It’s starting to get at that point in the season where NFL teams have to start picking up wins. Here are five that need to do that in Week 6.
While we’re still not even halfway through the NFL regular season, the reality is starting to set in for some teams. At this point, we start to see the separation of the good teams from the bad. It hasn’t helped with all of the upsets and close games we’ve seen this season, but we’ll start to get a better look at the playoff picture once the weeks roll on.
Heading into Week 6, there are teams desperate for wins right now. Some trying to avoid the goose egg in the win column while others are trying to stay alive in the playoff race.
Here are five teams that must win this week.
1. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have gone from potential Super Bowl contenders to fighting to stay at .500 in the last few weeks. They’re losers of three straight and fans are mad. You know it’s bad when Raiders fans are trying to fight Donald Penn in the parking lot after the game. On the verge of putting the hand on the panic button, the Raiders must win this week.
In an AFC West division with two of the top teams in football, the Raiders have to fight to stay afloat. They can do that with a win against a divisional foe on Sunday. The 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers come into town and haven’t had much to cheer for this season. Their only win comes against a decimated New York Giants team. At home with the Oakland crowd, the Raiders need to have short memory and forget last week and focus on the game at hand. And if all things go as planned, the Raiders should have some extra help.
All signs seem to be pointing to a Derek Carr return on Sunday. Carr suffered a transverse back fracture in Week 4 and was expected to be out two-six weeks. Carr has exceeded those expectations and has been practicing since last week. Obviously his health comes first, but the Raiders are desperate for a win right now. If there’s nothing holding Carr back come Sunday, he has to be on the field. The Raiders aren’t good enough on all facets of the football to make up for his absence.
A win brings back a ton of confidence to the Raiders before they take on the Chiefs and Bills the next two weeks.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Things were great for the Steelers after a dominant 26-9 win over the Ravens in Week 4, but now it feels like this team has gone into a downward spiral. Last week, they were embarrassed at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Big Ben threw a career high five interceptions and the Steelers took a huge step back. Now after a terrible loss, they are on the road in a must-win game.
You look at the Steelers and they’re one of the top-five most talented teams in the league. Aside from a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Big Ben, the offense has Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, arguably the best at their respective positions. On the other side of the ball they’ve got a fantastic young linebacker in Ryan Shazier and a solid defense around him. There’s no way the Steelers should be 3-2 right now, especially with a loss to the 1-4 Chicago Bears.
If the Steelers want to be considered legitimate contenders this season, they’ve got to win the big games. What better way to do that than on the road in Kansas City against the last undefeated team in the NFL? The Chiefs are the most complete team we’ve seen this season and Arrowhead Stadium is virtually impossible to win at. Even with all of that, you can’t count the Steelers out.
With the division race very close, the Steelers need to come out of Kansas City with a win. The Ravens have a very favorable matchup at home against the Bears. A loss and a Ravens win puts the Steelers in second place in the division with a .500 record. That can’t happen this week.
3. Houston Texans
This season has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the Houston Texans. From a Week 1 blowout loss, to the rise of Deshaun Watson, to now losing two of their top defensive players, the Texans have been through it all. And guess what, we are only five weeks through the season. Bill O’Brian’s squad is 2-3 but you can’t count them out just yet. The enter a must-win game against a struggling Browns team come Sunday.
The AFC South is completely up for grabs right now. There’s not one team that you could be confident in winning the division this season. Even the Jaguars at 3-2 are still wildly inconsistent right now. The Texans are still very much in the race, even with the recent injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
The Browns present the perfect bounce-back game, but the Texans can’t take this game for granted. We’ve seen so much parity early on this season and it seems like anything can happen. At 0-5, the Browns don’t have much to play for and are starting Kevin Hogan at quarterback. There isn’t a ton of tape on Hogan, but he’s looked better than all of the other options the Browns have at quarterback.
There are some great weapons on this Texans team and they still have a shot at a playoff spot. But for this to happen, they can’t be dropping the easy games. They’re on the road against the Seahawks and Rams in the upcoming weeks and the wins have to come now.
4. New York Giants
At this point, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong for the New York Giants. No one expected them to be in this position five weeks through the season, but here we are. With a decimated wide receiver core and problems in the locker room, the Giants need a win to bring some life back into this squad.
The Giants are virtually out of any kind of postseason contention, but that doesn’t mean they can’t salvage their season. Head coach Ben McAdoo is certainly coaching for his job right now with the Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie incident this week, McAdoo cannot lose Giants locker room right now. There are still plenty of football games left to be played.
Unfortunately, the Giants face about the worst possible matchup needing a win this week. They travel to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday night. The Broncos defense should dominate this game on their own given the lack of weapons on the Giants offense right now. It would be nothing short of a miracle if this game isn’t a blowout or if the Giants find some miracle to pull out a win.
At some point the Giants need one to turn things around. Injuries or not, this team cannot be competing with the Browns for the No. 1 overall pick come the end of the season.
5. New England Patriots
The Patriots never seem to make these lists but they’ve been regulars so far this season. On the road against the Jets, this is absolutely a must-win game. You may not realize, but these two teams are fighting for first place atop of the AFC East right now.
We talk every single year about the lack of competition in the AFC East. It’s a division the Patriots have won eight years in a row. I know it’s still early, but the Patriots aren’t showing that dominance we are used to seeing. They’re 3-2 and tied with the Bills and Jets in first place. The Dolphins aren’t far behind at 2-2.
This is a must-win for the Patriots because they need to reassert their dominance atop of the division. There’s a reason they’ve won so often and letting the rest of the division hang around could spell trouble going forward. Nothing would fix that more than a convincing win on the road against a Jets team that suddenly has some life.
We still know Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the real owners of the division, now it’s time for them to take back what’s rightfully theirs.