That urgency and panic you feel right now is coming from the NFL teams who find themselves embroiled in a battle for the postseason. Remember, we are entering Week 11 already, so there are only six more weeks after this to make a case.
Of course, this isn't the BCS, so teams don't need style points to make the postseason. All they have to do is win enough to get in, as we saw two years ago with the Green Bay Packers and last year with the New York Giants.
Odds and spreads have been set for this weekend's games, which gives us something to analyze for hours on end before kickoff. Here are the most appealing matchups that have us thinking the spread might be too great or not big enough.
Odds courtesy of Bovada
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-1.5)
Normally the Dolphins traveling up north in November would be a recipe for disaster. However, the Bills are vying for the title of worst team in the AFC with no signs of hope on the horizon.
The Bills' three wins this season have come against Kansas City, Cleveland and Arizona. Those three teams have a combined record of 7-20. They have given up at least 35 points in five of their six losses.
The Dolphins have started to hit the skids, losing their last two games following a three-game winning streak. After going four straight games without an interception, Ryan Tannehill bottomed out last week with three against the Titans.
Something has to give in this matchup. The Dolphins' strength on defense is against the run. The Bills' best chance to win is running the ball. I trust the Dolphins to step up in this game a lot more than the Bills, even in a cold-weather environment.
Dolphins 23, Bills 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) at Carolina Panthers
Don't look now, but the Buccaneers have managed to win a few games and get back in the thick of the playoff race. On the other hand, the Panthers are lost at sea right now with no life boat on the horizon.
Josh Freeman is on fire right now. He has thrown 13 of his 18 touchdown passes in the last five games with only one interception. Vincent Jackson is the least-talked about receiver in the NFL right now, despite having six touchdowns and averaging 21.4 yards per reception. Doug Martin is the most exciting rookie running back to come into the league since Adrian Peterson.
The Panthers are a mess. The running game, which was supposed to be their strength, has fallen apart. Cam Newton leads the team in rushing yards with 354.
Speaking of Newton, he has no idea where he is throwing the ball when he drops back to pass. He has taken several steps back from his breakout rookie campaign, which should lead to some serious discussion about his future role in the NFL after the season.
For now, Newton will have to answer questions about why the Panthers lost another game. Perhaps he can ask for more suggestions in the suggestion box.
Buccaneers 30, Panthers 17
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) at Oakland Raiders
When you watch the Raiders play, it is a lot like watching one of those horrible 1970s D-list horror movies. Everything in your body is telling you to just walk away, but the sheer idiocy of it all keeps you glued to the television.
The Raiders have allowed 97 points in their last two games and now Drew Brees is coming to town. This is going to end well, right?
Fantasy owners are going to have a field day, at least if they own Brees and any of the weapons he has to play with. It should be noted that the Saints are just 1-3 away from the Superdome, though two of those losses were at Green Bay and Denver.
Even though the Saints aren't exactly a defensive dynamo, they are performing well enough now to allow the offense time to put points on the board. Carson Palmer is going to throw for a lot of yards, but he is going to make one disastrous throw where you shake your head.
This game is going to get ugly in a hurry.
Saints 38, Raiders 24
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