10 NFL teams facing must-win situations
While teams like the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints could not have scripted much better starts to their 2018 season, there are plenty of others that have ground to make up heading into Week 7. Some teams are facing must-win situations if they want to remain in postseason contention. Others simply need a win to prevent their seasons from spiraling out of control, and to maintain job security.
Here are 10 NFL teams that badly need to win their next game, whether that is in Week 7 or coming out of the bye in Week 8:
Jerry Jones still seems to believe that this year’s team is a contender. They will have to win on Sunday to prove that. Dallas is 3-3 and coming off its biggest win of the season as they demolished the Jags 40-7. The NFC East is up for grabs, being currently led by 3-2 Washington, whom the Cowboys face on the road. Dallas is 0-3 on the road this season, and dropping to 3-4 on the season would make winning the division tough, especially if Philly wins in Week 7. The Cowboys probably are unlikely to grab a wild-card spot, so winning the division is their easiest path to the playoffs. They are unlikely to do so if they don’t beat Washington this weekend.
John Elway appears to have missed on yet another quarterback when he decided to sign Case Keenum in free agency, and that a big reason the Broncos are 2-4 and losers of four straight. Keenum, who has thrown eight interceptions compared to seven touchdowns this season, has consistently put Denver’s defense in positions to fail. The Broncos simply can’t maintain possession of the ball or finish drives, and that along with their weak run defense has killed the team. They now have to face the Cardinals on the road on a short week, and you could argue that no coach in the NFL needs a win more badly than Vance Joseph.
Have the Jaguars been dealing with a Super Bowl hangover since their Week 2 win over the Patriots? Since that convincing 21-13 victory over the defending AFC champions, Jacksonville has lost three of four games. Their performance against the Cowboys on Sunday was abysmal, and the end result was a 40-7 loss. The Jags should still have no problem winning a weak AFC South division, but they need to be fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs to maximize their defensive potential. A loss to the division rival Texans at home in Week 7 would be very bad news and drop them below .500.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick put up video game numbers and led Tampa to back-to-back upset wins to start the season? That all seems like a distant memory, and these are Jameis Winston’s Buccaneers now. Winston has thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions since returning from his suspension, and the Bucs have lost both games. After a tough 34-29 defeat to the Falcons in Week 6, they have to beat the Browns to snap their three-game losing streak. If they don’t do that, their season could end up in a freefall.
Colts fans were optimistic about their team’s chances of improving upon a 4-12 record from a year ago with Andrew Luck back under center, but the results have not been much better. In fact, at 1-5, Indy is actually on pace to have an even worse season than 2017. The good news is Luck isn’t completely to blame, as he has looked more healthy and confident with each week, albeit too turnover-prone. The Colts’ defense, however, is a disaster. They have allowed 37 or more points in each of their last three games and lost four straight. If Indy can’t beat the Bills at home in Week 7, they could be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
The Falcons are in about as much trouble as you can be in six weeks into a season. They came into the year with obvious playoff expectations, but they are in danger of seeing their season unofficially end in Week 7. It’s hard enough to reach the postseason after starting 2-4, but a 2-5 record would almost certainly be too much to overcome. Fortunately, Atlanta gets to host a Giants team that is in shambles, and the game is on Monday night in primetime. With the Saints off to a 4-1 start, the Falcons may be playing for a wild card spot going forward. They have to beat New York if they want to have a chance at securing one.
The Titans have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL this season, and Sunday’s 21-0 loss to the Ravens was their worst performance of the year. Marcus Mariota has struggled with accuracy since suffering an arm injury several weeks ago, and defenses are loading up to stop Tennessee’s rushing attack while not respecting the pass. Mike Vrabel is a defensive coach who has his team playing better on that side of the ball, but the Titans usually go as far as Mariota can take them. Right now, that doesn’t look very far. They need to right the ship in a tough London matchup against the Chargers, otherwise they will drop below .500, which would be a tough hole to climb out of.
The Lions have played pretty well since their Week 1 disaster against the Jets. They’ve won two of their last three games, beating the Patriots and Packers while losing a close one to the Cowboys. They’ve shown that they can beat playoff contenders, but can they show up consistently? And can they do it on the road? Whether they’re able to beat a vulnerable Dolphins team in Miami coming off a bye with extra preparation will tell you everything you need to know about this year’s Lions team. If they win, there is hope they can contend for a playoff spot. If not, they’re fighting for a draft pick.
New England Patriots
This one may seem a little odd after the Patriots just beat the best team in the AFC for their third consecutive win, but Sunday’s game proved how important home field advantage in the playoffs is for New England. The Pats needed 43 points to beat the Chiefs at home, and does anyone really think they could put up that many at Arrowhead Stadium? If they want to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Patriots need to steal some of the tougher games on their schedule. A road date with the Bears certainly qualifies as one of those.
Oakland has a much-needed bye week in Week 7 to allow Derek Carr and Amari Cooper — both of whom left Sunday’s game against the Seahawks with injuries — to heal up. Not only do they have a week off, but they get the lowly Colts at home in Week 8. Gruden’s team has looked awful in his first year back coaching, and there are rumors that he could be looking to trade another star player. If he can’t put together a win after having an extra week of preparation — at home against a weak team — he’ll continue to hear loud complaints.