For the majority of the year, Monday is the worst day of the week. But for sixteen weeks during football season, the NFL and ESPN give sports fans something to look forward to at the end of Monday.
Each week in the NFL season there are good games to watch and there are not so good games to watch. On Sundays, when almost all of the games are played, fans can choose the good games to pay attention to. On Monday nights, however, there is (usually) only one game. So it is that much more important that it be a good game.
Nothing is worse than looking forward to a game for the whole day, and then realizing that it’s a matchup of two teams with no playoff chances. Or a game that features a blowout. Or just a game that is not very fun to watch.
Below, I have analyzed all of the upcoming Monday Night Football games in this year’s NFL Schedule.
I'll give a grade for the matchup each week, discuss what I like and dislike about it, and also give other good scheduled games for that week that might be better for prime-time television.
In discussing other games, I exclude the Sunday night games because those are already in prime time and under possession of NBC.
Week 1a: Minnesota at Green Bay
This is the perfect opening week matchup. As long as Brett Favre does not come out of retirement, this game will mark the first time in a long time that the Packer fans, along with the rest of the country, will see a number besides four on a starting quarterback’s jersey.
This prime-time setting should give a good indication of how Aaron Rodgers can handle, taking over the reigns of a team that had such a strong season last year.
The Vikings are also an intriguing team. They had a strong push at the end of last season towards the playoffs, but just missed out after the Redskins' emotional run. Adrian Peterson was the most exciting player in all of football last year, and he will be facing a tough Packers defense.
In addition to the individual team storylines, this is a great divisional matchup of two traditionally strong teams.
Week 1b: Denver at Oakland
I realize that there is some hope for a resurgence in Oakland after an improved season last year, and two top picks looking to make their impact this season in McFadden and JaMarcus Russel.
Their defense is good enough, and they have certainly added some talent to the offensive side of the ball. However, there is no part of their play in the last two years that makes me want to watch them play a game on opening weekend.
The Raiders are just flat out not a good team. They have potential, and they may win more games this year, but I think I might sleep through this one.
There is nothing that excites me about watching the Broncos play, either. Denver is always a strong team, and I believe that they will have a good year and possibly make the playoffs...but they have no exciting players and are not all that fun to watch.
This is a logical pick for a late game since it is on the west coast, but I doubt many east coasters will want to stay up for this one.
Some other games I would want to see on MNF in week one are Houston at Pittsburgh, Jacksonville at Tennessee, and Dallas at Cleveland.
Week Two: Philadelphia at Dallas
The Eagles finished in last place in the NFC East last year. However, they still held an 8-8 record. That fact, along with producing the Super Bowl champion, is why the NFC East was the best division in football last year. This year, it promises to be strong as well, and this is a strong matchup of two potential playoff teams.
It seems like every team in the NFC East is a rival of every other team, and these teams are no exception. In addition, whether or not there is still remaining tension between T.O. and Donovan McNabb (and the whole Eagles organization), the media can still always make interesting storylines about it.
This should be a good game, and both of these teams have the potential to have strong years.
There is only one other game this week that I would vote to have on MNF over this one: New England at New York Jets.
The first game between these two teams has continued to have repercussions throughout the offseason with Spygate. The teams and coaches do not like each other, and even though the Jets aren’t a very good team, it still has the potential to be a good game. Even if the Pats win convincingly, there is still a lot of national interest in the game.
Other key games this week are Indianapolis at Minnesota, San Diego at Denver, and Green Bay at Detroit.
Week Three: New York Jets at San Diego
The scheduling of the Jets comes one week too late. Like I just mentioned, the Jets are not a good team. The Chargers are a very good team. That formula just doesn’t mix well without other outstanding storylines.
The only thing to be said about this matchup is that they did play a close and exciting playoff games a few years ago. Nate Kaeding missed a field goal at the end of the game that lost the game for the Chargers. However, I’d be very surprised if this game is close.
Unfortunately for the NFL ,and San Diego fans, this is the only Monday night game of the season for the Chargers. As we will see, that is a trend for several top NFL teams this year.
The game that should be on MNF this week is the battle for Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia. Coming from central Pennsylvania, I know just how much this matchup would mean to the fans of these two teams. Both teams are good this year, and they don’t get to play each other very often.
Other good games this week are Cincinnati at New York Giants, Jacksonville at Indianapolis, and Cleveland at Baltimore.
Week Four: Baltimore at Pittsburgh
The Steelers have been the best team in the AFC North over the past few years. They also have the most grueling schedule in the league this year. While they do have a strong rivalry with the Ravens, and the two teams have played some very good and physical games in recent years, this is not one of their tougher competitions.
The terrible towels will be out full force for this one, and the Steelers have a good chance of making this one a one-sided affair.
On the other hand, even though the Ravens were awful last year (they lost to the Dolphins), they did have a spectacular performance on MNF. They outplayed the Patriots, and by that performance alone have earned a prime-time performance for this season.
