The Baltimore Ravens are set to face the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in a few days. A game that will be the first primetime contest on Monday Night in M&T Bank Stadium since 2012. Baltimore currently holds the sixth seed in the playoffs, but the Texans are right behind the Ravens at 4-6, and a win would put the two teams even, though Houston will have the advantage.
Before Monday, the Ravens will watch Sunday's series of games to see how each contender plays out in Week 12. Thursday didn't help the Ravens much at all in the standings, as the Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in convincing fashion 28-6. The Chargers are now 5-1 since their 0-4 start, and are red-hot with a balanced offense and a dangerous pass-rush led by Joey Bosa. With the Chargers getting a big win, let's take a look at the other key games on Sunday for Baltimore.
I know, I know. It's ridiculously hard for any fan base outside New England to root for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Not only that, this is virtually the second straight week for this case with the Patriots beating the Oakland Raiders last week that benefited Baltimore. The Dolphins are just in a tailspin right now, losing four straight games and have lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler for this contest with the Patriots due to a concussion. Matt Moore will start in his place, and while he is a capable backup, this will not be easy traveling to Gillette Stadium against the best team in the NFL. At 4-6, the Dolphins desperately need a win against their division rivals. Going 4-7 with another date with New England in two weeks could pretty much eliminate Miami.
The New York Jets might be the most surprising team in the NFL, and you could argue their record should be a lot better than 4-6 when you look at the way they let games against the Patriots, Dolphins, and Atlanta Falcons get away from them. Coming off another game that they never should've lost against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago, the Jets will take on the suddenly red-hot Carolina Panthers unit at the Meadowlands. Despite this being at MetLife Stadium, the Panthers should be heavy favorites coming in with a better roster on paper, and getting even deadlier with the return of tight end Greg Olsen. Both these two teams face must-win scenarios Sunday, with both competing for wild-card spots. Carolina is still one-game back of the first place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and will travel to the Superdome next week in a huge showdown that could decide the division. The Panthers can't overlook a scrappy Jets team that, despite losing four of their last five, is playing their hearts out every game and playing for head coach Todd Bowles. Contrary to popular belief before the season, this Jets team is not the worst roster in football. It's actually pretty talented.
Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
A heated battle between two bitter rivals will take place late in the season, but just not in the way many envisioned. You could argue the Raiders are the most disappointing team in the NFL along with the New York Giants and Buccaneers. This is a Raiders team that was supposed to win this division and make a serious case to be the top team in the AFC. That hasn't come to pass thanks to a defense that hasn't grabbed an interception all season, leading to the firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton, and an offense with no running game. Translating into a very disappointing season for Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos on the other hand are a mess on offense, and will now go with their third quarterback this season in Paxton Lynch. Denver has been in a straight free fall and their early season win over the Cowboys now is a distant memory. Team president John Elway has called his team "soft", players are now getting into fights, and the team just fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The Raiders are the better team with the home-field advantage and desperation on their side. The Ravens will hope Lynch and the Broncos have a big game in them.
This is the biggest game to watch for the Ravens on Sunday, and it's also the one that is the most difficult to determine. This game at Arrowhead Stadium could go either way with two teams desperately looking for a win after hitting a rough patch. The Bills started off 5-2, but have not only lost three straight, they have been dominated by the Jets, Saints, and Chargers. The Bills benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor after the loss to the Saints for rookie Nathan Peterman, but the rookie would put out a horrible performance against Los Angeles. Throwing five interceptions in the first half, and Taylor came right back in for the second half and will indeed start this week. You could blink and the Nathan Peterman era in Buffalo was over. What's happened to the Chiefs is very surprising and I just can't figure out why. This is a team that got off to such a hot start and began the season 5-0. They looked like the best team in the AFC and their win over the Patriots was a big reason to believe in Andy Reid and Alex Smith's team. However, Kansas City has hit a massive funk by losing four of their last five, and they just lost to the now 2-10 Giants. That win over New England that set the NFL by storm for the Chiefs now means nothing. The question is can Kansas City find their fire back after suffering a gut-wrenching loss and now have the Chargers suddenly coming after them for the AFC West crown. The Ravens certainly hope so, as Buffalo is currently in the seventh spot in the AFC playoff picture.