Monday Night Football Week 1: TV Schedule, Live Stream for Season Openers

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2015

a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.  (AP Photo/Tony GutierrezMinnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) passes the ball as he warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys  Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

ESPN's Monday Night Football is serving up a doubleheader of football action to cap off what's been an exciting, welcome first week of play for the 2015 NFL season.

First on the docket is the Philadelphia Eagles on a road trip to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons. It's been an offseason of upheaval in Philly, but in Chip Kelly must the Eagles' faithful trust. The Falcons are hoping a potentially explosive offense featuring Matt Ryan and Julio Jones can mask deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.

Immediately after the battle of the birds, it's the Minnesota Vikings taking on the San Francisco 49ers at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California. For the 49ers, it's been an offseason of major, historic disruption—one that makes the Eagles' myriad changes look quaint by comparison.

The Vikings are a young, hungry team looking to make a big leap forward behind second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a returning Adrian Peterson.

Already, Week 1 has treated NFL fans to stirring comebacks, memorable upsets and surprise star performances. Below is the schedule and live stream options for Monday evening, and here's to hoping the two-game slate brings us more of same thrills seen this past Thursday and Sunday.

Monday Night Football Week 1 Viewing Info

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Matchups: Philadelphia at Atlanta; Minnesota at San Francisco

Times: PHI-ATL begins at 6:55 p.m. ET; MIN-SF scheduled for 10:15 p.m. ET


Live Stream: WatchESPN

Key Player to Watch for Each Team

Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

There's no escaping the fact that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, not even in Kelly's mad, mad world, where conventional NFL wisdom holds little clout. Bradford is new to the team and hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2013 with the St. Louis Rams.

He is tasked with marshaling an offense that features the likes of tight end Zach Ertz, wideout Riley Cooper and running backs DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. With an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, blame could fall to Bradford if the Eagles offense fails to soar. If things do go south, don't expect Bradford to get too worked up about it. With trial and tribulation in the NFL has come perspective.

"Now it's like, 'Who cares?' It happens," Bradford said, via the Philadelphia Enquirer's Zach Berman. "Everything is not going to be perfect. You have to be able say, 'That play wasn't perfect, but I'm going to come back and have a good play the next play.'"

NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks noted Bradford did pretty the well last time he faced Atlanta: 

Eliot Shorr-Parks @EliotShorrParks

The last time Sam Bradford faced the Falcons, he threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns. #Eagles

The Falcons defense as we know it is no great threat, so the expectation is for Bradford to hit the ground running...er, passing. 

Vic Beasley, OLB, Atlanta Falcons

Last season, the Falcons gave up nearly 400 yards per game on defense. They tallied an anemic 22 sacks all year. Quarterbacks posted a respectable 88.9 rating against them, per ESPN.com, potentially mitigated by the fact that the Falcons found themselves trailing quite a bit in a 6-10 campaign. 

New blood in the front seven was sorely needed. Enter Vic Beasley, rookie pass-rusher extraordinaire out of Clemson. New head coach Dan Quinn employs a pass-rusher known as "Leo" that is tasked specifically with targeting the quarterback, per SB Nation's Thomas George. Beasley, Clemson's all-time leader in sacks, will fill that role.

It's a tall task to ask of a rookie. How he might fare under the bright lights of Monday Night Football is anyone's guess. But if the Falcons are going to disrupt Bradford in Kelly's experimental offense, they will need to create pressure. Discipline and stamina will be the keys for Beasley in this game as Philly looks to push the tempo. 

The Eagles will no doubt pose a brutal first test. Falcons fans can only hope Beasley is up to the challenge.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Yes, the return of Peterson is exciting, especially if he's on your fantasy football team. However, if you're looking for a better indication of the long-term prospects of this Vikings squad, your eyes better be focused on the glove-wearing passer lined up under center a few yards in front of All Day.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently took time to remind folks that despite falling to pick No. 32 in last year's NFL draft, Bridgewater has everything you look for in a quarterback coming out of college:

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

Bridgewater's film at Louisville answered every question on my QB check list. He was, and is, a special player. @TravMcMillan85

After a rookie season that saw him go 6-6 in 12 starts (13 games overall) and throw 14 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, Bridgewater is looking to take the next step into a higher echelon of NFL passers. Based on his rapid upward trajectory from last season, the odds are in his favor, per the Wall Street Journal's Michael Salfino:

Since the league expanded to 16 games in 1978, only two other quarterbacks raised their passer rating from their last five rookie starts more than Bridgewater’s 27.9 points. He went from being significantly below average (75.1 rating) to well above it (103.0). The big question is whether Bridgewater can sustain those numbers this season. History says yes, as the other top 10 quarterbacks on the list collectively had a 84.3 rating in their second season, which nearly matched the improvement they showed over their last five games (87.2) and far exceeded their prior play (65.3).

With the threat of Peterson likely bringing eight defenders into the box on more plays, Bridgewater could get more favorable matchups on the outside. He has a new weapon in Mike Wallace, who caught 10 touchdowns with the Miami Dolphins last year, to go along with Cordarrelle Patterson and sophomore wideout Charles Johnson.

A big game on Monday night would serve as a nice little warning shot from Bridgewater to the rest of the NFL that he is the real deal.

NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

With Bradford and Peterson's returns after missing all of 2014 so eagerly anticipated, it's easy to overlook the return of NaVorro Bowman. 

The 27-year-old linebacker was absent for all of last season after tearing ligaments in his knee. He had a starring role on a 49ers team that went 12-4 in 2013, racking up a team-high 120 solo tackles to go along with two interceptions, five sacks and six forced fumbles. 

Bowman is relishing the opportunity to test himself on a national stage against a great running back like Peterson. 

“This is a (running) back that you want to face, just to see if you’re back at the level of where I was at,” Bowman said, via the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows.

With the loss of linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, the Niners will need Bowman's instincts and explosive first step now more than ever. Barrows noted there were flashes of his old self during the preseason: 

Bowman made a brief, but impactful, appearance in the 49ers’ second preseason game. By the third, against the Broncos, he looked ready for the season. He blitzed, broke up passes, stopped nine ballcarriers and had two sacks. He clearly was the best player on the field – perhaps for either team – in the first half.

The Niners are surely hoping the preseason action will have given Bowman enough game-speed reps to play without hesitancy on Monday. One couldn't blame him if he does indeed look reticent or unsure on some plays as he gets back into the swing of things. 

Just now entering his athletic prime, the sooner Bowman gets back to feeling and playing like his old self, the more likely it is the Niners will find themselves competitive in what could be a trying season in the Bay Area.

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