Monday Night Football Schedule 2013: Remaining Games That'll Impact Playoff Race

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers rolls out to look for a receiver chased by Nick Roach #53 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While Monday Night Football is still iconic due to its rich history, some might argue that it has lost some of its luster with Sunday Night Football consistently getting better matchups. The fact that the 0-6 New York Giants will face the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings in Week 7 seems to support that notion, but not every MNF game is a dog.

In fact, there are several intriguing tilts on tap in the coming weeks that could very well change the complexion of the league depending upon the results.

Both the AFC and NFC are truly up for grabs right now, and with so many potential contenders in the mix, it's only natural that some big clashes are on the horizon.

Here are three upcoming Monday Night Football games that will have a particularly major impact on the playoff race by the time the season comes to an end.


Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

As the most storied rivalry in NFL history, Bears vs. Packers games are always must-see events. That is even truer when the game happens in prime time, as they players seem to be more amped up than usual for the NFC North encounter.

It also helps when both teams are good, and that certainly appears to be the case this year.

Chicago is tied atop the division with the Detroit Lions at 4-2 while the Packers are right on their heels at 3-2, so this Week 9 battle promises to be a big one.

With top teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons failing to play up to expectations thus far, the door may be wide open in terms of NFC supremacy. Winning the NFC North would obviously be a huge boost, although both the Bears and Packers could potentially reach the postseason.

On offense, Green Bay may lose some key players. Wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones were injured on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports is reporting that they could be out for a while pending MRIs.

If that is the case, it will add even more intrigue to this matchup. It's only a few weeks away, so it's possible that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have Jordy Nelson and not much else at his disposal.

As for the Bears, they have excelled on both sides of the ball, as the defense continues to force turnovers and quarterback Jay Cutler is playing better than ever with weapons like Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett around him.

Add in the fact that the game will be played at Lambeau Field and it may be the biggest MNF game of the year.


New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

With a combined record of 10-2, most would probably argue that the Seahawks and Saints are currently the class of the NFC.

The Seahawks entered the season with high expectations because of their defense and the play of quarterback Russell Wilson, while most figured that the Saints would bounce back after a troublesome 2012 as well.

Both teams have lived up to their potential thus far and will engage in what could be an NFC Championship Game preview when they meet on Monday Night Football in Week 13.

The Saints have won with a familiar formula, as quarterback Drew Brees has been nearly unstoppable. The defense has also been surprisingly good, thoughespecially after being one of the worst in NFL history last year.

Few are shocked by Seattle's defensive excellence, and timely plays by the likes of Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch allow the Seahawks to score just enough points.

Above all else, both teams also have an insane home-field advantage. Jamie Dukes of NFL Network even believes the Saints are a lock to make the Super Bowl if they earn home field throughout the playoffs.

It's tough to dispute that, as the Superdome is a tough place to play, but championship teams need to be able to win on the road as well. The Saints blew a late lead on the road against the New England Patriots in Week 6, so there is some concern regarding the portability of their game.

If the Superdome isn't the most intimidating venue in football, CenturyLink Field in Seattle may be. The Seahawks will play host when the Saints come to town in Week 13 and it will be interesting to see how New Orleans handles the environment.


Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears

The Bears will be a busy team on Monday night from here on out, as they will be featured twice and both games figure to be huge when it comes to NFC playoff positioning.

After playing at Green Bay in Week 9, Chicago will host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14.

As is always the case, the Cowboys are a tough team to figure this year. They are tied for the NFC East lead with the Philadelphia Eagles at 3-3, but are extremely inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Consequently, the potential for a late-season collapse remains quite high.

With that said, quarterback Tony Romo has been playing at a very high level, so the Cowboys are a force to be reckoned with if he continues to thrive.

The talent has always been there on the offensive side of the ball, and it is finally beginning to manifest itself. Both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are bona fide studs, Terrance Williams is emerging as a rookie, Miles Austin can make plays when called upon and running back DeMarco Murray is providing relief on the ground as well.

It should be very interesting when they come up against the Bears defense, but Dallas may have the advantage based on this stat courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Chicago has had one of the league's best defenses for the better part of a decade, and it certainly still has its moments, but things are different with cornerstone linebacker Brian Urlacher out of the picture. His absence probably has a lot to do with the Bears' lack of sure-handed tackling.

Based on that and the Bears' offensive success under head coach Marc Trestman, this game could very well be a shootout.

If playoff positioning is on the line as expected, that will make for a very enjoyable contest.


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