The playoff push has begun in earnest in the NFL. This is the time of year when you start to see more and more upsets, as teams begin to feel the pressure mounting on them, not to mention fatigue from a long season starting to set in.
Football is a grueling game, one that takes a huge physical toll for 17 weeks just to get through healthy, let alone play at a high level consistently.
Going over the schedule for this week's matchups, there are several games that look like mismatches on paper that will end up being much closer than you might expect. That doesn't mean a team is going to lose, but the distance between the best team in the NFL and the worst is not as great you might think.
Here are the games that we will be keeping an extra-close eye on this weekend as upsets waiting to happen.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
There seems to be a game near the middle of the season the Patriots lose that kickstarts their season. This year it happened in Week 6 against Seattle, when they lost 24-23. Since that game, the Patriots have won five straight and scored 219 points during the streak.
The Dolphins have been so up and down this season, losing two straight, winning three straight, losing three straight and winning an overtime game against Seattle.
So what's to like about the Dolphins in this particular matchup?
For starters, the Dolphins rank seventh in the NFL in run defense. The Patriots are starting to use a more balanced attack on offense, which opens up a lot of plays for Tom Brady down the field. But if they can't run the ball, the play-action passes don't have the same impact.
Ryan Tannehill is still making mistakes with the ball, but he has also looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket and showing better accuracy with his throws down the field.
The Patriots are prone to giving up a lot of passing yards, which could be perfect for Tannehill's strong arm in this matchup.
I don't like the Dolphins enough to call for the upset, but it would be foolish to dismiss them in this matchup.
Patriots 30, Dolphins 27
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Just when you think the Packers have figured things out, they go and lay an egg against the Giants on Sunday Night Football. Maybe the Giants are just the kind of team that gives the Packers problems.
Which Team Is In The Most Trouble This Week?
Before you scoff at the notion of the Packers losing this game, remember, the Vikings have a lot of characteristics the Giants do, save for the quarterback position.
The Giants have 30 sacks this season; the Vikings have 27. Their defensive line is aggressive and gets after the quarterback, which does not bode well for a Packers offensive line that has struggled in pass-blocking all season.
Plus, the Packers have become so one-dimensional they have actually made Aaron Rodgers less of a weapon as a result. They need to at least try to run the ball, just to keep opposing defenses honest.
The Vikings don't have a lot of weapons, but they do have Adrian Peterson, who can make up for a lot of offensive deficiencies. As long as the Vikings can force a couple of mistakes, something they haven't been particularly good at this season, they can pull off the upset.
Getting Percy Harvin back healthy wouldn't hurt, either.
Vikings 27, Packers 24
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
There are certain moments that will define an NFL team's season. Ideally you would like to have more good than bad, obviously, but things don't always work out that way, particularly if you are a young, rebuilding franchise.
The Redskins were not supposed to contend this season. They finally had their young, franchise quarterback in place, but everyone knew it would be a process before the whole team caught up to Robert Griffin III's immense talent.
Yet here the Redskins are, heading into a Monday night showdown against the Giants, with a chance to pull within one game of the division lead.
The Giants have been doing their usual Jekyll-and-Hyde act this season, losing two straight games in very different ways against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati before coming back with a huge, dominating win over Green Bay.
All should be right with the Giants, correct? We know this team well enough to understand that what happens one week has no bearing on how they will play the next.
The Redskins still can't stop anyone from throwing the ball, but the Giants aren't exactly a defensive juggernaut. They get a lot of sacks, yet still allow over 366 yards per game.
After this week, things are going to start looking a lot more interesting in the NFC East.
Redskins 26, Giants 21