement to see what the Bills could do. Excitement to see an undefeated [Patriots] team. Excitement to see a team that, no matter how you cut it, is one of the top teams of all time."