Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets, 8:30p.m. EST
I’m not sure what we did to deserve this, but the NFL schedule makers stuck us with this game on this December Monday night. Both teams are decent , true, but you can’t help but feel like there were better matchups to put in this slot. Either way… it’s not like we’re not going to watch Monday Night Football.
Keys to the Game
Andrew Luck. He’s the key to everything for Indy. They’re going to need to work hard to keep him upright facing the Jets aggressive defensive line. The Jets secondary boasts some scary names, like Darrelle Revis, but given proper time in the pocket, Luck should have plenty of success finding holes in that aging secondary. It’s going to fall on his shoulders though because the Colts’ running game just isn’t good enough to get the job done.
New York Jets
The Jets have a few options for beating the Colts, but turning it into a shootout isn’t a good one. They won’t have the firepower to outdo Luck, instead, they should opt for keeping it out of his hands. A balanced attack with Matt Forte and forcing Indy to run the ball will put the Jets in a great spot for a late-season W. Getting Indianapolis into third and long situations and teeing off on Luck when he drops back will seal the deal.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks, 8:30p.m. EST
A rematch of last year’s best NFC playoff game? Why, thank you. Well, sort of. Carolina had blown Seattle out of the water by taking a 31-0 lead into halftime. The Seahawks came back in the second half as Carolina coasted, to make the score respectable. There’s no doubt that the Seahawks will be looking to get some revenge in this game and retake their crown as kings of the NFC. Don’t miss it.
Keys to the Game
Don’t fix what isn’t broken. The Panthers ran all over Seattle in last year’s playoff game and they should continue that in this game. When you consider the talent that Seattle lost on defense in the offseason, Carolina should have an even easier time moving the ball this time around. Passing may prove difficult, but some underneath routes, avoiding Richard Sherman, should keep the safeties honest.
In the box score, it looks like Seattle moved the ball with ease through the air. We know that that was only the case in the second half, but it’s where they should start this matchup. Carolina no longer has Josh Norman and it’s unlikely that Seattle’s O-line will create major running lanes against a tenacious Panthers front seven. Getting Russell Wilson in rhythm with the receivers early and often will be Seattle’s best chance to beat last year’s NFC champs.
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25p.m. EST
We’ve got ourselves a nice interconference matchup of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks late in the season. What’s not to love here? Even better, if you’re into offense and high scores, this will be one of your favorite games of the season. Buckle up.
Keys to the Game
New York Giants
Let’s not pretend this game will come down to anything other than who executes better on offense. Eli Manning is much more turnover prone than Roethlisberger and this is going to be a major factor for the Giants. If they start giving Big Ben more possessions to work with, this game will be over in a hurry. Protecting the football needs to be their number one priority.
The Steelers defense isn’t what it used to be and it’s highly unlikely their secondary will be able to contend with OBJ and Sterling Shepard. That being said, they can absolutely force Eli into some bad throws. On the other side of the ball, Le’Veon Bell will be a huge factor for them. Bell’s running ability will keep the Giants from dropping too many players into coverage and he’ll be an effective weapon in the passing game out of the backfield.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings, 8:25p.m. EST
Another good matchup on Thursday night? Pinch me. Once again, we’ve got ourselves a pair of playoff contenders and more importantly, we’ve got three nights of NFL football worth watching this week! NFL fans are the real winners, here.
Keys to the Game
Welcome to Minnesota in December, boys. At least there’s a roof on the stadium unlike last year when the game would have been played at the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ stadium. Nonetheless, it will be chilly and Dallas will need to come out of the gates ready for action. They can’t afford to start slow against Minnesota and let them get out to an early lead. Romo and Bryant will need to pace the offense get the Cowboys on the board against that stiff Viking defense.
The Cowboys weak defensive line got even weaker this year and the Vikings should be planning to run all over it. Between Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon, it will be a wonder if Minnesota passes the ball at all. As bad as the Dallas defense is, their offense is equally as potent, so it’s important not to turn this one into a shootout. They will have trouble getting to Romo through that brick wall of an offensive line, so they need to limit Dallas’ chances on offense by dominating time of possession.