It is getting down to the nitty-gritty and the NFL Playoff picture is beginning to develop. Some franchises are nearly sure bets to clinch top berths. There’s then this other level where teams with near identical or identical records are almost in must-win situations in Week 14.
Not only do a big handful of teams sitting at 6-6 need to produce wins, they need for their divisional counterparts to lose this week. The race for the Kansas City Chiefs to remain No. 1 in the AFC West is tight. They surely must win against Oakland this week. Each team in that division except the Denver Broncos has a chance at first place.
In the NFC, there are several franchises in desperation mode heading into Week 14. For one, a loss for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday against the New York Giants will likely end their playoff aspirations.
Here are eight teams that really need a victory in Week 14 to keep their playoff dreams alive.
Detroit Lions (6-6)
The Lions are hanging on by a thread to second place in the NFC North, four wins behind the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit is still in the distant hunt for a wildcard slot, but the Green Packers are right there also at 6-6.
In Week 14, the Lions travel to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is an extremely favorable matchup for the Lions, we might add. The Bucs are giving up 24 points on average per game as well as a whopping 385.6 yards — the second-most — in the league. Both Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate should thrive on Sunday. But, a huge dark cloud hovering overhead is the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford. He is questionable to play after suffering a hand injury last week. Per beat writer Tim Twentyman, head coach Jim Caldwell said Stafford is “not out of the woods yet.”
Stafford being able to play at top capacity and a Packers’ loss this Sunday keeps the Lions well in the race.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)
The tightest division in the league right now is the AFC West. Currently, the Chiefs have the fourth seed secured by virtue it a tiebreaker in the division.
On Sunday, a win is crucial for the Chiefs to remain at the top of their division. Kansas City will host an Oakland Raiders team that is fresh off of a two-game winning streak. But, where the Chiefs can take advantage is through the air. Oakland’s pass defense is leaky, yielding a 70.1 completion rate with only one pick on the season. Alex Smith snapped a major slump last week, throwing for 366 yards and four scores. If he can keep this momentum going, the Raiders will be exhausted trying to stop guys like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Defensively though, the Chiefs will have to step up after allowing 38 points to the New York Jets last week. Plus, it doesn’t help that head coach Andy Reid just suspended top cornerback Marcus Peters for Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
Believe it or not, the Cowboys are still alive in the wildcard hunt. This, despite the fact they are four games behind the first-place Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. A win is a must to keep a postseason visit alive for Dallas.
On payer, the Cowboys have an advantage over a Giants’ team that has only won twice all season. But, the Cowboys have had their plethora of struggles, and have won only one of their last four games. Fortunately, Dallas rediscovered its run game last week. This bodes will for the ‘Boys, considering the Giants are giving up the most rushing yards (130.7) on average per game.
Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)
We already mentioned how close the AFC West is. A victory at home against Washington this week is critical for Los Angeles to remain in the division race.
Fortunately, the Chargers have been scorching hot recently. During their current three-game winning streak, the team has scored a total of 101 points. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been on a roll, having thrown six touchdowns and zero picks during this streak. He should continue this success against a Washington defense that failed to manage a single forced turnover against the Cowboys last week.
The Redskins themselves have been in meltdown mode, and have won just one of their last three games. If the Chargers can score early and kick Washington while it’s already down, a win should be the end result here.
Green Bay Packers (6-6)
Green Bay occupies the No. 9 seed right behind Detroit in the NFC. Obviously a win for the Packers and a Lions’ loss is a boost for Green Bay.
In Week 14, the Packers head to Cleveland to play those winless Browns. Not shockingly, the Packers are favored to come out ahead. But, this is no sure bet. A lot rides on quarterback Brett Hundley not turning the ball over. The good thing here is that the Browns have managed just 11 takeaways all year. But Cleveland’s run defense is a different story. It is giving up a league-low 3.3 yards per carry. This is where the Packers’ rushing attack must show up.
Defensively for the Packers, they need to prepare for wide receiver Josh Gordon. He averaged a whopping 21.3 yards per catch in his season debut last week. If any player throws the Packers off course it could easily be Gordon. The Packers are giving up the sixth-most receiving yards along with 19 receiving touchdowns.
If Green Bay can stay afloat, a potential return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers next week only helps their dire situation.
Oakland Raiders (6-6)
It is only appropriate to list an Oakland squad that remains in that tight race with the Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West. Unless there is a tie in Sunday’s game, either the Raiders of Chiefs will improve to seven wins.
The way the Raiders can claim victory is to take advantage of the Chiefs’ lackluster defense. Kansas City is giving up a generous average of 382.2 yards on average per game. Quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch should be jumping for joy at the thought of this matchup. It was just last game that the Chiefs let Jets quarterback Josh McCown total three touchdowns.
Washington Redskins (5-7)
Washington is not out of the race just yet, seeded at No. 12 in the NFC. A win for the Redskins and a loss for Dallas (6-6) would be the ideal scenario on Sunday.
We covered that the Redskins travel out west to play the Chargers. This will be no simple feat as the Chargers defense has been a nightmare to deal with. Washington got handed the business last week against Dallas and the same treatment could be on tap again. Over the past three games, the Chargers’ defense has recorded eight interceptions and six sacks.
Where Washington might sneak in some positive gains is in its run game. The Chargers can be beat on the ground and have surrendered 129.8 yards on average per game. They are also allowing a lofty 4.8 yards per carry. Running back Samaje Perine should have success here.
This matchup favors the Chargers at home, but Washington should not be counted out just yet.
Buffalo Bills (6-6)
The New England Patriots are dominating the AFC East with a 10-2 mark. After that, there’s a lot still to be decided. In order to remain in second place and keep their playoff hopes alive, the Bills must win this upcoming Sunday.
But Buffalo does not yet know if Tyrod Taylor will suit up and play this week against a last-place Colts team. Taylor injured his knee last week and is considered day-to-day, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The Bills chances of winning would clearly take a hit with quarterback Nathan Peterman under center.
The positive spin here is that no team is giving up more points on average than the Colts at 27.5 per contest. All of the makings for a Bills’ win are here. But, Taylor’s availability could make all the difference in the world.