Every game should be considered a “must win” in the NFL, but teams currently in the midst of a losing streak have added pressure to snap their slump and get back into the win column.
Here are six teams—including four with losing streaks of at least three games—in desperate need of a victory in Week 6:
San Diego Chargers
Three straight losses and a 1-4 record means the Chargers’ season appears all but over after five games, especially with the Broncos and Raiders both entering Week 6 at 4-1. But if San Diego has any possible way back into postseason contention, it has to start with a win Thursday night against Denver.
Recent history is working against the Chargers’ odds of an upset. San Diego has beat the Broncos just once in the last 10 meetings, and quarterback Philip Rivers has at least one interception in four straight regular-season games against Denver (all losses). San Diego will have to overcome both troubling trends to keep its season alive on Thursday night.
New York Giants
The optimism of New York’s 2-0 start has vanished, with three straight losses dropping the Giants into last place in the surprisingly strong NFC East. It’ll now take a win on Sunday over the Ravens to prevent a four-game losing streak and an even bigger gap between the Giants and the Cowboys (4-1), as well as the Eagles (3-1).
The Giants could certainly use more from Eli Manning and a struggling pass rush. Manning has three interceptions and a 73.8 passer rating over the three-game losing streak, while the Giants’ pass rush—which includes newly acquired defensive end Olivier Vernon—ranks last in the NFL with just four sacks. Sunday’s showdown with the Ravens—who are riding their own two-game losing streak—would be a good time for Manning and Vernon to deliver a slump-busting win.
Arguably no team is facing a bigger “must-win game” in Week 6 than the Panthers, who are 1-4 and in desperate need of a season-altering victory. Losers of three straight, Carolina finds itself looking up in the standings at the 4-1 Atlanta Falcons and seven other NFC teams with three or more wins.
Sunday brings the defending NFC champions to New Orleans, where Drew Brees and the Saints are coming off a bye. The Panthers played on Monday night. The scheduling circumstances are going to make it physically and mentally draining for Carolina to get a win on the road, but the Panthers don’t have much of a choice. Falling to 0-3 in the division and 1-5 overall would be catastrophic, especially with teams such as the Cardinals, Chiefs, Raiders, Seahawks and Falcons left on Carolina’s 2016 schedule.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs headed into their Week 5 bye with an embarrassing 43-14 defeat, and now Kansas City will exit the off week with a difficult trip to Oakland to play the surging Raiders. A loss could be devastating for the Chiefs, even this early in the season. If the Broncos win on Thursday night and the Raiders beat the Chiefs on Sunday, Kansas City would already be three games behind both Oakland and Denver in the AFC West.
The Chiefs can’t let that happen. Kansas City swept both games against the Raiders last season, with both victories coming during the 10-game winning streak to end the season. A win could get the Chiefs on another roll, especially with games against the Saints, Colts and Jaguars up next.
New York Jets/Arizona Cardinals
The Jets and Cardinals both need a win on Monday night, so they are listed together here. New York is currently riding a three-game losing streak, while the Cardinals—who lost all of three games last year—are 2-3 and looking at a brutal schedule after Week 6.
The Jets probably need the win more, considering a loss would send New York to 1-5 and likely result in a lost season. But the Cardinals can’t afford a fourth defeat, especially with upcoming games against the Seahawks, Panthers, Vikings and Falcons over the next five weeks. The loser on Monday night is going to be in trouble.
Tennessee Titans: The AFC South is wide open, and the Titans have a golden opportunity to get back to .500 when the winless Browns travel to Tennessee on Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams: There’s nothing easy about winning on the road in the NFL. But if the Rams are serious about sticking around as a playoff contender, Los Angeles has to leave Detroit with a win on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are an early candidate for disaster of the year, but beating the 4-1 Steelers in Miami on Sunday could start things in the right direction for first-year head coach Adam Gase.
Cincinnati Bengals: A loss to the Patriots on Sunday would drop the Bengals to 2-4 to start 2016. Cincinnati is talented and experienced enough to climb out of such a hole, but it wouldn’t be easy.