The season for NBC's Sunday Night Football has a few more marquee matchups remaining on the schedule.
While some of the earlier bouts made it easier for fans to feel less guilty about watching Breaking Bad before switching over, the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts provided a back-and-forth classic loaded to the brim with storylines.
It matched the tempo of a high-scoring, yet erratically bizarre affair between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys that kicked off the season. Can any of these games similarly make viewers around the nation forget that they have work in the morning?
Here are some enticing matchups on tap during the next few weeks. Keep in mind that flex scheduling kicks in starting Week 11, which means NBC can poach another Sunday afternoon game that holds more appeal than its scheduled clash.
|NFL Sunday Night Football Schedule|
|Week||Date||Away Team||Home Team|
|9||Nov. 3||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans|
|10||Nov. 10||Dallas Cowboys||New Orleans Saints|
|11||Nov. 17||Green Bay Packers||New York Giants|
|12||Nov. 24||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots|
|13||Dec. 1||New York Giants||Washington Redskins|
|14||Dec. 8||Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers|
|15||Dec. 15||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|16||Dec. 22||New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens|
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
If this game came later on the schedule, NBC might have considered swapping it to boot the 2-5 Houston Texans from prime time. That would have been a mistake.
Don't be fooled by their unseemly five-game losing streak; the Texans can still give the Colts a run for their money Sunday night.
Despite their massive struggles, Houston boasts the league's stingiest pass defense that has surrendered just 145.6 yards per game through the air. Andrew Luck torched Denver's porous passing defense in his last Sunday night appearance, but he'll face much more difficulty in this matchup.
When the offense isn't serving up pick-sixes, it moves the ball quite well. The Texans entered Week 8 ranked eighth with 381.1 total yards per game. If they can just avoid making deadly mistakes, the Texans could easily be sitting at 5-2 instead.
The Colts are riding high after collecting victories over the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. They will enter as heavy favorites, but their 27th-ranked rushing defense could falter against Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Week 10: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints
It's never dull with the Cowboys.
In their first Sunday night game of the season, the Cowboys won despite allowing 450 passing yards and four touchdowns to Eli Manning. They played the Kansas City Chiefs to a near stalemate the following week before losing by one point.
Then, Tony Romo earned the criticism of analysts who chastised the quarterback's reluctance to line up in the secondary and stop the Broncos from scoring 51 points as he led his offense to 48. Only 506 yards and five touchdowns? What a loser.
Dallas righted the ship with two victories to jump to 4-3, but then the team proceeded to do Dallas things in Week 8 against the Detroit Lions. Jason Garrett continued to find ways to top his poor game management, and the defense allowed Matthew Stafford to push the ball 80 yards in a minute for a game-winning touchdown.
Points should come in bunches again in Week 10, when Dallas enters the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints. In their first four games at home, the Saints have scored 127 points.
Drew Brees would be drawing MVP buzz with 2,290 passing yards and 19 touchdowns through seven games—otherwise known as typical Brees numbers.
New Orleans can stamp its stronghold over the NFC South with a win while Dallas looks to stand its ground on top of a putrid NFC East while proving that it would not be a pushover playoff opponent.
Week 12: Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Flex scheduling takes effect in Week 11, and it couldn't come at a better time for NBC. Although the New York Giants could potentially enter their scheduled bout against the Green Bay Packers with a three-game winning streak, NBC should much rather prefer the Saints vs. the 49ers or the Broncos facing off with the Chiefs.
That's why we're skipping to Week 12, where Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will square off in a showdown that will surely steal all the week's headlines, much like Manning's meeting with Luck.
While the Broncos have been the most prolific offense in NFL history through eight games, the Patriots have struggled to match their usual luster. Although the Patriots are 6-2, Brady is posting alarming career lows with a 55.7 completion percentage and 5.9 yards per attempt.
Still, New England has remained afloat with a tidy passing defense and several close victories.
Denver, however, provides New England with a tough test of its true status as a title contender. A win gives them victories over the Saints and the Broncos, but a poor showing from Brady against Denver's leaky secondary would open the floodgates for concern.
The Broncos will either be riding the high of besting the Chiefs or needing a win in fear of losing the AFC West to their division cohorts. Either way, something tells me NBC won't be choosing another game this weekend.