2016 NFL schedule: Why so much Bears, Eagles, Skins in prime time? (Shutdown Corner)

The 2016 NFL prime-time schedule on Sunday and Monday nights, which are considered some of the league’s marquee games, features some goof early-season battles between non-conference teams. The league’s Thursday games are still considered the weakest night for evening football, but Sunday and Monday typically still deliver after dark. Most weeks, anyway. Much of the schedule looks stacked, but there are still a handful of teams with multiple prime-time games that we just don’t get. The Chicago Bears? The Philadelphia Eagles? The Washington Redskins? We get three games each on Sunday and Monday nights with the Bears and Eagles — the same as the Super Bowl-winning Broncos have — and the Redskins ge two. We’re a little confused with some of the team choices, even though other matchups look downright delicious. Here’s a look, week by week, at the Sunday night and Monday night games — and which ones we recommend actually watching: WEEK 1 Sunday: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals Monday: Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins; Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Our take: The Chandler Jones-Jonathan Cooper Bowl, eh? OK, so the interesting trade this offseason might not be the only reason to watch this one. After all, these are the two conference runners-up from 2015, and there’s still a chance Tom Brady could be suspended for this one. But we will take a Bruce Arians-Bill Belichick showdown anytime. The first Monday nighter is … hmm. Yes, these are two playoff teams facing off, and it’s two of the stronger fan bases and traditional franchises in the NFL. Plus, they don’t often meet. So we get that. Expect a lot of Steelers fans in the house for Le’Veon Bell’s possible return. The late game is about what we expected, although we thought the Rams might open in the Coliseum. Nope, this one is up the coast at Levi’s. You kids might not remember it, but Rams-49ers used to be a good little rivalry back in the day, and this being the first game of Rams 2.0 and the first Chip Kelly game in San Fran, there are some decent storylines. Oh, and whomever the Rams pick first in the draft could be making their debut; if it’s Jared Goff, he’s a Bay Area kid, for what it’s worth. WEEK 2 Sunday: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Monday: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears Our take: The Vikings get to open their new stadium against their old rivals. As it should be. We thought this might happen in Week 1, but the Vikings instead open on the road and then host this one in what should be a big night in the Twin Cities. Last we saw, the building looked gorgeous, although they have had one or two setbacks. This rivalry is great, and the Vikings beat the Packers for the division a year ago. Fun matchup, assuming a healthy Jordy Nelson can lift the Packers. Interesting battle in the Windy City the next night, as three-quarters on the NFC North is on display this week. No super compelling angles for this one, really, depending on what the Eagles do at quarterback in the draft, but we still expect Sam Bradford to open the season as the starter. Maybe fog will roll in and we’ll have a replay of that game back in 1988 . WEEK 3 Sunday: Bears at Dallas Cowboys Monday: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Our take: Bears? Again? So on paper, we get the allure of Bears at Cowboys. Two traditional teams — heck, two Mike Ditka teams — but really? Yes, we think both teams have a chance to be good. But something is a bit missing here for us that we might not be seeing. The Saints host their rival Falcons nearly 10 years to the day of the Steve Gleason game — the night the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina and Gleason, who now suffers from ALS but is a big part of the franchise and community still, blocked a punt that never will be forgotten by the locals. This one will have extra meaning, too, following the death of Saints legends Will Smith and Hokie Gajan, although they do play at home in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. WEEK 4 Sunday: Kansas City Chiefs at Steelers Monday: New York Giants at Vikings Our take: Two dangerous 2015 wild-card teams meet in what could be a good, old-fashioned matchup of heavyweights, as Andy Reid returns to the state in which he coached for 14 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. With Bell and the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles, two of the NFL’s best backs — both shut down by ACLs last season — could square off. Both these teams