Monday Night – Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Monday night in Week 11 brings us another battle of the birds in the NFC. The last time these squads met, it came down to a long pass down the field to Julio Jones… The ball hit the ground and the Seahawks walked away with a close win. Will it be so close time around or will one of these teams display their dominance on Monday Night Football?
Keys to the Game
Atlanta should do what they do best: score. The Falcons need to bombard Seattle with a good mix of runs and passes as they move down the field and put points on the board. They’ve already shown they can score on the Legion of Boom, so they need to do it early to maintain that confidence. Getting out to an early lead will allow those Atlanta pass rushers to pin their ears back and go after Russell Wilson. Vic Beasley was a menace to quarterbacks last year and should be even better this year. Getting after Wilson is a good way to halt any comebacks before they start.
Seattle needs to be on their game to win this one. It’s going to take a strong defensive effort on the defensive line and in the secondary. Atlanta is as versatile on offense as they come and have a superstar on the outside with Julio Jones. Richard Sherman will need to play a terrific game in order to keep Jones from breaking this one open. If he can do that, Seattle can focus their front 7 on slowing down the run game and getting after Matt Ryan. Keeping the score close will allow Russell Wilson to work diligently and pick apart a very average defense en route to victory.
Sunday Night – Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
This will be a great NFC East matchup on Sunday Night Football. These division rivals will put on a good show no matter what their records are. What’s better is that this game features two of the game’s best young quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz — it’s going to be fun to watch them go head to head in a prime time setting during their sophomore season. It’s time to see who’s made the most progress since draft day.
Keys to the Game
You can fully expect Dallas to play it safe and pound the rock with Ezekiel Elliott, but the Eagles are going to have to find a way to disrupt that game plan. Letting Zeke run for 150 and 2 scores is a recipe for an Eagles loss. It might mean committing 8 men to the box from the very first snap and betting on your secondary to hold up against the pass — as dangerous as that can be when you’re facing Dez Bryant on the outside. Philly is going to need to come up with a big play or two to shake things up and turn the tide in their favor here.
The Cowboys would do well to stick to their normal game plan in this matchup and avoid doing anything too risky. This Philly defense has proven time and time again that they have a penchant for making big plays and turning those big plays into 6 points. That’s how you lose football games. Dallas should play a balanced game, driving down the field with a mix of Zeke Elliott and a “safe” passing game. It’s when you start forcing passes that the Eagles can strike and put you in a hole.
Sunday Afternoon – New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders
A beautiful AFC matchup out on the west coast on Sunday afternoon. This feels like a preview of a playoff matchup with these 2 teams. Both are projected to win their divisions and each could easily earn themselves a first round bye and eventually meet in the conference championship game. However, before we get there, someone is going to have to win this mid-November matchup.
Keys to the Game
The Raiders don’t have many weaknesses, but one of the few is their secondary. That’s a perfect matchup for Tom Brady to work his ageless magic. This will certainly be one of New England’s tougher opponents in 2017, but no opposing team seems too formidable when you’ve got Brady taking the snaps. The Pats just need to get him in rhythm with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the game should take care of itself. Forcing Derek Carr to play from behind and throw into an awaiting New England defense will only make life easier for the Pats.
This game will be a true test of Oakland’s prospects for the 2017 season. New England will likely be their toughest opponent of the regular season and Brady by far the toughest QB. It’s going to take a very well played game on both sides of the ball for the Raiders to win this one, but it can be done. The key to beating New England is to beat Tom Brady. NE doesn’t have the strongest of offensive lines, that’s where Oakland needs to strike. Bringing pressure off the edge and through the middle and actually getting to Brady is how you can knock the legend off his game. Just getting to him won’t phase him, you’ve got to bring him down and get a few sacks. Khalil Mack is going to be a make or break player for Oakland.
Thursday Night – Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 11 kicks off with a nice Thursday Night Football matchup between the Titans and Steelers. Both teams have a good chance of winning their respective divisions this year should be in prime form as we enter the latter half of the NFL season. I like this one to be a high scoring contest as both teams have talented signal callers neither plays terrific defense. That’s a recipe for a little bit of a shootout to kick off the week.
Keys to the Game
Tennessee is going to want to slow the pace of this game if they want to give themselves a shot at toppling the Steelers. They don’t have the firepower of a Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown to keep pace if this game turns into a track meet, so the running game will be their best friend. A solid dose of DeMarco Murray and the bruising Derrick Henry should do well to even the playing field for the Titans. Keeping Bell and Brown off the field is the best defense the Titans can play in this one.
The key for Pittsburgh will be throwing the football. Throw it early, throw it late, throw it short, throw it deep, just throw the ball. Tennessee has a pretty soft secondary and Pittsburgh has one of the best receiving corps in the league. Advantage: Steelers. This should allow Pitt to get out to an early lead and put the pressure on young Marcus Mariota right away. That’s exactly where the Steelers want Mariota: forced to drop back and throw the football. As good as he is, Mariota hasn’t established himself as one of the best pure passers in the league just yet and that veteran Steeler defense should have no issue shutting him down when he’s 1-dimensional.