Monday Night – Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
Hey, what do you know? The Cowboys are back. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay for a while with Dak and Zeke at the helm. To be honest, I don’t know why this game is on Monday Night Football. Perhaps the schedule makers know something we don’t, but the last time I checked, Arizona is awful. They got their doors blown off in the final game of last season to conclude a disappointing 7-8-1 campaign. There’s no question they’ve got some talent, but they don’t match up well in this one.
Keys to the Game
Dallas simply needs to do their thing in this one to get an easy win. Feed Zeke, let him run all over that Arizona D and mix in some Dak to Dez action to seal the deal. Case closed. Okay, there’s a little more to it than that, but you get the idea. This should be a good opportunity for the Cowboys to show off their up and coming defense which should take another step forward this year as Jaylon Smith returns from injury.
How can the Cardinals escape the night with a win? Great question. It’s going to take some work, but we’ve seen crazier things happen. Without a doubt, it’s going to take some big plays on defense and special teams and a whole lot of David Johnson. AZ is going to have to get an early lead and force Dallas to throw the ball a little bit more than they’d like to. Dak is good, but he’s far from perfect and a talented vet like Patrick Peterson can strike on any given pass and take an INT back for a TD. If they can do that and let David Johnson go to work, the Cards can shock the football world on Monday night.
Sunday Night – Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins
Two years ago, we would have laughed at the thought of these squads going head to head on Sunday Night Football. This year, we’re looking at a pair contenders who are a lock to compete for their division titles. What a difference two years makes. Quarterback play has been the difference for both of these franchises with the emergence of Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. Neither was a top-flight prospect coming out of college but both have developed into starters and arguably top 10 QBs.
Keys to the Game
Score, score, score. To be blunt, I don’t think Washington can keep up with the Raider offense in this one. Between Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and the addition of Marshawn Lynch, Oakland has one of the best offenses in the NFL and will be tough for any team to stop — let alone a team with a soft defense. If the Raiders can establish the run with Marshawn early, they’ll be able to crush the Skins by going over the top to Cooper and Crabtree down the field all day long.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Washington, but they’ve made it a habit of coming out on top, somehow, some way. The key for them will be a bend but don’t break defense. Oakland is going to rack up yards and put points on the board, there’s no way around that, but if Washington can limit the big plays and force a few field goals, they’ll be right in this one. Keeping it close will let Cousins work his magic and make some plays down the stretch to get the Skins in the endzone and earn a Sunday night win at home.
Sunday Afternoon – Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Before you shake your head at this game, let me explain its significance. This matchup will be an early season indicator as to whether or not the Chargers will be contenders in 2017. The newest LA squad has a veteran QB, a talented RB, play-making WRs and one of the best up and coming defenses across the league. If there’s any candidate to have a worst to first season, it’s definitely the Chargers. That said, they could completely collapse once again. This formidable matchup with the Chiefs is a great early season litmus test.
Keys to the Game
This is a simple one for KC: get the lead, pound the rock and make Rivers throw. It’s been a proven recipe for success against bad Chargers teams and will probably work this time around as well. The most important thing for KC will be to keep this game close — they typically don’t have the offensive firepower to mount a big comeback (ahem, Week 1 last year, ahem). Pressure Rivers and good things will happen for the Chiefs.
This will be a tough test for LA. The Chiefs’ defense is terrific and corner Marcus Peters has already established himself as one of the best in the game. He’s going to shut down one side of the field most of the day. The Chargers need to play stingy defense, force some turnovers and take what the KC defense gives them. Good balance between the run and pass will be crucial — they’ll need to keep KC’s pass rushers at bay and keep them off balance. If they can do that, the offense will put up enough crooked numbers to get a win.
Thursday Night – Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of bad teams! Remember how horrendous this matchup was in 2016? Good lord was it tough to watch. I’ll never understand why they continue to torture us on Thursday nights… but, hey, bad football is better than no football. Honestly, I think this matchup will be better this time around than it was last time as some of the younger talent has developed with a little more experience under the belt.
Keys to the Game
The Rams number one focus should be the GGG game plan: Get Gurley Going. Everyone on the planet knows he’s the most talented offensive weapon on the team and it’s crucial for LA to find a way to help him be successful. It’s been incredibly difficult for the Rams to score when they’re not able to rely on their workhorse back due to the inconsistency (and complete lack of effectiveness) at quarterback and from their receivers. Mix things up and get Gurley the football in creative situations and watch LA roll to a prime time win.
Like we just talked about, Gurley is the key to LA’s offense. Naturally, the key for the 49ers is to make LA throw the ball. No matter who is under center for the Rams, they aren’t exactly going to be intimidating by any means. We know that SF’s offense has its own struggles and the defense isn’t anything to write home about, either, however, it’s amazing what a little pressure on the QB and some turnovers will do. If SF can grab an early lead and force LA into a turnover or two, this should be a nice, easy home “W”.