Monday Night – Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs
We head to barbecue country on Monday night for a matchup between 2 of the NFL’s more questionably named teams. Coincidence? Perhaps… But either way, these teams will be ready to play some football. Each of these franchises has tried desperately to prove themselves in recent seasons, but have come up dramatically short in the playoffs. They’re on the cusp of joining the NFL’s elite franchises, but haven’t been able to seal the deal with a Super Bowl or even a deep playoff run. Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins will go head to head in prime time to assert themselves as a Super Bowl-caliber QB.
Keys to the Game
Washington is going to need a great game from their offense if they want to get a win at Arrowhead Stadium. Newly acquired weapon Terrelle Pryor is going to need to make some big plays against a very stingy KC defense. Cousins will be under fire all night and Marcus Peters will be lurking in the secondary to pick off any errant passes. The Skins can’t afford to turn the ball over — especially considering that Peters has the return skills to turn those INTs into 6 points in an instant. Getting the running game going will be crucial for Washington to keep the pass rushers at bay and allow Cousins to make plays down the field and allow his receivers to get into the endzone.
Kansas City will need to focus on drumming up some offense of their own. We’ve seen them explode for 30 plus points at times only to be held without a touchdown in other games. The Chiefs cannot afford to have a dismal offensive performance in this one or they’ll find themselves out of contention early. A good game from Spencer Ware and the running back stable will be necessary to keep the pressure off Alex Smith, who has never truly been able to win games with his arm alone. Working the ball to playmakers Jeremy Maclin and Spencer Ware will allow the Chiefs to earn a comfortable win on Monday Night Football.
Sunday Night – Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks
In a weekend littered with potential lopsided affairs, this one might just be the biggest. The Seahawks continue to be one of the best teams in the NFL while the Colts are just happy to still be in the league. If this were soccer, they may have been relegated to the Arena League by now. All jokes aside, Andrew Luck and the Colts are going to have their hands full Sunday night when they go into the Twelfth Man to take on Seattle. They’ll need all the luck they can get — pun intended.
Keys to the Game
Indy is going to have to surprise some people, including Seattle HC Pete Carroll in order to get a win in Seattle. The Seahawks just don’t lose at home very often. So, Andrew Luck will need to have his “A” game and that offensive line is going to need to play the game of their lives. They can’t win this game with Luck finishing every play on the ground. If he’s upright, Luck can chuck it with the best of them and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is damn near uncoverable out of the slot. The Colts can pull off the upset with a couple good stops on defense (Russell Wilson has averaged nearly 20 turnovers per season in 5 years) and getting Hilton into space and into the endzone.
By no means will Seattle need to play conservatively to beat Indianapolis, but they will need to protect the football. As mentioned previously, Wilson has a penchant for turning the ball over and you can’t give players as talented as Luck and Hilton extra opportunities to score. The Seahawks will need to put Luck on his back to take the Colts’ offense out of contention while they mix and match on offense to put up points on that porous Indy defense. Protect the ball, stay balanced and enjoy the relaxed celebration rules during a Sunday night victory.
Sunday Afternoon – Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
An early season clash of AFC North rivals on Sunday afternoon? Don’t mind if I do… Things are always heated when the Ravens and Steelers meet, it’s just some good, old-fashioned smashmouth football. Even though the 2017 season is young, this contest should be no different. Baltimore will be looking to redeem themselves from a 2016 season where they missed the playoffs while Pittsburgh will be doing their best to get back to the postseason.
Keys to the Game
Pittsburgh’s offense is so good that I don’t think they need to do a whole lot more than just play their game. Between Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers offense is an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses and that’s before mixing in guys like DeAngelo Williams, Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates. Frankly, Baltimore doesn’t have the offensive personnel to match these guys score for score, so as long as the offensive machine keeps plugging away, the Steelers won’t have too much to worry about here.
Baltimore is going to have their work cut out for them here, but they do have 2 things going for them: this game is in Baltimore and it’s a division rival. These divisional games are always close because of the familiarity between the teams. The Ravens defense will really need to step up, though. Safety Eric Weddle will have to lead the charge along with 1st-round pick Marlon Humphrey at corner. If they can get under Big Ben’s skin and slow that Steeler offense a tick or two, Joe Flacco will be able to work some of his old magic and hand their old Pittsburgh pals an early season loss.
Thursday Night – Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
A Thursday night affair in the NFC North. We just might have some decent football on our hands… Well, maybe not. The Bears are playing, after all. Sorry, Bears fans, but you know that this year is going to be a bit rough without Alshon Jeffery and Smokin’ Jay Cutler. Say what you will about Cutler, but he would’ve been more effective than a rookie (probably?). Without further ado, let’s see what these teams have to do to get a win.
Keys to the Game
It’s going to be an uphill battle, to say the least. Chicago needs to find a way to get Aaron Rodgers off his game, which is much easier written in a preview than done. However, it’s not impossible. The Pack were more than vulnerable at times last season and, as we’ve seen, anything can happen on a Thursday night. The Bears will need help from a few big plays in this one and that awful Green Bay defense probably won’t put up too much resistance. A lucky break here or there and a great game out of Jordan Howard will have Chicago surprising us all with a W.
The game plan is simple for the Packers: don’t beat yourselves. Chicago is in a rebuilding year with a fresh quarterback at the helm while the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. Enough said. Green Bay simply needs to play within themselves and they should have themselves a Thursday night cakewalk to a divisional win. A little bit of running game, a little bit of Jordy Nelson and a little pressure on the new Chicago Q will do just nicely for a Green Bay win.