Week 11 is a significant week in the life of an NFL season. This is the last week any NFL team gets a bye, meaning there is no time off for anyone the rest of the way. Teams in tight playoff races cannot afford to take time off even if they want to, so the lack of byes is fitting.
We as NFL fans live and die by our respective teams' performances each and every weekend, and we are all too familiar with the ebbs and the flows of the week following a brutal loss.
We also understand the pressure these guys face and how anything can happen on any given Sunday, but we never seem OK with a loss, no matter how close the game or how tough the opponent. Just imagine how the players and coaches feel during the season.
Last weekend several teams with serious playoff aspirations took tough losses to divisional opponents that could each end up being the deciding factor in missing the playoffs. Those same teams have to bounce back this weekend and are thus desperate for wins.
Here is a look at the teams that cannot afford to lose this weekend.
The San Diego Chargers, ed by Norv Turner and Phillip Rivers, are underachieving beyond all comprehension. What was last year's best offense (yards per game) and best defense (yards allowed per game) is now a 4-5 team.
Since starting the season as the ugliest 4-1 team of all time, the Chargers have lost four games in a row, each loss has come by a heartbreaking seven points or fewer. In a quarterback driven league, Phillip Rivers has thrown seven touchdowns and eight interceptions over these past four weeks which is not going to cut it at all.
Regardless of who gets the blame the team as a whole is consistently coming up short. Luckily they reside in the AFC West, a division in flux that may be won by an eight- or nine-win team.
The Chargers head into Soldier Field this weekend to face a red hot Chicago Bears team, and they are desperate for a win.
Since starting the season 5-0 the Detroit Lions have fallen off just like the San Diego Chargers have. They have lost three of their last four including two tough home losses, and this past week's ugly and sometimes violent loss at Chicago.
The Lions won't be winning their division this year so they find themselves in a three or four man race for a wild card spot. All they have to do is outplay Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Lions fans, that is easier said than done.
Matthew Stafford looked like one of the league's worst quarterbacks this past Sunday throwing one touchdown and four interceptions. The Lions have little to no rushing attack (fifth worst in the league), and they also give up the fifth most rush yards per game. Not exactly a recipe for success.
This Sunday the Lions have Carolina coming into their house in a game that they cannot afford to lose.
The Giants are the only team coming into this "must-win" week that didn't take a division loss last week. They went across the country and lost to a physical and serious contender, the San Francisco 49ers.
As good as they have looked at times this season, the Giants somehow find themselves with only a one game lead in the NFC East. This Sunday they get the Philadelphia Eagles at home (a game in which they will be heavily favored) while the Cowboys go on the road to Washington.
This is a must win for the Giants as is every game the rest of the way because of the tight race they find themselves in. After their divisional rivalry game Sunday they play New Orleans and Green Bay back to back. They also have two games remaining against the Dallas Cowboys.
Elite teams put away subpar teams at home and ironically the Philadelphia Eagles have become a subpar team. The Giants have to win their game Sunday to maintain their lead in the division and to feel confident going into New Orleans.
What Falcons head coach Mike Smith was thinking on that 4th and 1 play call is beyond me. Given the number of things that go on throughout an NFL game it is never easy to point to one particular play and say, "That cost them the game."
But let's be real, that call lost them the game Sunday.
The Falcons now find themselves a game and a half behind the division leading New Orleans Saints. The light at the end of the tunnel for Falcons fans and the team itself is their upcoming schedule, Four of their remaining seven games are against teams with sub .500 records.
The Falcons have Tennessee at home this weekend and with the possible resurgence of Chris Johnson, the Falcons cannot sleep on their Week 11 opponents. Considering the loss of Matt Schaub, Tennessee may have a new found confidence in their ability to win their division.
Atlanta cannot afford to lose Sunday or their season may come to an end.
The Cincinnati Bengals are one loss away from irrelevancy. They have been, and continue to be, one of the feel good stories of the season. Led by a tough defense and a rookie quarterback they have come out of nowhere to make some noise in the league through 10 weeks.
Their home loss to Pittsburgh last week was a tough one; they lost their lead in the division and found themselves facing a harsh reality that is the AFC North. Smash mouth football. The NFL is all about two things, winning games and making the playoffs.
The Bengals are still in good position for a wild-card spot in the division slips away from them.
They sit at 6-3 right now going into Baltimore this Sunday. If they lose on the road this weekend and fall to 6-4 they may fall out of playoff contention considering the strength of the AFC North, East and South.
They cannot afford to lose Sunday, and the Bengals will play like the desperate team they are.
No team needs a win this week more than the New York Jets. After winning three games in a row climbing to 5-3 and getting back into the "playoff contenders" discussion they got massacred at home by their division rivals Sunday night putting them on the brink of irrelevancy.
They still have games against Washington, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Miami but often times a soft schedule isn't all it takes. Sitting at 5-4 is sitting on the hot seat. Rex Ryan needs to reaffirm in his team the confidence and swagger they have used for three years now, and he needs to remind his quarterback that he can be successful.
The Jets are victims of bad scheduling as they play at Mile High Thursday night against Tim Tebow and the Broncos. If the Jets come up short Thursday night they will essentially be out of the AFC playoff race because the conference is to strong from top to bottom.
They are the definition of desperate and they better play like it Thursday night.