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NFL Week 12: 4 teams that must win

The Week 12 slate of the National Football League season is loaded with really good games. We already saw a couple with the Detroit Lions beating the Minnesota Vikings, and the Dallas Cowboys taking care of the Washington Redskins. Without any team on a bye, we have another 13 games to go, including a dozen on Sunday.

Here are the five teams that can’t afford to lose if they want a playoff spot:

4. Denver Broncos

Denver is likely going to make the postseason, but this Sunday night is a huge contest for it. The Broncos come off their break to face the injury-riddled Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City and Denver are both 7-3 and likely to be in the playoffs, but this game means a ton for the Broncos.

Why? They are home, and the Chiefs are likely to be much healthier for their Christmas rematch. In addition, the Broncos face a brutal schedule the rest of the way including games against New England, Oakland and Kansas City. Lose this one, and 9-7 doesn’t feel like a stretch.

3. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have been a huge disappointment this year. Everyone thought that Arizons would be fighting for a chance to go to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. Instead, the Cardinals are an ugly 4-5-1 and now have to visit the Georgia Dome to take on the 6-4 Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta will be trying to stay ahead in the NFC South, who is only a game ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Cardinals lose this game, they will have six defeats while still visiting the Seattle Seahawks later in the year.

2. Houston Texans

This could be the start of a very ugly slide. Houston has a very tough schedule the rest of the season, including trips to Indianapolis, Green Bay and Tennessee. This week, the Texans are at home but have to take on the San Diego Chargers, who are coming off their bye.

San Diego is 4-6 but would probably win the AFC South if it wasn’t stuck in the West. The Chargers are a very tough opponent and should they win and the Titans beat the Bears, there will be a tie atop the division.

1. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are trying to dig their way out of a 1-5 start. At this point, Carolina is sitting at 4-6 after beating the New Orleans Saints, but things are looking dreary. The Panthers are without Luke Kuechly and Ryan Kalil this weekend, visiting the Oakland Raiders.

Oakland is a weak 8-2 team (if there is such a thing) but this won’t be easy. Can the Panthers cover at all against Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree? This question’s answer probably tells us the final result.

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