Even though every game counts the same in the standings, no one actually calls a game a must-win until late in the season when playoff positioning is up for grabs. Right now, there are 15 teams in both conferences still fighting to get into the postseason.
One win or loss at this point in the season is going to shift the balance of power. In typical NFL fashion, the schedule sets up beautifully for everyone wanting to see matchups with postseason ramifications.
Week 15 will add a few more pieces to the playoff puzzle, as well as take a few teams who thought they were in prime shape for the second season and twist them in ways they didn't think possible. Here are the top contenders who are guaranteed to come out on top this weekend.
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams
Even though we keep waiting for the Vikings to fall apart, they keep winning games and hanging around in this race. A big reason for that success is, of course, Adrian Peterson's run towards the record books.
If the Vikings win this week and Chicago loses to Green Bay, the two will be tied for second in the NFC North.
St. Louis does not get enough credit for what it has done this season. Sure, hanging around .500 is not sexy, but considering where the Rams were last year, it is a huge improvement.
Given that both teams are built to play on the turf, you have to scramble to find an advantage for one team over the other. I would say, when in doubt, bet on Peterson. He has run for more than 1,100 yards in the last seven weeks and put this entire offense on his back to put them in contention.
The Vikings are just 1-5 away from Minnesota, so winning on the road is of the utmost importance right now if they want to make the postseason.
Vikings 23, Rams 20
Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills
Which Contender Will Fall Flat On Sunday?
Even though this game is classified as a home game for the Bills, it's being played in Toronto. For the Seahawks, it hasn't mattered where they go, they just don't win away from Seattle, boasting a 2-5 record on the road.
However, this looks like a much-improved Seahawks team than the one that started the season. They went on the road two weeks ago and got a huge, emotional victory at Chicago. Russell Wilson has taken command of the offense and been far better than anyone could have expected.
The Bills have alternated wins and losses over the last five weeks, though the two victories came against Miami and Jacksonville. They need to run the ball to have success on offense, which doesn't bode well since they are going up against the No. 4 run defense in the NFL.
Things could get very interesting in the NFC West if the Seahawks win this week and San Francisco loses at New England, setting up a showdown in Seattle between the 49ers and Seahawks for the division lead.
Seahawks 27, Bills 20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys
I am not sure how it has happened, perhaps Jerry Jones made a deal with the devil, but the Cowboys are just one game out of a wild-card spot in the NFC heading into this marquee matchup with Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are a mess right now. They have lost three of their last four games, turned the ball over 16 times during those four games and find themselves in a battle with Cincinnati for second place in the AFC North.
The Cowboys aren't exactly playing better, they have just found a way to win two games they could easily have lost. It is a testament to the talent on the roster that they are still here after starting the season 3-5 and facing constant questions about the fate of everyone on the roster and coaching staff.
Despite their current hot streak, the Cowboys are still the least trustworthy team in the NFL. They do this all the time, where they make you think they have figured everything out and then it all falls apart.
Even with their recent problems, the Steelers feel like that team that just needs to find a way to get in the playoffs. They got Ben Roethlisberger back healthy; the defense is still one of the best in the NFL.
In the matchup of inconsistent 7-6 teams, bank on the road team curing what has ailed them. The Steelers are too good to be hovering around .500 this late in the season.
Steelers 24, Cowboys 14