Christmas Night – Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles
Christmas Night in Philadelphia with the Raiders and Eagles. That’s one way to wrap up the second to last week of the regular season. This should be a fun contest to watch, filled with big plays and plenty of scoring. If there’s one game all weekend that can produce a highlight reel worth watching, it’s going to be this one. Both Derek Carr and Carson Wentz can leave your jaw hanging with their playmaking abilities and the defenses aren’t slackers by any means either. Settle in and watch these two bring the fireworks to cap off your Christmas.
Keys to the Game
Oakland is going to need to limit big plays from the Eagles in order to escape Philadelphia victorious. That means playing smart and protecting the football. Philly has a penchant for turning bad plays into touchdowns and completely turning the game’s momentum around. Pounding the rock and limiting the risks they take will be the key to beating the Eagles in this one. It should be an easy win if they don’t give up any defensive touchdowns.
The game plan for Philly will be the exact opposite. They need to force the Raiders into making tough plays and ill-advised passes. That’s when the Eagles strike and they strike big. They turn offensive touchdowns into defensive touchdowns in the blink of an eye and they leave their opponents reeling. That’s how they can beat this Oakland team that’s becoming an offensive juggernaut with the maturation of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. On the other side of the ball, they’ve got to keep Khalil Mack off of Carson Wentz’s back. If Wentz is under pressure all game, Oakland will have no problem snagging a defensive touchdown of their own and turning the tables on the Eagles.
Christmas Day – Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
Christmas Day gives us another game between two polar opposites. We’ll have the explosive Pittsburgh offense set to do battle with that terrific Texan defense. I hope you’re not too tired from Christmas dinner to watch this one, because it should be one of the best matchups of the year. Houston will let us know whether they’re a contender or a pretender with their performance against Big Ben and company.
Keys to the Game
Pittsburgh has to protect Roethlisberger if they want to win on the road in Houston. He’s not the man of steel he used to be and those Texans pass rushers will punish him every chance they get. If they can stave off the pass rush, there should be passing lanes for Big Ben to find Antonio Brown and let him go to work on the secondary. If you had to pick a weak spot on the Houston defense, you’d have to go with the secondary. The key will be keeping Roethlisberger upright, though, because he won’t be very effective from his back or on the sideline — and we know how this story goes with Landry Jones calling the shots.
The Texans need to come out and play their game from the first snap. There will be no time to feel out the Steeler offense — they’ll make you pay immediately. Houston has to be ready to go right from the coin toss to make sure that Pittsburgh doesn’t jump out to an early lead. Even with Nuk Hopkins, Houston doesn’t have the offensive firepower to stage a comeback against Pittsburgh. They’ve got to be in control from beginning and keep this one close by harassing Big Ben early and often. He’s prone to making mistakes when he’s under pressure these days and a turnover or two will seal it for the Texans.
Sunday Afternoon – Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Another case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. This time it’s the new age Cowboys’ triplets matched up with the Legion of Boom and it’s going down at Jerry World. We could very easily see these teams going toe to toe once again in just a few weeks when the postseason starts. How’s that for a little late-season motivation. Figure them out now so you’ve got an advantage if you meet again in the playoffs. If that’s not enough to fuel the fire between these two, then I don’t know what is.
Keys to the Game
Make Dak Prescott beat you. Who knows, maybe he will, but Seattle will be much better off taking their chances with the sophomore signal caller than they will trying to contain Zeke Elliott — even with their formidable front seven. Richard Sherman will blanket Dez Bryant all game long which will force Dak to try his luck with Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley while Earl Thomas patrols the Seattle secondary. Advantage: Seahawks. Forcing the Cowboys to throw the rock is almost certainly going to end well for Seattle.
This game will hinge on the effectiveness of the Dallas running game. If Zeke finds success early, the Cowboys will be in control and Seattle will be in trouble. If he doesn’t, Dallas is going to have to figure out how to remedy that in a hurry. Seattle will be more than happy to pin their ears back and come after Dak Prescott while the secondary sits back waiting for a misguided pass to pick off. If Dez Bryant can find a way to get open and make a big play or two down the field, it will work wonders opening up running lanes for Elliott to march his way to victory.
Saturday Night – Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Does it get much better than this? A Saturday night game at Lambeau Field between two NFC North opponents. Let alone the Vikings and Packers, two rivals with more than a hundred games played against each other and a division title on the line. Who’s ready for some hard-nosed, smashmouth football on the frozen tundra? This game is so good, it almost makes winter worth having. Almost.
Keys to the Game
It’s going to be cold and it’s going to be uncomfortable and it’s the perfect weather for a slow, defensive game. That’s right in the Vikings’ wheelhouse. They can pound away at the Packer defense on the ground, keeping Aaron Rodgers frozen on the sideline, and wearing out this weak defense. Minnesota doesn’t have the most potent offense out there, but they can score enough points to get the job done, even on the road in Green Bay. A big play or two from Stefon Diggs will seal the deal for Minnesota in this one.
Green Bay is going to need to find a way to get the passing game going on this cold night. Frozen fingers and a rock-hard football aren’t exactly the key ingredients to a 300-yard passing game, but Rodgers and company will need to find a way to get it done. The Vikings will crush their meager running game and the defense is going to give up a couple scores. It’s going to come down to whether or not Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson can come up with some magic on this cold night. If they can, it will be Green Bay’s game to lose.