There are very few meaningless games in the NFL. With only 16 games in the regular season, one less win could mean the difference between 9-7 and 10-6, or a high seed versus a low seed. Unlike a sport such as baseball, where there seems to be an infinite number of games per season, every game in the NFL is a must-win game.
It is also true, however, that some games simply carry more weight. Whether that is because of the divisional rivalry, tiebreakers, or a gradient of the strength of one's team, consistent playoff teams are well-respected because they win the games that they should.
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles lost many games that they shouldn't have. As a result, despite their late-season run, they missed the postseason. This season, they must find a way to win these must-win games or they will fall short of their playoff goals once again.
The Eagles face off against the New York Giants in a pivotal Week 4 contest, and unfortunately, while it is somewhat early in the season, this is close to a must-win game for the Birds.
This game is the first of a very challenging midseason stretch for the Eagles; they have games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and the Dallas Cowboys afterwards. The Eagles must win this game to establish momentum going into this stretch.
Furthermore, it is an NFC East showdown. And the game could have long-term repercussions in the form of tiebreakers.
Other than the sentimental value of Michael Vick defeating his former team, the midseason matchup against the Falcons is a must-win game.
Andy Reid has never lost a game after the bye week, and this has contributed greatly to all the playoff appearances he has amassed over the years. If the Eagles want the best shot at the playoffs in 2012, they must win this game.
A win here would continue to establish momentum. It is also after a challenging three-game stretch against the Giants, Steelers, and Lions, and could be necessary to jump-start the Eagles' season if the team struggled against those opponents.
Even though the Saints have gone through a tumultuous offseason, they will still be dangerous and will still be a good team. With Drew Brees at the helm, they will be at the very least be dominant still offensively. If the Saints can adjust without Sean Payton, they will possibly be the Eagles' biggest challenge in 2012.
The mark of a good team is one that finds a way to beat good teams. Nothing builds momentum and confidence better than beating a former Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league. If the Eagles can win this game, it can boost them not only to the playoffs, but possibly to a high seed.
As stated earlier, divisional games are always must-wins in a way because of the tiebreaker and seeding consequences. However, this late season matchup against Dallas is a must-win for many other reasons as well.
Good teams can not only play well at home, but they must find a way to win their away games. Cowboys Stadium is a tough stadium to play in for away teams and the Eagles can truly show they are real contenders with a win here.
Additionally, the most successful Eagles seasons have been when the Eagles have played well in the month of December. As the Cowboys will possibly be the Eagles' toughest December opponent, defeating them here would definitely be a priority.
Unless the Eagles have already secured home-field advantage, the Eagles must win their season finale against the Giants.
As stated before, both teams are NFC East contenders, and the winner of the division could be decided here. Teams that end the regular season on a high note often see their strong play carry over to the postseason. A win here could not only mean a higher playoff seed or a playoff spot in general, it could mean a deep playoff run.
And also, what better way to end an NFL season for the Birds than to knock off the New York Giants in the last game of the season?