Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins, 8:30p.m. EST
Just how good is Washington this year? It’s time to find out. On Monday Night Football. Against the NFC’s reigning champs. They say if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Well, Washington, here’s your chance. You know that Carolina is going to get everything the Redskins have, this should be a good one.
Keys to the Game
Shutting down Kirk Cousins will be the key to the game for the Panthers. Cousins is Washington’s best weapon on offense, if they take him away, there’s no way for the Redskins to keep pace with Cam Newton and Carolina. Their front line is going to need to come up big to take some pressure off of their secondary.
The Redskins will need to pass the ball effectively to beat Carolina. The Panthers’ front seven is going to be overwhelming for Washington’s lackluster run game, so the pressure is going to fall on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins and the receivers to put points on the board. Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Josh Doctson are going to need to get open and make plays after the catch.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30p.m. EST
These teams met three times in the 2015 season and could be gearing up to do so again in 2016. This is their final regular season matchup this season and it’s bound to be a good one. These teams positively despise each other and it makes for some incredible football. The hits are harder, every down means more and neither team wants to give up an inch.
Keys to the Game
The Steelers main concern should be getting pressure on Andy Dalton. Their defense has fallen off in the last few years and likely won’t be able to keep up with all the weapons Cincinnati boasts. If they can knock Andy Dalton down and get him thinking about the rush, it’s going to help Pittsburgh keep the ball out of A.J. Green’s hands. It’s either that or they get ready for a shootout, which is much more of a gamble.
Cincy and Dalton in particular needs to protect the football. Dalton has gotten a reputation for throwing interceptions at inopportune times and this is one of those prime time games the Bengals have become known for losing. Cincinnati can buck that reputation by protecting the football and beating PIttsburgh. They have more overall talent, they need to live up to it now.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 4:25p.m. EST
If you need me to explain the significance of this game, I’m going to accuse you of living under a rock. In which case, I’m going to wonder how you’re even reading this. Tom Brady and New England will be hungry for revenge, each team will be prepping for the postseason. It’s also possible that we have a preview for another AFC Championship game.
Keys to the Game
Gronk, Gronk, Gronk. The Patriots aren’t facing the same defense they saw last January. The Broncos lost some of their key defensive pieces, including inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and strong safety David Bruton — there’s going to be some more room over the middle. Not that anyone needs to tell Brady to get him the ball, but it seems even more likely that Gronk makes a big splash in this game with Denver losing those players. New England has a much better matchup here than on the outside against corners Harris and Talib.
The Broncos need to replicate what they accomplished in the playoffs and get to Tom Brady. It will be more difficult without Malik Jackson, but they were able to bring in Jared Crick. Pressuring Brady is the only way to slow down the Patriots offense — which is imperative, considering that Denver cannot keep pace with them in a shootout. Getting the running game going with C.J. Anderson will help Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas find space in the secondary if New England has to bring the safeties into the box.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, 8:25p.m. EST
Whether or not either team is in contention for the playoffs this year, this is going to be fun to watch. Dolphins first year head coach Adam Gase will be looking to make his mark in the AFC East and the same goes for the Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles. In fact, this game may be even more important for each coach if these teams aren’t in the playoffs. Prime time division games must be won.
Keys to the Game
The Dolphins’ defense is going to be tested by the versatility of New York’s offense. The Jets have big, talented receivers on the outside and a running back in Matt Forte that can do just about everything. Miami will need to remain balanced in their defensive approach and rely on their studs, like Ndamukong Suh, to win battles and take over the game. A strong performance from Ryan Tannehill will take pressure off the rest of the offense as well.
New York Jets
Don’t let Suh disrupt the offense. The Dolphins’ defensive tackle remains one of the best in the NFL and has the ability to blow up the running game as well as take down the quarterback. He’s going to command a double team on every play and the Jets need to gameplan around that. Keeping him blocked will allow them to utilize all their offensive weapons and keep the rest of the Miami defense out of rhythm.