have to feel like they can make runs at a Super Bowl. The Vikings host another game at night in their new digs. This game is a rematch of the one played last year at TCF Bank Stadium, with the Vikings slamming the Odell Beckham-less Giants, 49-17, in Tom Coughlin’s penultimate game as head coach. This time, it will be Ben McAdoo leading the Jints, and yeah, he and the networks both hope OBJ is on the field. WEEK 5 Sunday: Giants at Green Bay Packers Monday: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Our take: The first game features former Super Bowl MVPs squaring off with Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers going head to head. And did you know the Giants have won the past thre matchups head to head, all by double digits? The first of those was a stunner — the Giants taking down the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau en route to winning it all in the 2011 season. Good game for two of the richest NFL franchises ever. The Packers and Giants have a long history, dating back to 1928 when Mule Wilson scored the only TD for the Giants in a 6-0 upset at old City Stadium in front of about 7,000 fans. There’s symmetry here, too, with two No. 1 overall picks squaring off. Jameis Winston has his first Monday night game and a tough battle against the Panthers’ defense. Meanwhile, this is becoming old hat for Cam Newton. He’s been on prime time a lot and is sure to be a lot more for many years. WEEK 6 Sunday: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Monday: New York Jets at Cardinals Our take: Andrew Luck missed the last matchup between these AFC South rivals in Houston, and Matt Hasselbeck — now doing the TV thing — was the unexpected hero. Now J.J. Watt and Brock Osweiler and Co. will try to keep the Texans’ division crown in this game. Are we pumped for it? Meh. But Luck and Watt are marquee names, so we get it. We like the sneaky good matchup in the Monday game between Arians and his former understudy. Todd Bowles did a marvelous job for the Jets in his first season, all things considered, and he returns to the place where he did good work with the Cards’ defense. WEEK 7 Sunday: Seattle Seahawks at Cardinals Monday: Texans at Denver Broncos Our take: THE NFL LOVES ARIANS! There’s no other explanation! This is now three prime-time games for the beautiful birds in seven weeks. Pretty unreal. Oh, and Cardinals-Seahawks is the new 49ers-Seahawks. It’s a down-and-dirty battle. We love it any time of the day. Ok, here’s your Osweiler revenge game. You know the story. He played for the Broncos and yadda ya, Peyton Manning, benching, unhappy, free agency, John Elway, and boom — instant storyline magic. Not sure why someone who got paid $18 mil a year should be mad, but who am I? Two good defenses, too, for what it’s worth. Wade Phillips was a big reason why … for both teams. WEEK 8 Sunday: Eagles at Cowboys Monday: Vikings at Bears Our take: The DeMarco Murray Bo–oh, never mind. This is just a regular-ole rivalry game for two teams that probably should have made a run at the division a year ago but fell short. And in the Cowboys’ case, way short. Crazy things have happened in this rivalry in Dallas, so it should be fun. Bears again? The Vikings we get, but the Fighting John Foxes are getting a lot of air time. I mean, we’ll watch — heck, we’re based in Chicago, so we likely will be there. But nothing too sexy off the hoof with this game. It’s Halloween night, which is cool and all that. But if Chicago Cubs fans have their way, there actually could be a World Series game happening up the road in Chicago this same night, as the baseball season started late this year because of the calendar. Oh and yes, I just jinxed the Cubs, who now will lose 19 of their next 24 games. WEEK 9 Sunday: Broncos at Raiders Monday: Buffalo Bills at Seahawks Our take: By this point in the season, we should have a good idea whether the Raiders — sure to be everyone’s preseason “sleeper” playoff club — are legit or not. This is a big one for the Raiders. Jack Del Rio used to run the Broncos’ defense (and was their interim head coach when John Fox got sick in the Super Bowl season), and Derek Carr has a chance to be a star. Great test here under the lights. We like the idea of two scrambling, whirling dervishes on display in the Monday game, but that’s assuming the Bills are still wedded to Tyrod Taylor by this point. He and Russell Wilson are as fun to watch as they are annoying for defense to try to corral. Cool trivia: Taylor beat out Wilson for ACC Player of the Year in 2010, back when he was at N.C. State before heading to Wisconsin. The last time the Bills played in Seattle