10 most important remaining games on 2018 NFL schedule

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Only six weeks left in the regular season.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a thrilling 2018 NFL season with the emergence of several great teams and many others in the hunt for a playoff spot. As the season moves forward and every game could make a difference, a few games stand out as the most important to the landscape of the NFL this season.

There are only six weeks left in the regular season. Fortunately, there are several must-see matchups that will grab everyone’s attention. Whether it’s for playoff seeding or a potential Super Bowl preview, the remaining slate of action offers it all.

Here are the 10 most important remaining games on the NFL schedule.


Week 12: Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers

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The fight for wild-card spots don’t often draw the most attention. However, Carolina is struggling mightily right now and desperately needs momentum. Meanwhile, Seattle is riding a hot streak and a win would vault it into the playoff seed.

Carolina will hold the edge in this game by playing it at home and avoiding the dangers that come at CenturyLink Field. Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton should also find ways to exploit Seattle’s defense. However, Seattle will be able to run all over the Panthers and Russell Wilson should have no problem picking this secondary apart.

This game could easily decide which of these teams makes the playoffs and which team has an entire offseason to reflect on its misses throughout the year. In a sport where getting hot is critical to success, this matchup will determine a lot for both of these teams in the final stretch.


Week 13: Minnesota Vikings @ New England Patriots

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Two teams that came into the season as favorites to make the Super Bowl now find themselves fighting to stay in the spotlight as a serious contender.

When the Vikings and Patriots square off, it will give both teams the chance to find themselves again. A road win against Tom Brady would give the Vikings a tremendous confidence boost and demonstrate they can still take down one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

A win for New England could signify a step forward for its defense and give it the edge it needs to stay competitive in a race with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.


Week 13: Los Angeles Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

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Two teams led by veteran quarterbacks fighting for what might be their last shot at a Super Bowl will face off on Sunday Night Football with a shot at a rare marquee win.

Both teams could also come into this game with a shot at having the edge for a first-round bye. Melvin Gordon can wreck Pittsburgh’s defense and Keenan Allen could do a lot of damage in the slot. On the other side, Pittsburgh’s offensive line can dominate at the line of scrimmage and that opens the door for James Conner, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster to make plays.

Week 13’s primetime matchup on Sunday night could turn into a shootout with a decision that comes down to the final drive. Whoever wins, it will check off a major question mark by knocking off another playoff contender under the brightest lights.


Week 14: Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

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If anyone circled this matchup as an important game at the start of the season, the common thought would have guessed it was over draft position. Fast forward to late in the season and this game could decide who wins the AFC South.

Houston came out of Week 11 with another close win and extended its win streak to seven games. However, the offensive line is getting worse by the week and that could prove costly for Deshaun Watson’s health.

If Houston can give Watson time to throw, he’ll be able to attack the Indianapolis secondary. If not, Andrew Luck and the revitalized Colts’ offense will be able to roll and could pick up a decisive game in the divisional race.


Week 14: Los Angeles Rams @ Chicago Bears

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One of the best offenses in the NFL will square off against one of the league’s best defenses in a must-watch game that could be a potential NFC Championship Game preview.

Sean McVay will bring his electrifying offense into a matchup against Chicago’s loaded front seven. Edge rusher Khalil Mack showed he can ruin an offense on his own, so limiting him will be critical to keep Goff protected and in rhythm.

On the other side, this game presents a great test for Trubisky to compete on a big stage once again and show he can compete in shootouts. Chicago is quickly on the rise in the NFC and a win should signify its arrival as an elite team and a Super Bowl contender.


Week 14: Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks

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Minnesota and Seattle each enter a critical stretch in their schedule with several tough games and little wiggle room to slip up while maintaining playoff position. That’s precisely what will make this head-to-head matchup so critical.

Seattle’s sole focus will be on clinching a wild-card spot, and that fate could be decided. Hosting this matchup plays nicely in the Seahawks’ favor and they should be able to put pressure on Kirk Cousins and force poor decisions.

Given Minnesota’s existing deficit in the NFC North, every loss over the remainder of the season could be fatal for their hopes at a division title and a home playoff game. Even more importantly, this game could determine if Minnesota even makes the postseason.


Week 15: New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers

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It’s almost become a yearly tradition at this point, whether in the regular season or playoffs, that two of the NFL’s most storied franchise square off in a brutal battle for supremacy in the AFC.

This year might feel a little different because it could be the last time both of these teams are heavyweights in the AFC. The historical perspective already makes this a great game. The icing on top is two great offenses duking it out for a potential first-round bye.

The winner of this Week 15 contest could have home-field advantage in a potential rematch as well, adding to the layers of intrigue for this contest. Both quarterbacks will be slinging it in this afternoon game that everyone needs to watch.


Week 15: Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

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Even if the AFC West is decided at this point, fans should get excited about these two divisional foes squaring in an entertaining “Thursday Night Football” battle.

Los Angeles has an offense capable of squaring up against Kansas City. Kansas City’s run defense will have no way to stop Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen can turn the secondary into shreds.

It will all come down to Los Angeles’ defense and its ability to avoid mistakes. This is game that offers serious upset potential with significant ramifications for the playoffs and which team becomes the favorite.


Week 16: Pittsburgh Steelers @ New Orleans Saints

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For several teams, including the Saints, Week 16 could be the last time its starters take the field before they sit out until the postseason.

This matchup also offers a potential glimpse at a Super Bowl matchup between two future Hall of Famers. We know the Saints can put up points with the best of them and their offense will be far too impossible for Pittsburgh to stop. On the other side, the Saints’ defense must prove itself once again versus a top offense.


Week 17: Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings

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Minnesota will finish off the regular season seeking revenge. Chicago largely dominated the Vikings from start to finish in Week 11 and left Kirk Cousins with plenty to forget in an atrocious performance.

The matchup at the end of the season could be meaningful for both teams. Chicago will have a chance at a potential No. 3 seed with a win, while the Vikings will be fighting for momentum before it heads into a potential wild-card game.


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