As the Cincinnati Bengals prepare for their Week 14 matchup against the Houston Texans, there is plenty of talk about how this game is a must-win game for them, if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bengals still hold the sixth and final seed in the AFC and a win keeps them in but a loss could boot them out.
As important of a game that this is for the Bengals, it's just as important for the Texans. In the Houston Texans' nine-year history, they have never won more than nine games and they have never been to the playoffs. They are the NFL's youngest team, debuting in 2002, and if they win on Sunday in Cincinnati and if the Titans lose to the Saints, the Texans will win 10 games for the first time in their history and they'll also win the AFC South for the first time.
If the Texans lose, and the Titans would happen to pull off the upset, they could unlock the door that needs to be opened for the Titans to possibly make a run at the AFC South title. It may be unlikely, but if the Titans don't win, it's possible.
If the Bengals lose and teams like the Jets (who play the Chiefs) or the Broncos (who play the Bears) win, they'll fall to 7-6 and be booted out of the playoff picture by an 8-5 team. That's not to say that the Bengals couldn't win and get themselves back into the playoffs, but in order to do that they would likely have to win out, beating the Rams in St. Louis and the Cardinals and Ravens at home to have a chance. If they can win on Sunday, their chances of staying in the playoffs stays pretty high but if they lose those chances drop dramatically.
Each team has plenty to lose on Sunday and neither team will walk onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday thinking that they have the game in the bag. This game may come down to which team's defense plays better or which team is able to move the ball more on offense, but it may also come down to which team senses other teams nipping at their heals more. After losing three of the last four games, the Bengals have their back against the wall and that may be enough to make them fight harder on Sunday.
We'll have to wait and see.