The NFL heads into its final six-week stretch with several key games in Week 12. Here are the five storylines we'll be watching:

The AFC Playoffs (Sort of) Start This Weekend

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. (ET)
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. (ET)
O.Co Coliseum, Oakland — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:05 p.m. (ET)

While the post-season isn't scheduled to officially begin until January, several AFC teams are playing for their lives — and the right to stay in the hunt for the last wild card spot — this weekend. Right now, the New York Jets (5-5) would be the last team in the playoffs. They'll face the Ravens (4-6) at Baltimore this weekend. It's probably the last stand for the defending Super Bowl champs and the last shot for the Jets to get on a roll. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6) and Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6) will also decide which mediocre teams stay in the AFC playoff chase. Miami (5-5), San Diego (4-6) and Buffalo (4-7) are all in the mix, too.

Will the Chiefs Have a Hangover?

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. (ET)

After suffering their first loss of the 2013 season, Kansas City (9-1) returns home to Arrowhead Stadium for a game against the Chargers (4-6). The Chiefs should be able to get past San Diego and keep pace with Denver in the AFC West race, but there could be a hangover from the season's first defeat and the pending charges around Dwyane Bowe's arrest for marijuana possession. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is having a solid year. The Chiefs' pass rush can't come up empty like it did against Peyton Manning in Denver last Sunday and hope to win.

The Giants Face a True Starting Quarterback

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)

The New York Giants (4-6) are among the NFL's hottest teams, winning four games in a row after losing their first six contests. Before anyone gets carried away with talk of another Super Bowl-like run being made by quarterback Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin, they should note the quarterbacks Big Blue has beaten for those wins: terrible Josh Freeman; deer-in-headlights Matt Barkley; slowed-by-injury Terrelle Pryor and new-to-the-NFL Scott Tolzien. This Sunday, the New York defense must stop Tony Romo and the Cowboys (5-5). Dallas has found a way to lose several games it should have won, but its offense hasn't been the problem. It may become one for the Giants.

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, Again

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. — Sunday, Nov. 24 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Broncos don't actually play against each other on the football field, but they have created a natural rivalry steeped in respect — and incredible performances. Denver (9-1) is the AFC's best team, but Manning is just 4-9 against Brady over their careers. New England (7-3) could still be smarting from the controversial non-call at the end of their loss in Carolina on Monday, but it's hard to imagine anything but a classic shootout for this Sunday's game.

What a Difference a Year Makes

FedEx Field, Landover, Md. — Monday, Nov. 25 at 8:40 p.m. (ET)

Last season, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick led Washington and San Francisco, respectively, to NFC playoff berths. This season? Griffin has struggled in his return from a knee injury, as the Redskins (3-7) have stumbled. The 49ers (6-4) have a better record than Washington, but defenses have given Kaepernick fits. The two young quarterbacks will try to change their momentum in the Monday night match-up.