I’m not sure this is the correct choice in game, but I’m glad to see the Ravens getting another chance. Hopefully they can repeat their performance from last year’s Patriots game and give the Steelers a strong fight.
One other game I am interested in watching this week is the battle of the bays: Green Bay at Tampa Bay. There is also another great NFC East battle with Washington at Dallas, and a matchup of several young and exciting players with Minnesota at Tennessee.
Week Five: Minnesota at New Orleans
This will be the second appearance for the Vikings on MNF in the first five weeks of the season. I thought their first game was a good choice, and I also like the choice of featuring this one.
People seem to forget that the Saints are only a year removed from being the darlings of the NFL. Despite a down year last year, they still have a highly explosive and talented offense, and have the potential for a very successful season. I’m glad to see them get not only a Monday Night game, but a home Monday Night game.
Both of these teams will be looking to crack the playoff picture after missing last year, and this early-season game could prove to mean a lot come seasons end.
There is only one game I would move ahead of this one for the prime-time spot for week five: Seattle at New York Giants.
The Seahawks have no Monday night games this year, and the Giants only have one. Both teams deserve more, and this would have been a great game to go towards both of their causes.
Other interest games this week are Indianapolis at Houston, Chicago at Detroit, and Tampa Bay at Denver.
Week Six: New York Giants at Cleveland
This is an intriguing matchup featuring two teams of surprising success stories from a year ago. The Browns have a lot to be excited about after several offseason moves and a near playoff miss last season.
The Giants are the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Cleveland fans will certainly be ready for this one, so the home atmosphere should be great for the Browns. The Browns have several more MNF games this season, but this is their only one at home.
I expect this to be a good game, and both teams have enough excitement to provide good entertainment to most fans. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow are two extremely talented young players that will continue to catch a lot of passes in the Browns' offense.
I expect an inspired performance out of Jeremy Shockey to try to match the younger and more talented Winslow.
There is, however, a better choice for this week again. Green Bay at Seattle matches two strong teams against each other that have played in both of the last two seasons' playoffs.
The ties between the two teams are also very strong, as Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren both were former Packers. This has to be the game of the week.
I would also be interested the Jacksonville at Denver game on Monday Night.
Week Seven: Denver at New England
This is the lone Monday Night game for the Pats. While Denver may not offer the stiffest competition, this is a good matchup choice. Only a few years ago the Broncos eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs.
The Broncos have been one of the most consistent teams in football the past few years and seem to always make the playoffs. Even though they missed out last season, I would expect them to be right back in the hunt this year.
It will be tough for the Broncos to win in Foxboro, and this could turn into a blowout. However, I think the Broncos can hang tough. Even if they don’t, this game should be able to draw a large audience.
I agree with this game as the pick for this week. The other big games are Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Indianapolis at Green Bay, and Cleveland at Washington.
Week Eight: Indianapolis at Tennessee
The AFC South should surpass the NFC East as the best division in football this season. Houston will continue to be improved, and the other three teams all were in the playoffs last year. This is a matchup of two of their most proven teams, and it should be a good one.
Vince Young, all statistics aside, is one of the most exciting players in football. He has very little surrounding help, and yet still gets a lot of wins for the Titans. The Colts, as usual, will be very good this year.
If this game were in Indianapolis I would be weary of a blowout, but at home I think Vince Young and company have a good chance at taking this one.
It will be interesting to see how both of these teams stand in this tough division both before and after this key prime-time game.
There are also some other very good games this week. San Diego at New Orleans, Tampa Bay at Dallas, and New York Giants at Pittsburgh are all games worthy of a prime-time telecast.
Week Nine: Pittsburgh at Washington
If it seems like the Steelers’ name has come up a lot, then just wait, because you will continue to see it more throughout this analysis. This is a fairly intriguing pairing of teams, both with strong defenses and both were first-round playoff losers from a year ago.
However, the outlook in Pittsburgh is a lot brighter than in Washington. The Redskins had an amazing run to lock up a playoff spot a year ago, filled with emotion after the loss of Sean Taylor.
But in reality, Clinton Portis is not as dominant as people think, and Jason Campbell still has a long way to go to be an elite NFL quarterback.
The Redskins' defense, along with the home crowd, should be enough to keep this game close for a while, but in the end, I expect the more talented team to prevail. With many tougher matchups throughout their schedule, the Steelers will need to win this one.
The game that stands out to be the most for this week that should be in this slot is Dallas at New York Giants. These two teams played three thrilling games last season and I expect more of the same for this year.
Other good pairings in Week Nine include Green Bay at Tennessee and Philadelphia at Seattle.
Week 10: San Francisco at Arizona
More than any other game, this one jumps out at me as the worst scheduling choice. Both teams are mediocre at best, and neither offers much excitement to viewers.
The 49ers had a decent year two seasons ago when Frank Gore ran all over defenses, but they digressed significantly last season. Alex Smith does not seem to be the answer.
