Predicting Each Monday Night Football Game on the 2012 Schedule
There is no bigger game during each week of the NFL season than the one played on Monday Night.
Monday Night Football (MNF) simply has a different level of excitement and an aura surrounding it that makes it unique. Some teams crumble under the pressure of the national spotlight, while others thrive under it.
In 2012, MNF features six divisional meetings, three Chicago Bears games and plenty of intrigue.
Curious to know who will win each contest and the final score?
You could actually watch the games, but in the meantime, check out these predictions for each MNF game in 2012.
Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
What better way to kick off Monday Night Football than with a tough matchup in the AFC North?
The Bengals are not going to be embarrassed by the Ravens in Week 1, but Cincinnati isn't going to win either.
Baltimore went 2-0 in this rivalry last year and is not going to lay down on its home field to open 2011.
It will be interesting to see how the the Ravens' passing game fares against Cincy's upgraded secondary, but the Bengals still have no answer for Ray Rice.
If Cincinnati is able to utilize its top targets in A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, this game could be close, but the Ravens are usually the wrong team to challenge through the air.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 14
Week 1: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
The second of two divisional meetings in Week 1 should bring yet another physical and intense encounter.
Oakland seems to finally be putting all the pieces in place to make a legitimate run at the AFC West crown, while San Diego is always contending for that spot.
These teams split their two meetings last season, and it is easy to see that happening again in 2012.
The edge in this game has to go to Oakland. When Darren McFadden is healthy, he is one of the most explosive playmakers in football and should give the Chargers' front seven all kinds of trouble.
Couple that with Carson Palmer having had a full year to learn the playbook and dissect the offense, and the Raiders could have a fast start to 2012.
These are two evenly matched teams, but something feels right about the Raiders at home here.
Prediction: Raiders 30, Chargers 24
Week 2: Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons
Points should be scored in bunches Week 2 inside of the Georgia Dome.
I just happen to think the Atlanta Falcons will score more of them than the Denver Broncos.
The Falcons are a tough team to beat at home and can easily match the Broncos score for score.
Denver's offense should still be finding its footing in Week 2 as Peyton Manning takes hold of the Broncos attack.
Manning will be good and prepared, but any mistake he makes will cost him as the Falcons are simply too powerful and have too much chemistry to lose this game so early in the season.
Prediction: Falcons 38, Broncos 27
Week 3: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
The Packers have an established franchise quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and are a clear-cut favorite to win the NFC every season.
The Seahawks are playing three's company with their starting QB spot and are second or third fiddle in one of the weakest divisions in football.
Is Seattle better than last season? Yes, but it is still not ready to compete with Green Bay on any given Sunday, and this game is unlikely to be close.
The proverbial "12th man" at CenturyLink Field has been known to help with upsets before, but don't expect one in Week 3.
Prediction: Packers 31, Seahawks 17
Week 4: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
This contest could get interesting.
Will DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys' front seven wreak havoc on Chicago's notoriously weak offensive line?
If they do, then Chicago's improvements in the passing game will become moot points, but I don't see that being the key to this game.
Jay Cutler and the Bears are going to find a way to score points. The real question will be if Dallas can do the same.
The Cowboys had a streaky offense that underwhelmed too often last season. I think Romo steps up to the plate in Week 4, but not enough to edge the Bears.
Prediction: Bears 24, Cowboys 21
Week 5: Houston Texans at New York Jets
The Houston Texans have a team capable of going all the way to the Super Bowl in 2012.
That talent will be on full display Week 5 against the New York Jets.
Houston's defensive line will be too quick for the Jets and will halt any attempts at establishing the rushing game. This will force Mark Sanchez to throw the ball far too much and make mistakes like only he can.
Andre Johnson may be locked down by Darrelle Revis, but the Texans have a well-balanced offense that can overcome the lack of production from Johnson.
Expect a big day from Arian Foster as the Texans roll to a road victory.
Prediction: Texans 27, Jets 13
Week 6: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
Patterns will have emerged by Week 6.
We will know if the Peyton Manning era is set to succeed right away in year one, and we will know if the Chargers are going to live up to the potential of their talented roster.
This divisional rivalry is always close and hard-fought; in fact, last year's meetings were settled by a combined eight points.
This game may come down to which rushing game can outdo the other. Everyone knows what to expect out of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, but what about Ryan Matthews and Willis McGahee/Knowshon Moreno?
Whichever backfield finds the most success will be the key.
Prediction: Broncos 21, Chargers 17
Week 7: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
The Lions and Bears should be fighting all season in both the NFC North race and the playoff hunt.
This Week 7 contest will help one of them take an early-season lead on the other.
These teams split their meetings last season in a peculiar way. Detroit won on Monday Night Football when both teams were healthy, and then a battered and beaten Bears team took the victory later in the season.
These teams are as evenly matched as it gets, but someone has to put a check mark in the win column.
Chicago will be coming off a bye week and before that a game with the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Detroit will be coming off a short week in Philadelphia.
The Bears have to be given the slight edge heading into this huge NFC North showdown.
