Now just over the "midway" point of the 2017 NFL season, we can admit what we know, what we don't know, and what we thought we knew but were totally wrong about.
We thought that Tom Brady might be human, but he's not. We thought that the Chiefs might be a premium team, but they're only above average. We thought that the Seahawks were back, but they may have gone too far back. We thought that the Cowboys were gone, but they've been granted another stay.
With eight weeks left on the schedule, we should also have a good idea of which games will carry the most implications going forward, or at least provide the most pregame excitement and hype. Here are the much-watch games between now and the playoffs:
Saints @ Bills
Despite their ugly Thursday loss to the Jets, Buffalo's very much still alive for the playoffs and ending their 17-year postseason drought. A win over the Saints wouldn't just keep them in the Wild Card hunt, but it would be a strong win for the resume before facing the Patriots twice in the final five weeks. New Orleans is looking for its seventh straight win and the defense may actually be legit.
The Bucs had 11 drives vs NO- Football Perspective (@fbgchase) November 6, 2017
The median drive went for 8 yards.
The longest drive went for 45 yards.
The average drive went for 18 yards.
Giants @ 49ers
This game may not be a great one to watch, but it will potentially be the one with the most draft implications. San Francisco won't have a better shot than this to finally win a game. If not now, then it'll probably need to pull a road upset against Chicago or Houston. And if the Giants lose this one, it could be time to install Davis Webb as the starter as they'll be in the thick of the fight for the No. 1 overall pick, opening the door for the end of the Eli Manning era.
Cowboys @ Falcons
It could be the first of six games without Ezekiel Elliott for the Cowboys. Meanwhile the defending NFC Champions, now owners of a 4-4 record, should take any break they can get in what might be their last shot at staying in contention.
Titans @ Steelers, Thursday Night Football
Tennessee could definitely be a playoff team but a win over Pittsburgh makes it almost certain. The Steelers are the current No. 1 seed in the AFC after nine weeks, but it remains a close race between them, New England and a fading Chiefs team. The Titans could actually bypass Pittsburgh if they win their next two.
Rams @ Vikings
L.A. is the top scoring offense in the NFL (that phrase is weird for a number of reasons), but Minnesota hasn't allowed more than 17 points since Week 2. The idea that any one of these quarterbacks -- Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford -- could be a "playoff QB" in 2017 seems ludicrous, but inevitable.
Eagles @ Cowboys
It's not nearly as hard to imagine Dallas catching up to Philly in the NFC East if they win this game, but the Cowboys have lost three of their past four home meetings against the Eagles. Philly ends Week 9 with two more wins than any other NFC team, so by Week 11 they could be close to locking in a bye week.
Falcons @ Seahawks, Monday Night Football
A rematch of a divisional playoff game from last season but will these teams combine to score more than 30 points? It seems to be a game that could go either way right now, in terms of excitement and implications. Moments like this one seem like fading memories:
Bills @ Chiefs
Funny how quickly things can change in a few weeks, as Buffalo and Kansas City now each have three losses headed into Week 10. The Bills schedule gets a bit brutal from then on out. Will Kansas City still be trying to give the AFC West away to one of the other three teams who don't seem to want it?
Saints @ Rams
This is the potential "NFC Championship preview" that nobody is talking about … yet. The Rams got to relax against the Giants this week but have a series of tests in November and December that will really show if they've fully escaped Jeff Fisher's reign of errors. What hasn't changed is the fact that L.A.'s most important player is not the guy throwing the ball but someone who could be earning a record contract in 2018.
Eagles @ Cowboys, Thursday Night Football
In beating the Seahawks, Washington improved to 4-4, just one game back of Dallas for the current six seed. The Cowboys have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a 33-19 victory just a week ago. A loss here and Washington's victory in Seattle may be all for naught.
Patriots @ Bills
Can the Bills really be playing in this many key games? That all depends on if they can win two or three of them. But give Buffalo credit for protecting the ball (Tyrod Taylor has just two interceptions in eight games) and being above average on defense and special teams. The Patriots are not invincible this season. That being said, New England is 28-4 against the Bills dating back to Tom Brady's first season as the starter in 2001.
Classic Bills right here, I love it pic.twitter.com/DseCulyjsE- Patriots Militia (@PatsMilitia) November 3, 2017
Panthers @ Saints
Who knows what Carolina will look like in a week, let alone a month. They've held an opponent to three points three times this season but also suffered double-digit losses to the Bears and Saints. New Orleans could be looking to gain a stranglehold over the NFC South with a win over Carolina in Week 13.
