Josh Adams, Andrew Luck among pivotal figures for 6-6 teams

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Six-and-six and ready to take on terra firma -- or something like that.

As we dive into Week 14 action, the league is brimming with a squadron of .500 football teams, clubs hanging on the fringe of the playoff picture and knowing that a juicy stretch run will spell the difference between January play and a long winter's dirt nap.

It's hard to take a handful of these teams seriously, but it's too early to count them out. With that in mind, here's who matters most this week from the NFL's gaggle of 6-6 anti-wonders:

1) Undrafted Eagles rookie runner Josh Adams: The Super Bowl champions have been nothing short of an enigma. This twisting-and-turning, milquetoast operation has spent all year in a slumber, but is Philly finally waking to the light?

What I like about the Eagles over the past few weeks is the emergence of Adams, the first-year back who is morphing into a workhorse with 42 carries for 169 yards and a score over the past two weeks. His 22 totes in Week 12 were the most by a Philly runner since Ryan Mathews equaled that load in the 2016 opener. With Corey Clement helping through the air and Darren Sproles back in business -- the 35-year-old Sproles looked spry on "Monday Night Football" after missing the previous 10 games with a hamstring injury -- the Eagles finally appear to have a formula in place after losing Jay Ajayi to injured reserve in October.

Just in time, too, with a season-defining showdown against the Cowboys on tap for Sunday afternoon in Dallas. Coming off a stunning, perception-altering win over the Saints, the well-rested 'Boys are playing their best football of the season and have the chance to all but deep-six the defending Super Bowl champs. Another high-volume effort from Adams is key to keeping Philly's heart beating for one more week.

2) The gloriously watchable Andrew Luck: An ugly loss to the Jaguars now sits in the rearview mirror. Was that white-knuckle setback a blip on the radar or a sign that Indy's offense is less than we believed?

As with the Eagles, the Colts roam into must-win territory against a surging, AFC South-leading Texans team that snuffed out the Browns with ease last Sunday. It's not just Deshaun Watson and the offense, but a Texans defense that has collected seven takeaways over the past three games.

I still believe in the Colts as an AFC entry that could beat anyone, anywhere on the right afternoon. That faith begins with a healthy and well-protected Luck, who -- outside of last week's out-of-character tumble against Jalen Ramsey and the Jags -- has been chugging along at MVP levels for weeks on end. If he can't halt Houston's months-long win streak, though, the Colts are all but cooked in the derby for a playoff invite.

3) Yet another undrafted ground gem in Denver's Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay won't be the last player on Earth to be whiffed on by every single NFL front office. The Broncos at least gave the Colorado native a shot when so many others couldn't get past his 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame.

I went back to check NFL.com's scouting report on Lindsay, who is days removed from lashing the woeful Bengals for 157 yards and two scores off 19 carries. It reads as such:

"Lindsay's lack of desired size may limit his draft stock somewhat, but his versatility as a running back, pass catcher and special teams contributor should work in his favor," wrote a forward-thinking Lance Zierlein, who drew a positive comparison to Washington's Chris Thompson. "Lindsay plays with unbridled passion that is infectious on the field. [He] has the ability to handle inside running duties and blitz protection despite his size. His football character and field demeanor give him a good chance of becoming a solid backup in the league."

Zierlein also wrote that Lindsay's "feet move like beaters of a hand mixer," which is an ideal description of a player who simply pops off the screen. The rookie sits fourth among all backs with 937 yards on the ground, while his 6.08 yards per carry looms as the third-most in a season since 1970.

Beyond all that, he's simply fun to watch. Lindsay's juicy ability to slice through defenses with jaw-dropping directional cuts and a mixture of rocket speed and surprising toughness makes him a raging original -- apparently too original for the rash of front offices who passed him by. With wideout Emmanuel Sanders lost for the year with a torn Achilles tendon, this hamstrung attack needs Lindsay more than ever to keep the train moving this Sunday against the Niners.

4) Panthers coach Ron Rivera: Riding -- or being run over during -- a four-game losing streak, the flailing Panthers have gone from a popular pick to spin January chaos to an also-ran running on life support. Cam Newton's tweaked throwing shoulder is a major concern, the defense is a shadow of seasons past and whispers have bubbled up over a potential organizational blowup.

Amid reports that newly anointed team owner David Tepper might be tempted to start over with a new coach, Ron Rivera -- one of the game's more reliable frontmen -- refused to discuss his future this week, telling reporters: "I am not going to answer that question. Do not ask that question again, please."

Defensive backs coach Jeff Imamura was dumped this week after his charges allowed an NFL-worst 10:0 touchdown-to-pick ratio and a 125.2 passer rating during the team's four-game skid. With the pass rush fading away and the run defense struggling, the club also canned defensive line coach Brady Hoke. Brass tacks: It's never a good sign when the head coach is prompted to unfurl a string of staff firings before Christmas.

The questions won't stop for Rivera until the Panthers etch a win -- and more than one -- turning Sunday's road tilt with the plucky Browns into one of the biggest games of Rivera's career.

Last time the Panthers played against the Browns, in Charlotte back in 2014, Rivera's defense put a massive hurt on a deer-in-the-headlights Johnny Manziel. Four seasons later, that troublesome signal-caller is a fading memory replaced by the real deal in Baker Mayfield, a quarterback who shrugged off a three-pick first half against the Texans to throw for a career-high 397 yards -- the most ever by a Cleveland rookie in a single game.

The Browns are imperfect, but they're also the type of team you don't want to deal with if you're trying to end a losing skid. It's now or never for the Panthers and their embattled coach.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @marcsesslernfl. Listen to Marc on the "Around The NFL Podcast" three times a week.

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