Continuing my dissection of the 2008-2009 NFL Season, here the must see games and the match-ups that will decide them for the second half of the season, weeks 9 thru 17. Enjoy.
Last year this game was billed as Super Bowl 42 1/2 and it didn't disappoint. The Patriots rallied from behind, saving their undefeated season and taking the NFL's best rivalry to the next level with a 24-20 win in Indy. This year the situation could be the exact same as the Patriots have a very easy schedule up to this point (save a week 6 game vs. the San Diego Chargers). This game will be billed as a possible AFC Championship or at least a prelude of things to come in the playoffs. As always this game promises to be one of the best and most highly viewed games of the year.
The two best QB's in the league go head to head for the tenth time. Brady leads the series 6-3, which dates back to Brady's first start vs. the Colts in 2001. Manning looks to move the series closer with a win in this pivotal match-up. Both QBs will be at the top of their game when this game is ready for kickoff as this one will no doubt have playoff ramifications.
In one of the biggest games in the NFC East this year, the Eagles look to reclaim what was their's for so long while the Giants are on the hunt for their first division crown since 2005. The winner of this game should gain the edge in winning the division.
Match-Up to Watch: Giants Pass Rush vs. QB Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb has been hobbled by injuries the past few years and the Giants led the league in sacks last year. New York's ferocious pass rush looks to get after McNabb, and put his mobility to the test. If McNabb is unable to get comfortable in the pocket look for the Eagles passing game to struggle.
For so long in the AFC it has been the Colts, Pats, and one of these two teams as the conference's elite. The Chargers assumed the role last year while the Steelers struggled down the stretch. This is the Chargers biggest road test of the year while the Steelers will need a win here to reaffirm themselves as part of the AFC's elite.
Match-Up to Watch: RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. the Steelers Front Seven
Last year the Steelers physical, intimidating persona took a huge hit courtesy of Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard. If they cannot contain LT early it will be very difficult for Pittsburgh to win.
Week 12 Indianapolis @ San Diego 8:15 NBC
The Chargers have long been a thorn in the Colts side, as they have beaten three straight times, including twice last year. In 2005 they ended their perfect season and laid out the blue print for beating the Colts. This last season the Chargers went into Indy and upset the Colts in the divisional round. This game will be in prime time and promises to be one of the best games of the season, if the previous games are any indication.
Match-Up to Watch: QB Peyton Manning vs. The San Diego Chargers Defense
You could argue that no one team gives Peyton Manning more trouble than any other team. Shawne Merriman and the rest of the Chargers defense routinely pressures Manning and Antonio Cromartie and the secondary had a field day last year, intercepting Manning 8 times in 2 games, Cromartie himself coming away with 4. If the Chargers have the type of success they have had against Manning as they have had in the past, look for a similar outcome as last year's playoff game.
If you're like me then you think the Saints will be back to their 2006 form and will be looking to retake the NFC South Championship from the Tampa Bay Bucs, the 2007 winners. The winner of this game will most likely go on to win the division and secure a home game in the playoffs, the loser will likely be sitting at home this post season.
Match-Up to Watch: DE Gaines Adams vs. LT Jamaal Brown
Two of the best young lineman go toe to toe in this game. Jamaal Brown is a pro bowl caliber left tackle and the Bucs hope Adams will turn into a dominant DE. If he has success vs. Brown then it will go a long way in vindicating their hopes.
Week 14 Dallas @ Pittsburgh 4:15 FOX
One of the NFL's best all time rivalries gets reignited in this game. The Cowboys will be looking to furthering their quest in the chase for the top seed in the NFC while the Steelers will be looking to keep pace with the Browns in the AFC North and/or the wild card race.
Match-Up to Watch: QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. LB DeMarcus Ware
Big Ben loves to throw on the run and use his mobility to create. DeMarcus Ware loves to hit the QB. The winner of this match-up could very well decide the outcome of this game.
Week 15 New York @ Dallas 8:15 NBC
A rematch of last year's divisional round game in which the Giants proved victorious on their way to the NFL Crown. The winner of this game could very well be the front runner for the NFC East Crown and even the NFC's #1 seed while the other might miss the playoffs completely knowing how competitive the NFC East is.
Match-Up to Watch: Giants big play ability vs. Cowboys ability to contain
Looking at the stats to last years divisional game one wonders how the Giants won. The Cowboys had more passing, rushing, and total yards than the Giants. They controlled the ball for 36 minutes to the Giants 23. The key to this game will come down to whether or not the Cowboys can contain the Giants return game, stop the long ball, and of course field position.
Week 16 Indianapolis @ Jacksonville 8:15 NFLN
Yes I know I already have these 2 teams first match-up on the list. However this game figures to have much more at stake than the first one. At week 16 this game could very well decide the division.
Match-Up to Watch: SS Bob Sanders vs. RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Both of these players are on every ones "Mighty Mouse" List (players who are undersized but perform exceptionally well). However there is nothing undersized about these players importance to their team. Sanders, last years DPOY is a torpedo on the field, flying to the ball, wherever it is on the field. Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the most exciting players in the game, a threat to take it all the way at any point in the game. When these two meet on the field, make sure you don't have anything in your lap as you will be jumping out of your seat.
Week 17 New York @ Minnesota 1:00 FOX
Both of these teams figure to be playing their starters this week, a rarity in Week 17. Both teams could still be battling for their division crown or fighting for the wild card. This game could also very well be a playoff preview.
Match-Up to Watch: Giants Defense vs. RB Adrian Peterson
As a rookie Adrian Peterson ran through, around, and over everyone in the NFL. The promising young talent looks to lead his team to their first playoff appearance since the days of Daunte Culpepper, no matter how much Tarvaris Jackson tries to stop them.