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  • A handful of teams are near-locks to be playing in January, but for the NFL's other franchises, some level of panic is likely beginning to settle in.
By Conor Orr
November 21, 2017

There is no in-season respite for any NFL team, but the Philadelphia Eagles (9–1), New England Patriots (8–2), Minnesota Vikings (8–2), Pittsburgh Steelers (8–2) and New Orleans Saints (8–2) are as close to easy street as it gets with six games left on the schedule.

For everyone else, panic is a part of the lifestyle. How much would another loss affect their level of concern? We take a look here:

AFC

Baltimore Ravens (5–5)
Next opponent: Houston Texans (11/27)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM

Let’s get this out of the way first: The AFC playoff race beyond a few teams is disastrous. Baltimore could theoretically drop a game to Houston and still be alright (they’re currently fending off the Bills for the sixth seed). Still, I’m sure head coach John Harbaugh would like to break out of this clunky phase and get his team back above .500.

Jaguars (7–3)
Next opponent: Arizona Cardinals (11/26)
Panic level with loss: LOW

Jacksonville is playing its best defensive football of the year now that Marcell Dareus has rounded out their unit. A loss would keep them still very much in the playoff race. With the Titans reeling, Doug Marrone and Co. could afford a slip up, though executive vice president Tom Coughlin is always famous for saying he’s never “comfortable,” no matter what.

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Titans (6–4)
Next opponent: Colts (11/26)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM

Here’s why the Titans need to worry about a loss to the Colts this Sunday: If they do, they’re squandering what could be a golden opportunity over the next month to gnaw at the Jaguars’ divisional lead. Their next four opponents—Indianapolis, Houston, Arizona and San Francisco—have a combined 12 wins. If a team with decent defensive talent and Marcus Mariota can’t navigate this lost forest of quarterbacks, they shouldn’t be in the playoffs anyway.

Chiefs (6–4)
Next opponent: Buffalo Bills (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

While the AFC West is still sleeping behind them, a loss to the free-falling Bills on Sunday would mark five losses in six games and two straight losses to inferior opponents. Will the Giants game serve as a wake up call for Andy Reid and Co? Because the Chargers just put up a 50-spot on Buffalo last weekend and look to be stirring.

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Bills (5–5)
Next opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

This is an early career-defining moment for head coach Sean McDermott, who benched a popular team captain quarterback while the team was still in the playoff picture for a rookie that chucked five interceptions in a blowout loss to the Chargers on Sunday. Dipping below .500 after the inspiring start would start raising some uncomfortable questions.

Dolphins (4–6)
Next opponent: New England Patriots (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

As bad as the AFC playoff picture looks right now, the Dolphins would essentially guarantee their ouster with a loss to New England. Adam Gase’s team still has both of their Patriot and Bill games remaining on the schedule, as well as the Chiefs and Broncos. While some of these teams are certainly not playing their best football, there is no room for error.

Jets (4–6)
Next opponent: Carolina Panthers (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

The Jets’ remaining schedule is brutal: Panthers, Chiefs, Broncos, Saints, surging Chargers and Patriots. The key for head coach Todd Bowles is to find two wins, almost guaranteeing him the right to come back after the team shed its most tenured veterans before the start of the season.

Bengals (4–6)
Next opponent: Cleveland Browns (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

The Bengals have a harder remaining schedule than the Ravens, who are essentially their pace-setters right now. There’s certainly room to rise, but dipping to 4-7 with games against the Steelers, Vikings and Lions remaining on the schedule is a recipe for disaster.

Texans (4–6)
Next opponent: Baltimore Ravens (11/27)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

I think we’re all on the same page here—Houston needs a miracle to hang around. No J.J. Watt, no Deshaun Watson. They are the definition of the NFL’s deep, underwhelming middle of okay teams.

Chargers (4–6)
Next opponent: Dallas Cowboys (11/23)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

A game against the frustrated Cowboys on the road, on Thanksgiving will be a great test for Anthony Lynn and the Chargers. As we saw this past weekend, it’s an offense capable of lighting up the scoreboard and a defense capable of ruining afternoons. Now, can they do it against Dak Prescott without Nathan Peterman spotting them five picks?

Raiders (4–6)
Next opponent: Denver Broncos (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

How surprising that the Raiders ended up being the paper tiger of this season. Obviously losing Derek Carr for a brief period of time changes things, but with a loss to the Broncos this weekend, they could essentially see themselves wiped out of the mix altogether.

NFC

Seahawks (6–4)
Next opponent: San Francisco 49ers (11/26)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM/HIGH

Seattle is jockeying for position with a young Los Angeles Rams team that was beaten convincingly by the Vikings this weekend and still has games against the Saints, Eagles and Seahawks remaining on their schedule. If I’m Pete Carroll, I’m not pushing the panic button yet, but the loss to Atlanta on Monday did expose his injured secondary.

Rams (7–3)
Next opponent: Saints (11/26)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM/HIGH

The Rams are in a difficult spot. Even after dazzling the NFL over the first half of the season, they will not receive the benefit of the doubt. Sean McVay is a brilliant offensive mind but not yet a proven commodity when the boat starts to rock. A second straight loss to a premiere opponent would make me a tad uneasy.

Panthers (7–3)
Next opponent: New York Jets (11/26)
Panic level with loss: LOW

With the Jets, Jameis Winston-less Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers-less Packers remaining on the schedule, there are places to get their wins. Still, a loss to New York would be a fairly shattering blow to Cam Newton’s confidence. Newton is hard to stop when he’s on a roll.

Lions (6–4)
Next opponent: Lions (11/23)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM/HIGH

In what will be the premiere matchup on Thanksgiving, the Lions have a chance to make the NFC North infinitely more interesting against the division-leading Vikings. If they don’t, they’ll slump to 6-5, forcing them to pray for the Seahawks or Rams to crash.

Falcons (6–4)
Next opponent: Buccaneers (11/26)
Panic level with loss: MEDIUM/HIGH

The win over Seattle had to be a weight off Dan Quinn’s shoulders. But … look at Atlanta’s remaining schedule after next Sunday’s Tampa Bay game: Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa, New Orleans, Carolina. That’s absolutely brutal. If Quinn’s team is making the playoffs, they must go on a run at some point. This schedule is not conducive to rattling off victories.

Packers (5–5)
Next opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

Plain and simple, it’s difficult to see this team going on a starlit run without Aaron Rodgers.

Cowboys (5–5)
Next opponent: San Diego Chargers (11/23)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

The Cowboys are now the projected 10 seed. The Eagles have all but locked up the NFC East and, despite a moderately friendly series of games coming up against Washington, New York and Oakland, they have not shown the ability to scare opposing defenses sans Ezekiel Elliott.

Redskins (4–6)
Next opponent: New York Giants (11/23)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

A loss to the Giants would almost certainly wipe them out of playoff consideration.

Cardinals (4–6)
Next opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

The Cardinals always had long playoff odds once the Rams caught fire. A Jaguars loss would put them into full draft prep mode.

Buccaneers (4–6)
Next opponent: Atlanta Falcons (11/26)
Panic level with loss: HIGH

With games against the Saints, Panthers and Lions remaining on the schedule, 7–9 would be a minor miracle for Tampa Bay.

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