Several teams enter Week 16 facing must-win scenarios. The AFC North remains cluttered and unpredictable with all four teams still in contention. Sunday's showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals has the makings of must-watch television.
The margins for error are quickly disappearing for all playoff-hopeful squads. However, we've identified three teams who find themselves in "must-win" situations in Week 16.
Current Odds: 51%. Odds with a loss: 23%
As mentioned in the introduction, no divisional race is tighter and promises to deliver more entertainment down the stretch than the one we currently have the pleasure of witnessing in the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals actually enter Sunday's showdown with the Baltimore Ravens in first place, but would see their playoff chances plummet to a grim 23% with a defeat. It's an accurate representation of how tightly contested the AFC North currently is.
The Ravens enter Sunday in a similar fashion. A team that was once largely considered Super Bowl LVI contenders currently finds themselves outside of the AFC playoffs. An injury to star quarterback Lamar Jackson has the Ravens reeling, but the Bengals would be silly to take their familiar foe lightly on Sunday. Even with Jackson's game day status still in question, backup quarterback Tyler Huntley gave the Ravens an excellent chance to win last Sunday's last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers. A defeat on Sunday for either of these teams in this inner-divisional must-see showdown would deliver a catastrophic blow to their playoff chances.
Current Odds: 36%. Odds with a loss: 11%
The Philadelphia Eagles bought themselves some much-needed breathing room with Tuesday's two-score triumph over their NFC East rival Washington Football Team, but are far from out of the woods. Jalen Hurts was terrific in the win, accounting for 334 total yards of offense and three touchdowns with his arm and legs. The victory boosted Philadelphia's current playoff chances to a hopeful 36%, but a defeat on Sunday would significantly downgrade those postseason odds to just 11%. A showdown with a familiar opponent in the New York Giants looms particularly large for Nick Sirianni's surging Eagles.
The Eagles enter Sunday as considerable favorites over a hapless Giants team that is simply going through the motions while dealing with injuries and question marks at the quarterback position, but Philadelphia will be wary of the threat posed. These two old-time foes met recently in Week 12, with the Giants claiming a shocking, low-scoring victory by the final score of 13-7. The outcome delivered a crushing blow to Philly’s postseason hopes, and they could ill-afford a similar result on Sunday.
Current Odds: 11%. Odds with a loss: 2%
The Miami Dolphins may have caught a break Thursday afternoon when it was announced that New Orleans Saints starting quarterback Taysom Hill has been placed on the team's COVID-Reserve List. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian is also on the list, which paves the way for rookie fourth-round pick Ian Book to make his first career start against the Dolphins on Monday.
The once 1-7 Dolphins have incredibly won six consecutive contests and now unexpectedly find themselves back in the thick of a heated race for a wild-card spot in the AFC. The margin for error is non-existent, as Miami will enter Monday's primetime game against the Saints with a slim 11% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. A defeat wouldn't technically eliminate Miami from contention from a mathematical standpoint but would leave them with just a 2% chance of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been excellent in recent showings, and will have to bring his A-game to get the better of a stingy Saints defense that is allowing just 20.4 points per contest and just shut out Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miami will ultimately relish their chances with Book earning his first career start at quarterback, but will still have to play a clean game of football if they hope to claim a victory.