In a 272-game season with 32 teams playing a 17-game schedule, there are bound to be gems, and there are bound to be duds. As more and more of the season goes by, more teams have less to play for. But for now, just about every team is playing hard, and most matchups have interesting storylines.
This week I’ve targeted eight games that will go a long way in determining the fate of those 16 teams.
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans
Both teams are coming off a loss and each are smack dab in the center of their divisional races. The Ravens are on the backend of a back-to-back road trip…and this game is overseas. A loss drops them to .500, but a win will keep them in prime position, and knock the Titans to 2-4.
New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans
This is a measuring stick game for the Texans. They nearly won again last week, which would have taken them to 3-2, but a late loss dropped them to 2-3. They face a Saints team that has a legitimate top-five defense with visions of going 4-2 and winning their division.
Seattle Seahawks @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have been the most confounding team this season. They seem to have righted their ship but can’t afford a letdown. They are still trailing behind in the AFC North, and need this win at home to get them back to .500. The Seahawks are sitting at 3-1 with a tough 1 pm road game…it will be a tall task going into Cincinnati and leaving with a victory.
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
Each team is 1-4, although the Vikings have the better overall roster. Losing Justin Jefferson does even the playing field some. With the trade deadline only a couple of weeks away, either of these teams may get dismantled with a loss on Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
In many ways, this is the game of the week. These teams are at the top of the AFC South at 3-2, and the winner will end Sunday with sole possession of first place. The Jags seem to have found their groove in Jolly Olde England, winning their two games on the other side of the pond. It remains to be seen whether losing Anthony Richardson will be a net loss or a gain for the Colts. Gardner Minshew has been doing just fine at the helm…Richardson is definitely the future but Minshew could lead this team into the playoffs.
New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders and HC Josh McDaniels got a reprieve last week with a victory, and are sitting at 2-3. HC Bill Belichick got no reprieve. Coming off their worst loss in Dallas, the Pats returned home, only to get shut out by the Saints 34-0. They seemingly have no answers on offense or defense. The losing coach in this game could literally get fired before their next game. This game is huge for Belichick; he’s facing the real possibility of going 1-5, with Miami and Buffalo the next two weeks, and the reality of 1-7.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Lions want to be taken seriously…really seriously, as a playoff and even a Super Bowl contender, these are the types of games they need to win. They are facing a tough opponent on the road, and their resume this season has been great…going into Kansas City and Green Bay and leaving with wins. The “old Lions” would lose this game, let’s see what the new and improved version will do.
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Chargers
These are two underachieving teams. The Cowboys have only beaten doormats this season and the Chargers often play just well enough to lose tough games, as they did against the Dolphins earlier this season. A loss by the Cowboys will drop them to .500, and a loss by the Chargers will bring them to 2-3, all but out of the AFC West, and in a hole to even make the playoffs.