Monday Night – Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
It’s battle of defenses on Monday Night Football in Week 12. Perhaps this game signifies the passing of the torch as the league’s best defensive team from the Ravens to the Texans. For so long, Baltimore dominated that side of the football and wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. However, the times have changed and Houston has usurped that role. And you know what, that’s exactly how it should happen. League’s best defense is a title that is taken by force.
Keys to the Game
The key for Houston is going to be putting points on the board. We know their defense can handle Joe Flacco and company, but even if they pitch a shutout, Houston can’t when unless they score points of their own. You can’t put that job on the defense, too. It’s going to be important to run the ball effectively against that Baltimore D-line in order to open the passing game for DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. If they can’t get the ball to those two effectively, it’s going to be a long night in Baltimore.
The Ravens really need to focus on one guy and one guy only: Hopkins. If they’re able to truly eliminate him from Houston’s offense, they might not score a single point.. That’s how meager they’ve been recently. Will Fuller can’t be counted on as a go-to target and the running game leaves a lot to be desired. Do that and Joe Flacco can take his time and pick his spots as the Ravens find ways to put a few points on the board. It will be a relief that they’ll only need a score or two to win this one.
Sunday Night – Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday Night Football features a terrific matchup across the conferences as the Pack heads south to Pittsburgh. It’s not too often we get to see future Hall of Fame candidates Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger go head to head on the same field. In fact, it’s only happened 3 times since each took over as the starter for their respective teams and one of those games was a Super Bowl. So, drink this one in.
Keys to the Game
Going on the road to tackle one of the league’s best offenses is never easy. Green Bay could certainly hang with Pittsburgh if this game turns into a shootout, but I don’t think it’s the easiest way for them to earn a W at Heinz Field. The Pack is going to want to play a little ball control offense in order to keep the Killer B’s off the field. That will also keep their own defense fresh and ready to put up a stiffer fight against the offensive juggernaut. Ty Montgomery is going to need to bring his A game in order to slow the game down and turn the tide in Green Bay’s favor.
I don’t think there’s any one thing that Pittsburgh needs to do to ensure a victory. You can’t shut Aaron Rodgers down, so we’re not even going to go there. What the Steelers must do is the little things. They need to make smart plays, they need to protect the football, they need to make their open field tackles and they need to limit big plays. Limiting Rodgers’ opportunities to beat you is the most important thing you can do. If Pittsburgh can do that en route to dropping 30+ points on Green Bay’s soft secondary, this one will go in the favor of the Steel City.
Sunday Afternoon – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
It’s an NFC South divisional matchup down in Atlanta with the division’s two best teams coming into the year. Sorry, Saints and Panthers. Jameis Winston will have the Buccaneers competing for the division title in 2017 and this game will go a long way in helping to decide the winner. After all, we’re just about ¾ of the way through the season already. This should be a high scoring affair with little or no defense. Hope you brought your track spikes today.
Keys to the Game
Tampa Bay has to find some semblance of a running game in this one. They will lose a track meet with Atlanta and their bevy of offensive weapons. So, they must find a way to control the pace and slow it down by running the football. That’s something they’ve struggled with over the last few seasons, but they’ll need to figure it out here if they want to win. A successful running game will draw one of the safeties into the box to help out and that’s when Winston can go over the top to Mike Evans for the big play downfield. Rinse, repeat and roll on to victory
The Falcons should force Tampa to play their style of football. Play fast, get big chunks of yardage at a time and put points on the board in a hurry. Make the Bucs try and keep up and it will soon become clear that they can’t. Tampa just doesn’t have the firepower to eat up yards like the Falcons can. Then, when Winston is forced to throw the ball 30 times in the second half, the Atlanta pass rushers can really strike and seal the victory for ATL. It’s simple, but effective.
Thursday Night – New York Giants at Washington Redskins
This isn’t your typical Thursday Night Football action, it’s Thanksgiving Day football. That takes everything to a new level. Out of the 3 games being played on Turkey Day, this NFC East battle is the best of the bunch. Any time two division rivals meet this late in the season playoff implications are on the line on top of bragging rights. And, if neither of these teams is truly contending for the division crown, a wild card spot will be on the line anyway.
Keys to the Game
New York needs to get Kirk Cousins on the ground and keep him there. Taking Cousins out of the picture (not literally) will make this a much easier game for the Giants to win. Washington’s offense will sputter to a stop without Cousins leading the way. The Giants have all the talent in the front seven in order to bring pressure off the edge and up the middle and they’ll still be okay in the secondary when Cousins is able to get the ball out. As long as OBJ doesn’t blow up and commit a bunch of personal fouls, this will be New York’s game to lose.
Washington needs to get under the Giants’ skin and irritate them. Josh Norman will handle that with Odell Beckham, but it can be done with Eli Manning, too. If you annoy him and get him out of his rhythm, he’ll start throwing ducks all over the field and turn into “Bad Eli”. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. If Washington can get Eli to be a little reckless with the football, they can capitalize with a few INTs or fumbles and put some more crooked numbers on the board.