Prediction: Bears 23, Lions 21
Week 8: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
For as dominant as the San Francisco 49ers were last season, they actually only managed to split their season series with the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona is struggling to find an identity as the quarterback battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton wages on, but it has enough weapons to compete with the 49ers and a severely underrated defense that can force turnovers.
Coming off an 11-day layoff after a Thursday night contest with the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco will be rusty, and the Cardinals will take advantage to sneak in a marginal upset.
Prediction: Cardinals 20, 49ers 14
Week 9: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints
Traditional passer or dual-threat quarterback?
Both options will be on the field in this Week 9 matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.
The Saints may struggle to find consistency early in the year after all their offseason turmoil, but by Week 9, the kinks should be worked out, and the team should be firing on all cylinders.
The problem is that the Eagles present serious problems for New Orleans.
Philly has the kind of secondary that can actually slow down the Saints' elite passing game.
The Eagles also have LeSean McCoy who can and will run rampant over New Orleans' less-than-imposing rush defense.
The Saints will not roll over, but this is a good matchup for Philadelphia.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Saints 26
Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
No matter what happens, at least the Kansas City Chiefs won't be starting Tyler Palko at quarterback this time around.
Last year's meeting between these two teams was hard to watch at times because the Kansas City offense was just horrendous under Palko.
Still, Pittsburgh's offense was no more impressive as it scored only 13 points.
This season's meeting should feature more points (hopefully), but the end result will be the same.
Pittsburgh is great at home, and the Chiefs are nothing special away from Arrowhead Stadium.
This just isn't a good matchup for Kansas City.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 21, Kansas City 10
Week 11: Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
By Week 11, America should know exactly what the Bears are all about as Chicago makes its third appearance on Monday Night Football.
The 49ers will be accustomed to the spotlight at this point too, as it marks their third primetime appearance in just four games.
The battle on the field will be decided by Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
San Francisco had the best rush defense in the league last season, and that prevented teams from finding any balance in their offensive game plan.
Chicago cannot become one dimensional against the 49ers because San Fran will end up dominating time of possession and never give the Bears a chance to gain any momentum.
This is going to be a low-scoring dogfight and feels like a toss-up.
Prediciton: 49ers 16, Bears 14
Week 12: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles
Will there be more rushing yards in this game by the quarterbacks or the running backs?
In this rare instance, that is a fair question to ask as Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers head to Philadelphia to face off against Michael Vick and the Eagles.
Carolina's three-headed rushing attack of Newton/Williams/Stewart will give the Philly's front seven fits as it tries to force Newton into throwing situations.
If the Eagles can keep Newton throwing the ball, they will be in a better position to win, but this Carolina team knows how to establish a ground game.
Vick and the Eagles offense are not known for eating up clock and keeping the other team's offense off the field.
With time of possession on its side, I see Carolina scoring a minor upset in Philadelphia.
Prediction: Carolina 29, Philadelphia 24
Week 13: New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Predicting a winner in an NFC East showdown is never an easy task because these teams always play each other tough, and the outcomes are usually paper thin.
In this case, the Giants will be making their playoff push as the Redskins realize they aren't quite ready for postseason play.
Does that mean Washington won't put up a fight?
Absolutely not, but the Redskins are outgunned here.
Robert Griffin III will be forced to rely on his legs far too often as the Giants rush him from every part of the field, and Eli Manning will have no problem finding passing lanes against the 'Skins defense.
Prediction: Giants 34, Redskins 24
Week 14: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Could this contest decide home-field advantage in the AFC playoff race?
Maybe that is getting ahead of ourselves, but this is still an excellent matchup between two of the best teams in the conference.
New England's lackluster defense will have its hands full with the Texans' offense, and yet Tom Brady and the Patriots' offensive unit can keep the Pats in any ball game.
Houston's defensive line may prove irrelevant as New England doesn't run the ball all that much anyway.
The key here will be if Houston's linebackers and secondary can neutralize the Patriots' tight ends.
If Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are getting short-to-mid level receptions and moving the chains, then New England's game plan will be working, and the Texans will have a tough time keeping pace.
This is one of the best Monday Night Football games on the schedule and should have a thrilling result.
Prediction: New England 34, Houston 31 (OT)
Week 15: New York Jets at Tennessee Titans
One or both of these teams will be making a playoff push in Week 15, and that should make for an interesting contest between the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.
Chris Johnson and the Titans' offense in particular has a tough task in front of them.
With Kenny Britt on Revis Island and the Jets' rush defense slowing down Johnson, it will be up to Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker to find other options in the passing game.
I don't see Tennessee finding much success in this endeavor, at least not in this meeting.
The Jets will establish their ground-and-pound philosophy early in this contest against the Titans' 24th ranked rush defense from a season ago.
Prediction: Jets 17, Titans 7
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson vs. Roddy White and Julio Jones.
The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons provide a great matchup to close out the Monday Night Football calendar.
Atlanta got the better of Detroit in last season's encounter, but these are two evenly-matched squads with high-octane offenses.
Ryan and Stafford will each have their respective way with the opposing secondaries, but it is Stafford that will have the bigger day.
Detroit may not have any balance in its offensive attack, but slowing down Megatron is easier said than done.
The Falcons did a decent job with him last season. I doubt they can contain him again.
Prediction: Detroit 28, Atlanta 24