it was a 38-9 romp by the visitors, led by Willis McGahee and Drew Bledsoe, besting the Hasselbeck- and Shaun Alexander-led Seahawks. WEEK 11 Sunday: Seahawks at Patriots Monday: Cincinnati Bengals at Giants Our take: The Seahawks third prime-time game in a four-week span just so happens to be against the team that beat them in stunning fashion in Super Bowl XLIX. So there’s that. But no Marshawn Lynch and thus no chance for a do-over on the goal line. Instead, we get what looks to be a fantastic matchup again in what should be a raucous Gillette Stadium. The Bengals make their first appearance on this list, although they will be in stand-alone slots in a Week 4 Thursday game as well as the early London game two weeks (and the bye) prior to this contest in East Rutherford. Interestingly, it will be only the 10th all-time meeting of the Bengals and Giants, and yet seven of the nine matchups have been one-score games. But what happens with OBJ and Vontaze Burfict meet on the same field? WEEK 12 Sunday: Patriots at Jets Monday: Packers at Eagles Our take: It’s Thanksgiving week in the NFL, and it’s back-to-back night games for the Patriots. A Buttfumble tradition reborn? We can only hope. Something fun always happens when these teams meet. We love history, so naturally we saw this matchup and thought of the “4th and 26” game (we refuse to call it the Freddie Mitchell game), but seriously what’s up with all the Eagles? I get it, they’re a big team and all that. But are they that good? I don’t know. Maybe the NFL knows something we don’t. WEEK 13 Sunday: Panthers at Seahawks Monday: Colts at Jets Our take: Now that Brady-Manning is no longer a thing, we suggest Newton-Wilson take its place. This will be meeting No. 7 since 2012, with two of those coming in the playoffs, and the average margin victory has been a mere six points. Wilson’s Seahawks have won four of the six games, but Newton and the Panthers came back to beat the Seahawks improbably in the regular season and then withstood a major Seahawks comeback in the playoffs to win both games. This one looks tremendous. Colts-Jets frankly is a bit of a leftdown in comparison. We don’t have much to say about it. Both teams could be good, but we are not drooling over this one frankly. WEEK 14 Sunday: Cowboys at Giants Monday: Baltimore Ravens at Patriots Our take: Cowboys-Giants on prime time? You don’t say. It only has happened each of the past eight seasons, although we frankly expected one of these games earlier on this list, and as early as Week 1 even. What else can you say? The past six meetings have been tremendously close, with five being decided by one score. We might not get too many more of these Eli Manning-Tony Romo battles, so we will enjoy the heck out of each of them. Our first Ravens appearance on this list, and oh joy! It’s Patriots week. Look, these organizations don’t so much like each other, OK? Lot of bad blood between Bill Belichick’s team and John Harbaugh’s squad. They have a fun rivalry over the years, and it will be a return to the scene of the 2014 season crime when the Ravens blew two 14-point leads at Foxboro and complained about formations afterward. We look forward to this. Mark our words: The Ravens are much, much better than last season showed. WEEK 15 Sunday: Steelers at Bengals Monday: Panthers at Redskins Our take: Oh boy. You need a reminder what happened in the wild-card slop in January? Likely not. It was ugly, and the Bengals blew a golden chance to end their now decades-long playoff losing streak, which sits at seven because Jeremy Hill can’t hang onto the football and Burfict and Pacman Jones can’t keep their cool. The Steelers were the beneficiaries of that one, and these teams both look strong again. Another fun, but ugly one. The Panthers, we get. The Redskins? Man, they felt like a slightly fluky division champ a year ago. We hope we’re wrong and that Kirk Cousins does for “You like that?!” what Newton has done for the dab. But we suspect things won’t go as smoothly this season. Oh well. WEEK 16 Sunday: Ravens at Steelers; Broncos at Chiefs Monday: Detroit Lions at Cowboys Our take: A Christmas miracle! A doubleheader wrapped up nicely for us, and two division games to boot. We love them both. What’s not to like about two sets of bitter rival wanting to tear each other up on the holy holiday? Welcome, Lions! You get to go on the road for Xmas to the other team that hosts Thanksgiving games. Oh, and it’s the place where the refs screwed you in the playoffs a few years back. Joy to the world! – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

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