'Last Stand Weekend' for handful of playoff hopefuls


The critical moment has arrived for a rash of middling squads clinging to postseason dreams as Turkey Day approaches.

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The Titans are all but cooked after dropping two divisional tilts at home over a five-day span that saw Tennessee tumble from a gritty .500 to 4-6. We're not buying a team that can't handle the Jacksonville Jaguars or make use of a 14-point lead over the Indianapolis Colts at home Thursday night.

On the brink of extinction, Tennessee will have plenty of company if the following teams don't get it done Sunday:

Hovering near death

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)

Fellow Around The League scribes Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal still believe the Steelers can make it to January. I'm ready to count them out -- talent's an issue all over the roster -- but the presence of Ben Roethlisberger is a factor. Pittsburgh must take care of business at home against the Detroit Lions on Sunday or it's lights out in the Steel City.

New York Giants (3-6)

Like the Steelers, Big Blue has a franchise quarterback and a history of fighting its way out of a corner. The Giants more closely resemble a corpse than a contender, but they've won three in a row and now face the Aaron Rodgers-free Packers at MetLife. Tentatively alive in the punchless NFC East, New York enters must-win territory against Green Bay.

Washington Redskins (3-6)

Last year's Redskins turned 3-6 into a playoff berth. For Robert Griffin III and Co. to repeat the trick, they'll need to shut down an Eagles squad that torched them in Week 1. It's hard to believe in Washington, mainly because this defense couldn't slow down a middle-of-the-pack Pop Warner outfit.

Getting close

Cleveland Browns (4-5)

It's a boom-or-bust weekend for Cleveland. The Browns and Bengals haven't played a November tilt with playoff implications for both clubs since 1989. A win gives the Browns a sweep over the Bengals and legitimate hopes for winning the AFC North. A loss dumps them by the side of the road with a withering shot at a wild-card.

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Loser of Miami Dolphins (4-5) vs. San Diego Chargers (4-5)

Many moons ago, Miami was 3-0 and looking like a sexy pick in the AFC East. Now a picture of dysfunction, the Dolphins can't get out of their own way. The hot-and-cold Chargers are losers of two straight and still have the Broncos and a pair of clashes against the Chiefs on the horizon. There's little room for error.

Note: Our gang of Around the League scribes already wrote off the Bills, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, Buccaneers, Falcons and Vikings -- and added the Texans to that list on Thursday night.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed the AFC playoff picture.