Week 12 of the NFL season holds four games in which one team must win in order to save the season. (Which we are defining here as "make the playoffs.") These four teams will be in significant danger of missing postseason play with a loss this week. Let's take a look at the logic.
Week 12 Opponent: Buffalo
Why They Must Win: The Colts need to keep pace with imploding Pittsburgh and surging Cincinnati if they are to have a shot at one of the wild-card berths. They have two games with division rival Houston on the calendar, but it is likely that in the final game of the season Houston will be playing the bottom third of the roster.
Indianapolis has a toughie at Detroit, a cupcake at KC, and a tossup with the Titans at home. I Figure the Colts go 3-2 the rest of the way. A win this week makes that 4-2, and the Colts finish 10-6.
One of the classic benchmarks for a team on the rise is winning the games you are supposed to win, and a victory here would be just that. (Wouldn't hurt that it would also finish off Buffalo as a potential late-season surge team.)
Week 12 Opponent: Miami (at Miami)
Remaining Opponents: at Chicago, Arizona, at Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis
Why They Must Win: Same logic as above, almost exactly. Assuming losses at Chicago and against San Francisco, the Seahawks need to finish the season 4-2 to stay ahead of the other wild-card contenders.
Considering the logjam in the NFC—Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, Washington, and Seattle—the only way a 9-7 team will get into the playoffs from the NFC side will be as the winner of the NFC East.
Week 12 Opponent: Chicago (at Chicago)
Remaining Opponents: at Green Bay, Chicago, at St Louis, at Houston, Green Bay
Why They Must Win: The NFC North is essentially a three-way tie. Green Bay and Chicago are both 7-3 while the Vikes are 6-4, but as you may have noticed, the Vikings play both teams twice over the next six weeks. (Chicago and Green Bay play Dec 16 at Chicago.)
The Vikes are going to have to beat one of those teams twice to have a shot at the wild card. To have a shot at the division, they might have to beat both twice, or at least take three of four. Minnesota has to win this game at Chicago—especially if Jay Cutler is out. An opportunity like this cannot be passed up.
Week 12 Opponent: Minnesota
Remaining Opponents: Seattle, at Minnesota, Green Bay, at Arizona, at Detroit
Why They Must Win: Because the team is showing signs of collapse, and they need to staunch the bleeding. Jay Cutler's status for Sunday remains up in the air, but it doesn't matter. Losing to the 49ers in San Francisco is a surmountable setback. Losing to the Vikings at home is not.
The Bears have the toughest remaining schedule of any of these four teams. If they can go 3-3 the rest of the way, they will probably take one of the wild card slots. This is a winnable game at home, and the Bears must have it.