There are some Monday Night Football contests that are shaping up to be massively important to the NFL playoff picture. Week 8's game featuring the St. Louis Rams (3-4) hosting the Seattle Seahawks (6-1) is not one of them.
The already struggling Rams were dealt the death nail to their season last week when starting quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a knee injury. To give you an idea about the Rams' belief in their ability to overcome this injury, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted about this personnel Hail Mary:
At any rate, the Rams can forget about the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Seahawks remain in full control of the NFC West, and given Seattle's stellar pass defense, it is hard to see how the Rams will score at all on Monday.
There are far more intriguing contests set for the rest of the MNF schedule. Here's a look at the remaining games, followed by a breakdown of the most pivotal.
|Remaining Monday Night Football Schedule|
|Away Team||Home Team||Date|
|Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||Oct. 28|
|Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||Nov. 4|
|Miami Dolphins||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Nov. 11|
|New England Patriots||Carolina Panthers||Nov. 18|
|San Francisco 49ers||Washington Redskins||Nov. 25|
|New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||Dec. 2|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||Dec. 9|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Dec. 16|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||Dec. 23|
Week 9: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
The Packers lead the Bears by a game in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions also sandwiched right in the mix. That makes this installment of this rivalry vastly important to the Bears.
If they were to lose, the Bears would be two games behind the Packers and would also trail Green Bay by two games in division record. That would be a lot of ground to make up in the remainder of the season.
Considering both teams' injury situations, this game becomes even more vital. Chicago's include its starting quarterback, Jay Cutler:
Chicago had its bye this week while Green Bay took down the hapless Minnesota Vikings, 44-31. When they return to action next week, both teams will need to prove to themselves they can win an important contest while fully utilizing "the next man up" philosophy.
Week 11: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have won three straight and are making a legitimate playoff push. This team features a strong defensive line, which has helped fuel Carolina to being 10th in passing yards allowed and second in rushing yards allowed. That defense has been playing solid all season.
However, what has really fueled the Panthers to their current 4-3 record is the improved play of Cam Newton. After throwing five picks in the first four games, Newton has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions over his last three. He's also completed at least 71.9 percent of his passes in each of those three starts after not having completed more than 70 percent of his passes over the season's first four games.
This is exactly the kind of team that can make a late-season run to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are 6-2 and in fine position for the playoffs. However, there are definite reasons for concern in New England. The offense is sputtering and Tom Brady is playing what may be the worst football of his career.
This may have something to do with it:
This game will be a nice test for both teams, and the fans of the winning team will have ample reason to start getting excited for the postseason.
Week 13: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
The Saints and Seahawks are currently tied for the NFC's best record at 6-1, and if I had to pick the NFC representative for the Super Bowl right now, I'd say it will be whichever team between the Saints and Seahawks gets home-field advantage.
Both of these teams are nearly impossible to beat in their home stadiums.
Looking ahead at the schedule for both, the Saints clearly have a tougher path. Not only do they have this game on the road, but they also have to play the Panthers twice, and both Seattle and New Orleans have a game remaining against San Francisco.
That means the Saints can't afford to drop this one. I don't expect this point to get past either of these teams.
Look for a full playoff atmosphere for this game.