2011 NFL Schedule: 8 Monday Night Football Games Viewers Won't Want to Miss
The lineup of Monday night games is stacked with star players, great teams and intriguing story lines.
It is filled with clashes between division rivals, established contenders and young start-up teams and even the occasional player visiting his old team.
Let's take a look at the eight "can't-miss" Monday night match-ups of 2011.
Week 2: St. Louis Rams at New York Giants
This year, Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams have to win to prove they are legitimate and the Monday night matchup against the New York Giants is the perfect opportunity to prove their worth.
Eli Manning and the New York Giants return most of their core that has found success in recent years.
The potent offensive backbone returns in wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham along with running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Stopping this lineup will be a tough task for a run-of-the-mill defense that has replaced safety O.J. Atogwe with Quentin Mikell. Still, another year together should improve chemistry and the ultimate performance of this unit.
The Rams offense will have to take a step forward from last year to hang with the Giants in Week 2.
Bradford put up great numbers for a rookie quarterback, but the offense was too conservative, likely due to the lack of an experienced quarterback or legitimate threat at wide receiver.
This year, they have a promising quarterback with a year of experience under his belt, while adding free agent wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker.
Hopefully, the upstart Rams will prove they belong with the likes of the New York Giants and provide for a great game to cap off Week 2 of the 2011 NFL season.
Week 4: Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were constantly doubted last season, but a chance to take down Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night will spark a fantastic contest in Week 4.
Indianapolis boasts their usual stacked offense behind Manning, featuring a passing game that will have to carry the load without a clear solution at the running back position.
The defense has not made many major moves, making them a potentially vulnerable matchup for the youthful Bucs offense.
Josh Freeman is poised to breakout in his third year after an extremely efficient sophomore season.
He is familiar with his weapons, throwing to wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Kellen Winslow and handing the ball off to late-2010 phenom LeGarrette Blount.
If the Bucs want to prove they can win double digit games two years in a row early on, a shootout may be the only way to take down the Colts.
A high-scoring affair between an offense that is always expected to score, the Colts, and a team filled with misfits turned NFL stars, the Bucs, would entertain fans for closure to Week 4.
Week 5: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
There is nothing like a good NFC North matchup featuring the Chicago Bears, but this year, the Monday night contest includes not the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings, but the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are yet another one of those young, blossoming teams that people are expecting to jump on the winning train sooner rather than later.
Surprisingly, when healthy, the Lions have much more firepower offensively than the Bears.
Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best and Brandon Pettigrew make up one of the most promising groups of skill players in the league.
This game will likely not turn into a high-scoring rendezvous, but it is guaranteed to be a hard-nosed, gritty game.
Both teams will be fighting for early position in the division, making it one of the more intriguing division match ups featured on Monday night this season.
Week 8: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs kicked off the 2010 season with a jaw-dropping 21-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers on the opening Monday Night Football telecast of the season.
They continued to perform well, winning the AFC West division and earning a spot in the playoffs.
The Chargers, meanwhile, battled injuries and finished one game behind the Chiefs, missing the playoffs.
This year, these two teams are likely to battle once again for the division title.
This game will establish who will have the advantage and the confidence to carry through the second half of the season.
Fans are sure to see an explosive game between two potent offenses, making this game a prime candidate for a shootout at Arrowhead.
Monday Night Football rematches from the previous season are always exciting, especially when there is one side out for revenge after a stinging defeat.
Week 9: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
In Week 9, the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles could potentially preview an NFC playoff game.
Last season, the Bears exceeded expectations, hosting the NFC Championship game and they will enter 2011 as a favorite to make the playoffs once again.
Still, there are a number of questions that need to be answered, including how they will maintain their offensive prowess with mediocre talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Eagles have signed every big name they could get their hands on during this stunted offseason.
This may not turn into instant success, but as the team builds chemistry, their talent should find its way into the spotlight.
By Week 9, they should be in full swing and ready to avenge their 31-26 loss to the Bears last season, making it one of the more exciting Monday Night Football match ups for 2011.
Week 11: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
When the Kansas City Chiefs visit the New England Patriots in Week 11, there will be storyline after storyline discussed because of the connections between the two games.
Kansas City is now viewed as, in some ways, the protege of the New England model.
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli helped build what some called a dynasty in New England and he has attempted to build around the same principles in Kansas City.
They also acquired longtime Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel in that deal, but he retired before getting the chance to go back into New England in a Chiefs uniform.
Still, this matchup will almost feel like a big brother playing his little brother when the latter has done something to frustrate the former.
So, maybe the Patriots will dominate to prove they are still the better Pioli product.
Nonetheless, it will be an intriguing matchup to watch on Monday Night Football.
Week 12: New York Giants at New Orleans Saints
As the Monday Night Football schedule heats up in the second half of the season, a number of match ups include potential playoff previews like this game between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
The NFC East figures to be difficult again this season with the expected resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys.
Thus, the Giants may be fighting for their playoff hopes when this Monday night game comes along in Week 12.
It can be a chance for them to make a statement or falter once again as they dance on the edge of the playoff picture.
As far as actual football goes, this is going to be a fun one to watch. Both passing attacks proved to be extremely difficult to stop over the past few years and this trend should continue in 2011. This could create the opportunity for a duel through the air, making for an entertaining football game.
Both the action on the field and the likely implications this game will have in the playoff picture make Week 12 a "can't-miss" game of Monday Night Football.
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
In 2006, when the Atlanta Falcons entered the Louisiana Superdome on Monday Night Football to play the New Orleans Saints, it was an electric environment.
It was the first football game played in the dome since housing Hurricane Katrina survivors within the stadium.
The scene was something that every sports fan who witnessed the event will not forget easily.
In 2011, this game will likely be a highly anticipated meeting with salient NFC South implications.
Despite the raised expectations of the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons and Saints will likely be battling for the division title when Week 16 rolls around.
So, although the intensity of a division rival matchup may not equal the environment of the post-Katrina game, it will still be one of the most exciting Monday Night Football games of 2011.