FROM: USA Today
We’re headed down the stretch of the 2017 NFL season. With seven weeks left and the playoff contenders separating themselves from the pack, there are only so many games that will have a real impact on the remainder of the season. We’ve picked out the 20 games you need to watch over the next two months…
1. FALCONS AT SEAHAWKS
The defending NFC champs cannot afford to lose many more games if they’re going to make it back to the playoffs, and this one will let us know if their win over the Cowboys in Week 10 was a sign this team is ready to go on a run. It will also give us an opportunity to see how the Seahawks defense operates without Richard Sherman.
2. EAGLES AT COWBOYS
This is essentially the NFC East title game for Philadelphia. If the Eagles win, the division is theirs barring a late-season collapse. If the Cowboys win, the NFC East race gets a whole lot more interesting. If Tyron Smith and Sean Lee miss this one, Dallas doesn’t stand much of a chance.
3. RAMS AT VIKINGS
This game could end up deciding which team gets a first-round bye in the playoffs. It could also convince the Vikings to make the switch to Teddy Bridgewater if Case Keenum struggles against a good Rams defense.
4. VIKINGS AT LIONS
The Vikings can pretty much lock up the division with a win over Detroit on Thanksgiving. Minnesota will be able to stretch its lead out to three games with five to play if it can beat the Rams first. The Lions could be in position to move into first place depending on Week 11’s results.
5. SAINTS AT RAMS
Here’s another pivotal matchup in the race for the NFC’s top-two seeds. It’s also a great test for both the Rams offense and the Saints defense. Are both units for real, or have they been beating up on weak opponents? We’ll know after this game.
6. PANTHERS AT SAINTS
The Panthers will need this one if they have any shot at catching New Orleans in the NFC South. A win for the Saints could all but lock up the division depending on what Atlanta does.
7. EAGLES AT SEAHAWKS
The Eagles haven’t played the toughest of schedules thus far. They’ve played only two teams that currently have winning records, losing to the Chiefs and squeaking out a win against the Panthers in a game they dominated the turnover battle. This will be a great litmus test for the team that looks like the best in the NFL right now.
8. EAGLES AT RAMS
Here’s another chance for the Eagles to show out against one of the NFC’s best. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs could be on the line, as well. It’s also the first matchup between the 2016 NFL draft’s top picks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
9. VIKINGS AT PANTHERS
Will Teddy Bridgewater be in the starting lineup by this time? If so, it will be his first real test. This game should also tell us if the Panthers are a real threat in the NFC.
10. SEAHAWKS AT JAGUARS
Seattle will likely need this one to keep pace in the NFC West, and it will be the biggest test the upstart Jaguars face all season. The Seahawks have been the NFL’s gatekeepers in recent years.
11. SAINTS AT FALCONS
The NFC South’s fiercest rivalries could be an elimination game for the Falcons if they don’t go on a run in the next few weeks. It could also be the division clincher for New Orleans.
12. RAIDERS AT CHIEFS
If both of these teams continue on their current pace — Oakland is getting hot; the Chiefs are cooling down — then this one will likely decide which team wins the AFC West.
13. RAMS AT SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks will need to prove that their defense can operate without Richard Sherman if this game is going to matter. If Seattle can keep on winning without their star corner and keep up with Los Angeles in the standings, this game could be for the NFC West.
14. PATRIOTS AT STEELERS
These are clearly the two best teams in the AFC. The winner of this one should be the favorite to grab home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which could ultimately decide which one represents the conference in the Super Bowl.
15. FALCONS AT SAINTS
The Falcons have to win the first matchup for this one to matter. If Atlanta can pull off the upset, the NFC South will be up for grabs at this point. It’s also a good test for both the Falcons’ inconsistent offense and the Saints’ surprising defense.
16. SEAHAWKS AT COWBOYS
Both of these teams could be fighting for a Wild Card spot when this one rolls around. It should also be Ezekiel Elliott’s first game back from suspension, which adds another layer of intrigue.
17. RAIDERS AT EAGLES
Here’s another measuring stick for two young teams. The Eagles may need this one in order to keep their lead in the NFC East, and the Raiders could be fighting for their playoff lives at this point.
18. PANTHERS AT FALCONS
If the Saints falter down the stretch and both of these teams get hot, this game could be for the division title. Carolina could also be playing for a first-round bye depending on how things go in other divisions.
19. COWBOYS AT EAGLES
The Cowboys will not only need to beat Philly next Sunday night for this game to matter, but they’ll need to basically run the table as well. If they are able to do that, this will be one of the most hyped games in recent memory.
20. JAGUARS AT TITANS
There isn’t a whole lot separating the Jags and Titans right now, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they have identical records heading into what would be the AFC South title game. Which team breaks its playoff drought?