Matt Leinart doesn’t seem to be the answer either. The Cardinals very softly threatened to make the playoffs last year. They took advantage of a very weak NFC, but did have one good win against the Steelers. They do have some talent, but have shown no signs of being a real contender to date.
This game could be close, but in likelihood will not matter towards the big picture.
In its place, we should be watching Indianapolis at Pittsburgh this week. This is a matchup of two of the best teams in the AFC, rather than two of the bottom dwellers in the NFC.
I would also prefer to see Green Bay at Minnesota and Kansas City at San Diego. Despite a terrible rest of the offense, Larry Johnson is still a very good running back and could bring the Chiefs back to respectability.
Week 11: Cleveland at Buffalo
I happen to like both of these teams, so I am looking forward to this game. However, this is not a Monday-night caliber matchup. Both teams had solid years last year, and both should be at least no worse this season.
The Bills played one Monday Night game last season and performed very well for all but the last minute of the game when they lost a heart-breaker to the Cowboys.
Their lack of offense was ultimately what did them in, as it did for many of their games last season. Included in that is a 9-0 shutout loss they suffered to the Browns.
I wouldn’t count the Bills out in this one, but if they are to be competitive, then it will be a low-scoring affair. Buffalo just doesn’t have the firepower to put up big numbers on the scoreboard.
With two other MNF appearances, the Browns could afford to move this one to Sunday.
The best matchup this week is San Diego at Pittsburgh, and the other good games are Tennessee at Jacksonville and Arizona at Seattle.
Week 12: Green Bay at New Orleans
This is the second home Monday Night game for Saints fans. They may not be totally deserving of that, but if anyone deserves a break there’s no better team for it.
It should be interesting to see how both of these teams are at this point in the season, and this could be a marquee matchup in the NFC.
There is no clear favorite in this one, and both teams should have solid seasons, so I applaud this selection.
Minnesota at Jacksonville also would be a very good Monday-night matchup. I would also be interested to see Washington at Seattle, a rematch from last year’s playoffs.
Week 13: Jacksonville at Houston
I am absolutely in favor of giving the Texans a home MNF game. They showed a lot of improvement last season, even with Matt Schaub injured for most of it. I expect even more out of them this year.
The Jaguars are a great team and continue to be on the rise. They should provide a serious challenge to the Colts for the division title this year.
This game has the potential to be very important to the AFC South race. It also has the potential to feature a Houston team already out of the race, since the rest of the division is so strong.
I like the choice, but it is a little risky to put the Texans on so late in the season. I’d like to think they will still be in contention at this point, but that’s a difficult bet to make.
The game of the week is Pittsburgh at New England. There’s no explanation for this game to not be in prime-time. New York Giants at Washington and Indianapolis at Cleveland are great pairings as well.
Week 14: Tampa Bay at Carolina
These two teams have been to the playoffs a lot in recent years. They have each also been to a Super Bowl in recent years. In a lot of ways, they are very similar. Both have good defenses, boring offenses, and both use to employ the services of Keyshawn Johnson.
This should be a good game, and it could be meaningful in the standings. Both of these teams should be near the edge of the playoff line.
To be honest though, I can’t see myself getting too excited for this one.
Some better games this week include Dallas at Pittsburgh (seems like the Steelers are mentioned every week), Philadelphia at New York Giants, and Jacksonville at Chicago.
Week 15: Cleveland at Philadelphia
This is another matchup of two solid, but not great teams. That seems to be a pattern throughout the schedule. This should be a good game, and there is a good chance both teams will be in playoff contention.
There isn’t much else to be said about this game. The Cleveland offense against the Eagle defense should be fairly exciting to watch.
There aren’t too many other games that jump off the page at you for this weekend. The only other game worthy of a Monday-night slot is Green Bay at Jacksonville.
Week 16: Green Bay at Chicago
There is no better way to end the MNF season than with a classic rivalry. I have mentioned Chicago a few times throughout this article, and for good reason. Even though they still have no quarterback, they have enjoyed tremendous success in the past with no quarterback.
They will be over their Super Bowl hangover this season, I expect them to be serious contenders in the NFC.
If Aaron Rodgers can perform at a professional level, the Packers will be right there, too.
Even disregarding records, this is always a great battle to watch. If the records are both good and the game matters, it should be even better.
Other good games this week are Cincinnati at Cleveland, Buffalo at Denver, and Pittsburgh at Tennessee.
This year’s MNF schedule provides a lot of variety, and we can only hope it will provide a lot of excitement.
While I appreciate seeing different teams, I would also like to see a larger focus on the elite teams. There are quite a few terrific matchups that are left on the prime-time ballot.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea of what to look forward to for the upcoming NFL season.
Browns fans should cherish their plethora of prime-time matchups. Steelers fans should start worrying about their schedule. And the rest of us should look forward to another great season, and more Monday Night Football to provide a good ending to the worst day of the week.