Monday Night – Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Another NFC East matchup in prime time. Can you tell this was the NFL’s best division last year? Each of these teams will be doing their best to dethrone Dallas as the kings of the division and what better way to make progress on that than by beating another division rival on Monday Night Football? This matchup has been a lopsided affair of late with the Redskins winning the last 5 games in a row. You have to go all the way back to September of 2014 to find the last time the Eagles beat the Skins. Will that trend continue? We’ll find out.
Keys to the Game
Washington is going to be counting on a good game out of Kirk Cousins in order to win this one. The Eagles defense isn’t too imposing at first glance, but they always seem to find a way to force turnovers… and return them for touchdowns. Even with the addition of Terrelle Pryor, I don’t like Washington’s odds if they have to mount another big comeback, so protecting the ball is a must, here.
Philly brings the exact opposite game plan into this one: they want to do everything they can to get to Cousins and force him into turning the ball over. Life will be much easier for Carson Wentz if he can play with a lead rather than chasing points. The Eagles can avoid putting that kind of pressure on Wentz by pressuring Cousins. He’s not the most mobile of QBs out there, so he’ll either be taking sacks or making errant throws when defenders are breathing down his neck and that’s when this Eagles defense strikes it big. A defensive score in this one should turn the tables enough for Philly to buck this losing streak.
Sunday Night Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
The rematch that no one has been waiting for. Okay, maybe not “no one”, but I’m sure that Atlanta won’t be too excited to relive all the Super Bowl drama so soon. In case you forgot, the Falcons managed to blow a 25-point second half lead against New England in the Super Bowl in one of the most epic collapses of human history. Now, they have to pack their bags and travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Pats at home. Good luck.
Keys to the Game
Don’t blow a 25-point lead. Too soon? In reality, Atlanta needs to do what they did for most of the game the last time these two met: spread the ball around on offense and watch the Pats try to keep up. There’s not a team in the league that can truly contain Atlanta’s explosive offense, they need to remember that when they arrive at one of the toughest places to win in sports. Stay calm, let the playmakers do the work (Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman) and don’t let up. The Falcons can absolutely win this one if they don’t let the past get in their way.
New England’s ball control offense is going to be their best bet for beating the Falcons for the second time in as many tries. Their defense isn’t good enough to keep up with Julio Jones and company (no one’s is), so keeping the ball out of their hands is the best defensive strategy. Lucky for NE, Tom Brady is great at that. Long, sustained drives built around short passes and the running game are what New England seems to do best. Doing that will fluster the Falcons and force them into making poor decisions, costing them the game, just like that night in February.
Sunday Late Afternoon – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants
We’ve got a contest between two potential playoff teams in the 4PM slot on Sunday afternoon and it should be a good one. Two terrific defenses, two pretty good quarterbacks and two personalities that overshadow the rest of the entire team. Bet you can’t guess who those guys are… This game shapes up to be one of the better regular season matchups we’ll see all year, so make sure you mark this one on your calendar.
Keys to the Game
Playing on the east coast is never easy for Seattle because they “lose” three or four hours flying across the country, but at least they’ll be playing out of the 4pm slot and not 1pm. The most important aspect of this game is going to be protecting Russell Wilson. That means two things: the offensive line is going to need to step their game up and the game plan is going to need to be based quick throws and running the football. Wilson simply won’t have the time to drop back play after play with the Giants defensive line crashing down on him. Getting the ball out of Wilson’s hands quickly here, a la Tom Brady and the Patriots, is going to greatly increase Seattle’s chances to earn a tough road win in this one.
New York needs to play smart football when they host Seattle. The Seahawks will try to get under Odell Beckham Jr.’s skin and try to rattle Eli — the Giants need to recognize that and not give in. The offense shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into the endzone, even against this talented Seattle defense, so it will be the New York defense that decides this one. The Giants will need a strong showing from their D in order to shut down Wilson. Pressuring him and getting him to make bad decisions will open this game right up for New York.
Sunday Early Afternoon – Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
No Thursday night action this week, but that won’t slow us down. We keep the action rolling with an early afternoon game in the AFC North between the two teams that just might hate each other the most out of any other teams in the league. Especially after the Burfict/Brown incident in the 2015 playoffs. Many of the players on those teams are still around and I’ll guarantee you that none of them have have forgotten what happened in that game. You’ll want to dial this one up to kick off your NFL Sunday.
Keys to the Game
As usual, the key for the Bengals is going to be getting the ball into their best player’s hands — A.J. Green. He was even more dominant last year without Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu lining up with him, even though opponents were doing all they could to stop him. Pittsburgh will try the same with double teams and bracket coverage, so the Bengals may need to get creative at times. However, at the end of the day, there’s no one on Pittsburgh’s defense that can match up with Green and it will be on full display whenever Green finds himself one on one. Automatic touchdown. His success will open up room for the rest of the Bengals offense to find their footing and put up points on this softer Pittsburgh defense.
Pittsburgh is going to score in this one, there’s not really any question about that. The key for them is going to be playing a little defense and getting Andy Dalton uncomfortable. The Steelers don’t have the personnel to try and stop A.J. Green, so the next best thing is stopping his quarterback. That’s a much more attainable goal for this defense that doesn’t exactly draw comparisons to the old Steel Curtain, despite James Harrison’s best efforts. If they can get Dalton off his game and make him turn the ball over a time or two, it’ll be a cakewalk for the Steelers.