The action is even more intense when the stakes are raised toward the end of the season. The weather turns colder, and playoff appearances are on the line.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best remaining showdowns left on the 2013 Monday Night Football schedule.
|10||Nov. 11||Miami at Tampa Bay||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|11||Nov. 18||New England at Carolina||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|12||Nov. 25||San Francisco at Washington||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|13||Dec. 2||New Orleans at Seattle||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|14||Dec. 9||Dallas at Chicago||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|15||Dec. 16||Baltimore at Detroit||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
|16||Dec. 23||Atlanta at San Francisco||8:30 p.m.||ESPN and WatchESPN|
Week 11: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
The 7-2 Pats and 6-3 Panthers are both red hot and preparing to make a run in their respective conferences. They are now set to clash on MNF in what could be a possible Super Bowl preview.
While the quarterbacks—Tom Brady of New England and Cam Newton of Carolina—may be the biggest stars, the performance of the defenses will likely determine the winner.
The Panthers have not conceded more than 15 points to an opponent since Week 5, when the Arizona Cardinals destroyed this team, 22-6.
That was clearly the wake-up call head coach Ron Rivera and his squad needed to play better, as they have ripped off five straight wins—including outlasting the San Francisco 49ers last week in a 10-9 slugfest.
If the Panthers can keep the Pats off the scoreboard—and it won’t be easy against a top-10 offense that averages 26 points per game, per Pro-Football-Reference.com—they will have a great shot at winning.
Which team will win?
New England will have to do everything in its power to get another poor performance out of Newton, who has struggled against top-tier opponents in 2013.
San Fran limited him to just 169 yards and one interception on 16-of-32 passing, while the Seattle Seahawks kept him in check for 125 yards and a score on 16-of-23 passing.
If the Pats defense—only allowing 232.8 yards per game to opposing signal-callers—is able to fluster the former top pick into a bad outing, the visiting squad will have the inside track to victory.
Week 13: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
This battle could dictate the outcome of the NFC, as the Saints and Seahawks are both sitting atop their respective divisions and already looking toward a playoff run at the end of the 2013 campaign.
New Orleans has the most to prove in this one, as it has to display the mental toughness and discipline to win big games on the road against the toughest opponents.
This team has traditionally struggled to win key games away from the Big Easy, notably losing in embarrassing fashion to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., back in Week 9. The team rebounded with a monster performance against the Dallas Cowboys, but that came in the confines of the Superdome.
New Orleans' most notable road loss arguably came after the 2010 season in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. The team travelled to Seattle as a 10.5-point favorite and was undressed by a 7-9 Seahawks squad that was overlooked by almost everyone.
While much of the personnel is different this time around, the game is almost as important. It seems almost inevitable that the road to the Super Bowl will head through Seattle and that the Saints will have to step up and win there if they are going to be taken seriously as contenders.