Which Teams Can’t Afford To Lose On Sunday?


With a 16-game schedule, every single NFL game is vitally important if team’s have aspirations on making the postseason.  Although Week 2 is far from an actual “must-win” type of situation, there are a few games on this weekend’s slate that are very close to “must-win’s” for those teams involved.

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

With an embarrassing home loss already on the books for the defending NFC East champs, they can’t really afford to drop to 0-2, with two home losses including one inside the division.  On top of that, if Washington thinks they’re going to compete for the postseason they really can’t lose a game to a rookie quarterback who was a fourth-round pick (Dak Prescott).  Although 2015 worked out really well for the Redskins, the combination of Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden are far from proven and a major step back this season could cost both of them their jobs.

Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers

This should be everyone’s pick in their survivor pools as the defending NFC Champs 2016 season will have an entirely different outlook if they somehow drop a game to a 49ers team that most believe to be front-runners for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.  Although confidence doesn’t seem like it’s much of a problem for Ron Rivera’s squad, we know the history of what Super Bowl losers have done the following year and a loss to Chip Kelly and Blaine Gabbert can crush any team’s swagger.  To put it simply, the Panthers can’t lose on Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Bucs will head to the desert with as much confidence as they’ve had in years, and unlike the two preceding games, this should be a highly competitive affair.  With that said, the Cards dropped their home opener to a decimated New England Patriots team and a second straight home loss will most certainly put them behind the proverbial 8-ball.  Arizona can’t afford to potentially fall two games behind the Seahawks in the NFC West and really they can’t afford a loss in the conference when they’ll likely be in a tight race for a Wildcard, potentially with Tampa Bay.

San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

On paper this looks like a very even matchup.  San Diego has the more established quarterback, but Jacksonville has the better roster overall.  Why do the Chargers need to win it?  The national perception of the Jaguars is a team with talent who can’t seem to get out of their own way and if you lose this game at home to a team traveling over 2,300 miles across three time zones it’s simply not a good look.  Especially after you blew an 18-point lead in the second half last week.  At the end of the season it wouldn’t surprise anyone if both Mike McCoy and Gus Bradley were fired, and if the Chargers drop this one it will certainly accelerate those discussions in San Diego.

Oakland Raiders vs. Atlanta Falcons

Oakland looked very good on Week 1 and grabbed a much needed road victory in New Orleans.  If you looked at the first two games on their schedule at the Saints and home to the Falcons most would have thought that the Raiders would sign up for 1-1.  They already got the “1” and they can take the next step toward becoming a playoff team by simply winning the games they’re supposed to win.  The Raiders have a much better roster than the Falcons do and Atlanta’s wide receivers are banged up.  It’s time for Oakland to “get greedy” and take home another win and stay in first place in the AFC West.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.