The NFL playoff race is considerably heating up across both conferences. The five-win Washington Football Team currently own the rights to the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC and an astounding five teams that match their current win total trail them. The situation is awfully similar in the AFC, where a clutter of six-win teams reside. The margin for error for all playoff-hopeful teams is quickly becoming non-existent.
A plethora of teams around the league are dangerously marching toward the ever-dreaded "must-win" territory on a weekly basis. We've reached the crucial part of the campaign where any given victory may boost a team's playoff chances significantly. On the flip side, a single defeat may deliver a crushing blow per the mathematical odds. We've identified three teams who find themselves in such a situation ahead of this weekend.
Current Odds: 26%. Odds with a loss: 13%
Up until Week 12, the Eagles served as everybody's trendy second-half team. It was rather understandable. Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts had flashed a considerable amount of progress in recent showings and was leading an offense that was finding a resounding amount of success with a new-look rushing attack. Philadelphia entered what appeared to be a manageable contest on paper as winners in three of their last four, having scored 30-plus points in each of those victories. And then they laid an egg against the lowly New York Giants, having been unexpectedly defeated in an uneventful contest.
It served as a significant blow to Philadelphia's postseason hopes. They'll be back in East Rutherford to meet the hapless New York Jets on Sunday and look to exorcise last weekend's demons on the same MetLife field where disaster struck just days ago. A loss to the fruitless Jets would plummet the Eagles' playoff chances to just 13%. Luckily for them, the Jets represent the ideal bounce-back opportunity.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Current Odds: 20%. Odds with a loss: 9%
The 2021 campaign started swimmingly for the Raiders, who reigned victorious in their opening three contests. Derek Carr and Co. managed to bounce back nicely from a two-game losing streak, winning their next pair to bring their record to an exciting 5-2. It's been downhill since. Losers in three of their last four, the Raiders now find themselves disappointingly on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture while jockeying for position in an ultra-competitive AFC West. A thrilling Thanksgiving victory over a difficult Dallas Cowboys opponent kept their heads above water, but Rich Bisaccia's Raiders are swimming in deep waters.
Nothing delivers a greater sense of urgency to the situation than realizing a loss on Sunday will slice your playoff chances in more than half. The task at hand is relatively straightforward, but achieving Sunday's goal won't come without difficulties.
The Raiders will encounter a surging Washington Football Team at Allegiant Stadium. Ron Rivera's disciplined squad has played a quality brand of football as of late and enters Sunday on a red-hot three-game winning streak. This should be a tightly contested showdown.
Current Odds: 10%. Odds with a loss: 3%
Mike Tomlin's Steelers enter Week 13 with their backs against the wall. An embarrassing 31-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12 plummeted their current playoff chances to a grim 10%. The defeat all but ended Pittsburgh's margin for error going forward and a matchup against their AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens, who currently own the top-seed in the AFC looms large on Sunday. A beating at the hands of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens would all but eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention barring an unlikely miracle.
The Steelers possess one of America's most storied, traditional, and passionate fan bases. Last year's shocking wild-card loss to the Cleveland Browns left a sour taste in their mouths, but missing the postseason altogether in 2021 would qualify as a significantly worse outcome.
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