Monday Night – Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers
Monday Night Football in Week 10 features a couple of teams that could go either way in 2017. Both squads have some terrific talent, but also have a tendency to underperform a little bit. On one side we’ve got the practically unstoppable Cam Newton and then there’s nasty, defensive dominator Ndamukong Suh on the other side. At this point in the season, this is going to be a game that both sides could really use in the win column, so we should see a pretty hard-fought contest all the way through. Let’s see how this MNF matchup breaks down.
Keys to the Game
Miami’s biggest goal will be to keep the football out of Cam Newton’s hands. It will be easier said than done, but it will swing the game in the Dolphins’ favor. That can be done by establishing the run game early. Carolina is tough up front, but if you gouge that weak secondary a few times, the safeties will have to respect the pass and stay out of the box. That gives Jay Ajayi more room to work. Grinding it out on offense will keep the defense fresh, allowing them to really go after Newton when they’re on the field. That’s important because Cam does a great job of wearing defenses down and punishing them in the 4th quarter.
This could be an easy Monday night victory if the Panther defense can hold their own in the passing game. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency under center and he has a tendency to turn the ball over when pressed. If the Panthers can force a turnover or two, Cam Newton and company will take care of the rest on offense. That will only put more pressure on Tannehill… Rinse and repeat. What the Panthers don’t want to do is get into a shootout with Miami, which would make this one more of a toss-up.
Sunday Night – New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
This used to be one of the great matchups of NFL teams, but this year, it’s likely going to be a chance for New England to show the western U.S. how good they are. The Broncos still have the defense to make this a game, but it’s hard to see their offense putting up any semblance of a fight against a Bill Belichick defensive unit. It will still be great television to watch Tom Brady go up against one of the best secondaries of the 2000s.
Keys to the Game
The Patriots need to stay focused and grind this one out against a very good defense. It probably won’t be easy, but by the end of the night they could certainly find themselves with 30+ points if they protect the ball and work diligently. As good as Tom Brady is, this veteran Denver defense will make you pay if you try to push the limits too much. Short passes underneath mixed with runs and the occasional downfield throw to keep the defense honest will put the Pats right where they want to be: on top.
It might just take a herculean effort from the Denver offense to pull off a win over the Brady bunch in prime time. First and foremost, the defense is going to need to slow down the New England offense and probably create a turnover or two. Brady is great, but by no means is he perfect and some intense pressure from the pass rush can lead to an errant throw or two. On the other side of the ball Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are going to need to lead the way. They’ll need to haul in some big passes and make defenders miss after the catch. It will take a big game, but it can be done.
Sunday Afternoon – Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
At first glance, this might not be a game you get excited about. Cincinnati and Tennessee aren’t exactly the sexiest teams in the NFL these days, but that’s no reason to ignore this Sunday afternoon affair. Both squads have playoff-level talent and could certainly find themselves playing football in January rather than watching from the couch. If you watch one game on Sunday afternoon, it should be this one.
Keys to the Game
Cincy is going to want to force the Titans to air it out. Nothing against Marcus Mariota, but the Titans are built to run the football and grind the clock, not move the ball down the field in large chunks. Establishing an early lead will get the Titans off their game plan and force them to attack down the field against an experienced defense. The best way for the Bengals to get that early lead is going to be targeting A.J. Green early and often. The Titans won’t be able to stop him without double or tripling him in coverage, opening up other Bengal receivers.
Tennessee might just be the best team that no one talks about this fall. Marcus Mariota is in his 3rd season and the duo of running backs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry might be the best in the NFL. Their defense leaves a little to be desired, but this is an offense that can drop some serious points on teams that aren’t ready for them. The Bengals could easily overlook in the middle of the schedule and fall victim to a relentless offensive battering ram. Mariota will simply need to protect the ball.
Thursday Night – Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
In Week 9, the football week kicks off with the Seattle Seahawks traveling to Glendale, AZ to take on the Arizona Cardinals. Anyone remember what happened the last time these teams met in Glendale? That’s right, they played to a 6-6 tie in one of the most awkward and unusual football games we’ve seen this century. I have to believe that this year’s matchup will be a bit more interesting and probably won’t end in a tie. I hope.
Keys to the Game
The key to beating the Cardinals this year revolves around containing running back David Johnson. The issue is that Johnson is very versatile and can’t beat you between the tackles, on the outside and in the passing game. Seattle will have to be vigilant, but disciplined enough not to overcommit and get beat on misdirection plays. Limiting Johnson will surely limit the Arizona offense as a whole, making life easy for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. At that point, they won’t need to press too much in order to get a W.
It’s going to be a tough one for Arizona. They’re going to need great games from Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson on offense in order to score enough on Thursday night. Big plays will be necessary from both offensive stars in order to find success against that stingy Seattle defense. The Cardinals have enough playmakers on defense to give Seattle fits and maybe even gain an advantage through turnovers. Patrick Peterson could be a deciding factor here.