Eagles @ Seahawks, Sunday Night Football
It's pretty hard to think that the Seahawks could come back to challenge the Eagles for positioning in the NFC at this point, just by the way the two teams are playing. In terms of records though, Seattle gets the advantage of hosting Philly in primetime, so they'd only need to gain one game on them for the rest of their remaining schedules. The Seahawks are 3-0 against the Eagles under Pete Carroll, though it doesn't feel like that will help them much this year.
hey pete, this game might come down to a field goal pic.twitter.com/mvXa3obwfE- Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) November 5, 2017
Packers @ Browns
Back to another game in which there are no playoff implications but plenty to consider in terms of the draft. This is probably Cleveland's best shot to win a game in 2017, which would've sounded insane if Aaron Rodgers was on the opposite side of the field, but they could in fact be favored against Brett Hundley. File this for "#funfacts" with your friends: As of now, the last QB to win a game for the Browns was Robert Griffin III. The quarterback prior to RG3 to win a game for Cleveland? Johnny Manziel.
Vikings @ Panthers
I think that the Saints are better than the Panthers (and over enough time, the Falcons may be too), and that the Vikings are just taking the North by default, but this could still be a meeting between two division leaders in December.
Seahawks @ Jaguars
Jacksonville could have the top defense in the NFL, perhaps officially taking that crown away from Seattle. Both the Jags and Seahawks will be in their respective playoff races in December and a loss could really muck things up for either of them. It's funny to think about this after the Jaguars modeled themselves after Seattle for years under Gus Bradley, then fired him, and are now starting to finally realize that potential in his absence. The Seahawks are at least used to being traumatized by Calais Campbell.
Even Blake Bortles is starting get praise:
Eagles @ Rams
The gauntlet continues for Sean McVay, this time in hosting the probable top seed in the NFC. That is, unless they can come into this game on a hot streak as potentially the new team to beat in the conference. It's strange, but it could be possible.
Ravens @ Steelers, Sunday Night Football
It's hard to imagine a Baltimore-Pittsburgh Sunday night game meaning nothing, but the Ravens have basically zero margin for error.
Chargers @ Chiefs
If there is a team that could challenge Kansas City in the West, maybe it's the Chargers. They have a quarterback, running back, offensive weapons, a top corner and two pass rushers on pace for over 16 sacks, plus a third on pace for 10. If nothing else, L.A. has been entertaining to watch.
Rams @ Seahawks
This harkens back to the time these teams faced off in 2010 for the division title, except that those teams both had losing records. Now the Rams are good again, while the Seahawks have taken a few steps backwards on offense. All in all, this an intriguing intra-division battle for the first time since the early 2000s.
Patriots @ Steelers
Easily the top two teams in the AFC right now, there isn't a better possible NFL matchup than New England vs Pittsburgh. Maybe a lot will change between now and then (certainly a lot has changed between now and a few weeks ago when KC was dominating) but Tom Brady against the Steelers defense should provide for an exciting 60 minutes of football. Same goes for Antonio Brown likely eating the Patriots defense for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fourth meal. The winner of this game could determine homefield advantage in the AFC.
Steelers look just good enough to lose to the Patriots in the AFC Title game again, I see.- Robert Zeglinski (@RobertZeglinski) October 30, 2017
Bills @ Patriots
If the Bills win round one, then round two becomes that much more important. If not, then this probably won't make much of an impact. The Bills have won two of their last three games at Gillette Stadium, but one of those came in a Week 17 game featuring a lot of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Seahawks @ Cowboys
If the Falcons game is Elliott's first game on suspension, then this will be his first game back. Both franchises have some serious issues to fix, but for the Seahawks, it's on offense, while the Cowboys need to shape up their defense. Those holes mean that either team could be fighting for their playoff lives in Week 16 and Dallas may have the advantage here by playing at home and potentially getting a healthy -- and motivated -- Elliott back on the field.
Cowboys @ Eagles
The biggest potential here is for Dallas to be fighting for a playoff berth and Philly to be looking for the No. 1 seed. It is unlikely that the Cowboys would be in the race for the East, but I guess you never know. Carson Wentz vs Dak Prescott is definitely looking like a premier division matchup for many more years to come, December or otherwise.
Panthers @ Falcons
Maybe a Wild Card spot is on the line, here. Maybe more.
Jaguars @ Titans
This is the game in Week 17 that is most likely to be flexed to the Sunday night because of playoff implications. The Titans and Jags are currently tied atop the AFC South, which is surprisingly not true of any other division. This could be the number one defense and a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year (Leonard Fournette) on the road against Marcus Mariota, a top rushing attack, and Kevin Byard, the NFL leader in interceptions right now. Tennessee hasn't made the playoffs since 2008 and Jacksonville hasn't been there since 2007, but this could somehow still end up as the final game of the regular season. And for good reason.
The Titans won 37-16 in Week 2, but a lot has changed since then.