That is the scenario a lot of teams are faced with this week in the NFL. The same scenario many teams were faced with last week and those same teams will be faced with for the remainder of the season. In the Giants case, they are already in the big dance that starts in January. Their opponent this week, the Eagles, however, are as close to not having a date to the dance as you can possibly be before their invitation to the dance gets revoked all together. But for plenty of other teams fighting to play football in January, their season rests on what happens this weekend and the next few weekends before the calendar turns to 2009. So on that note, here you have it. The Week 14 games that feature teams that have two options. Win or go home (aka WOGH).
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Chicago Bears
The Bears are 6-6. They are just about done, though there is still a ray of hope for a team that has had some inspiring wins (Indianapolis, Philly, and Minnesota). Two years removed from a Super Bowl loss to the Colts, the Bears are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season and that is something that the die-hard fans of Soldier Field don’t want to live with. At home, in relentless weather, against a team from the sunny south, with the season on the line. It’s WOGH for the Chicago Bears.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
The Lions are already home for the offseason. At least they are playing like they are. The Vikings aren’t exactly playing for their season given the fact that they are in first place, but a win combined with a Chicago loss would be the dagger in the heart of Chicago that Minny needs to represent the NFC North in January. Adrien Peterson is dangerous in any situation, especially at home, indoors on turf. The Vikings might be on the road this week, but they will be on turf, and playing against arguably the worst team in the history of the NFL. Minnesota will be 8-5 after Sunday. And they could have a two-game lead on the NFC North.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
This is one of the most important games of the weekend. The world has been waiting for the clock to strike midnight and the Atlanta Falcons to turn into the pumpkin that they were before the 2008 season began. But with each passing week, their chances of making the postseason increase. The Saints on the other hand are in the same boat as the Eagles and would need about 53 teams to pull a New York Mets-like collapse to make the playoffs. So, in other words the Saints are already done. But the Falcons are currently locked into the sixth and final playoff spot. In their rearview mirror are the Dallas Cowboys (who the Falcons hold a tie-breaker on) and the Washington Redskins, who trail by one game. It’s not neccessarily WOGH for the Falcons, but more like WACYOD (win and control your own destiny).
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
The Bills are done with their 6-6 record. The Dolphins are in some trouble as well since even with a win and a Jets loss (which would mean an 8-5 record for both teams), the Jets hold the head-to-head advantage as of now. The Dolphins are in 7th place now and need the Colts and Ravens to start losing, which doesn’t look like it is going happen. Coolstandings.com has the Dolphins with a 19.1% chance of making the playoffs, so there is still a chance. But my friends, it is definitely WOGH for the Miami Dolphins.
New England Patriots @ Seattle Seahawks
The Patriots had the easiest scheudle entering the 2008 season out of the 32 NFL teams and it is easy down the stretch. But they are currently in 8th place and don’t control their own destiny. Coolstandings gives them a 35% chance at a postseason sport, but that is being generous I think. They either need the Jets to tank along with the Dolphins. The Colts to tank. Or the Ravens to tank. And even then they have to win their own games to have a chance to get in because they have a .500 conference record and will lose any tie-breaker. It doesn’t look promising for the once might Patriots and it’s safe to say, “Na, Na, Na, Na…Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goooooooooooooodbye.”
Dallas Cowboys @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Cowboys just won’t go away. Now I didn’t expect them to lose any of the last three games and when I pronounced them dead a few weeks ago I believed they were and I still do. And why you might ask? Well take a look at how the ‘Boys end the 2008 season. At Pittsburgh. VS the G-Men. VS Baltimore. And at Philly. Pittsburgh wants nothing more than to secure the No. 2 spot in the AFC, give themselves a chance at the No. 1 seed, win at home, and beat an NFC east team. The Cowboys are 8-4 and to think they might win 11 games and not make the postseason is simply incredible, but that is a very real possibility. With the Falcons at 8-4 and an easier schedule and the Bucs and Panthers both at 9-3, the Cowboys are in trouble. A loss at Heinz Field would be devastating. A loss coupled with a Falcons win would end their season.
Washington Redskins @ Baltimore Ravens
The Redskins pretty much ended their season when they lost to the Giants on Sunday. Now they are on the road playing a Baltimore team that has only been slowed by the Giants (but who hasn’t). The Redskins were once 6-2 and on their way to the playoffs. They have since gone 1-3, choking away a postseason berth that looked like a lock. The Ravens are currently clinging onto the the sixth and final spot in the AFC. With Miami and New England on their heels, the Ravens are going to look to get up early on Washington and make the non-existant offense of the Redskins come to life and battle back. However, if the Redskins can get by the Ravens, their chances to make the playoffs greatly improve. With Cincinnati, Philly, and San Fran left on the schedule, a win vs Baltimore would put them at 8-5. And beating Cincy would make them 9-5. Who knows what the situation will be like in Philly by Week 16, they could resort to a different QB or the team could give up. A win at Baltimore could allow the Redskins to run the table. However, a loss officially ends their 2008 campaign.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
This game isn’t win or go home, but it’s win and take control of first place in the NFC South and more importantly the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Tampa Bay in my opinion is the better team here and I don’t think it’s a question. But on the road playing a sneaky team in Carolina, it will be tough for them to win. While both teams will play postseason football, this game will mean a lot as to who will be sharing the bye week with the Giants.