The second half of the 2017 NFL season gets rolling this week as teams start to jockey for playoff berths. Here's a preview of this week's action:

Sunday, November 12

The Saints Have Been Surprisingly Good

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints
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New Orleans at Buffalo | New Era Field, Buffalo, N.Y.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox

After three consecutive years of 7–9 finishes, New Orleans (6–2) didn't figure to be a threat in the NFC this season. Surprise! Thanks to the ageless Drew Brees and an improved defense that ranks ninth in the league in points allowed per game (19.4), the Saints lead the NFC South and trail only the Eagles in wins.

Brees and Co. will need to play mistake-free football this Sunday when they visit Buffalo (5–3), arguably the most surprising team in the AFC this season. The Bills' great year suffered a hiccup in last week's turnover-filled loss to the Jets, but the expectation is that they'll return to their takeaway-leading ways this week. The New Orleans defense will likely see a lot of Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy. Whether or not they can stop him is the key to this game.

The Rams Are a Playoff Contender

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants
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Houston at L.A. Rams | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Face it: First-year head coach Sean McVay has already locked up NFL Coach of the Year and it's only the halfway point of the season. Led by McVay's innovative offense, Los Angeles (6–2) has been an exciting team that's already far surpassed their expectations for this year. Why stop now? With another win in sight this week, the team is well on its way to a playoff berth.

This Sunday, the Rams will use quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley to dissect the once-formidable Texans defense. While Houston (3–5) is still good against the run, the 26 points per game they yield on average illustrates that the defense isn't elite anymore. Worse, the Texans offense will be without injured quarterback Deshaun Watson, relying on Tom Savage to find a way to beat the aggressive L.A. defense.

The Cowboys & Falcons Are Still Among the NFC'S Best Teams

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys
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Dallas at Atlanta | Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox

Sure, the Eagles, Saints, Rams, Vikings and Panthers all have more wins, but
Dallas (5–3) and Atlanta (4–4) are talented and experienced teams that the former group would rather not see in the postseason. Don't bet against them making it there.

With their win over the Chiefs last Sunday, the Cowboys demonstrated they haven't given up on this season. As long as the elite offensive line continues to open holes and Dak Prescott avoids turnovers, Dallas will continue to win with or without in-limbo running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Falcons defense defends the pass better than the run, so the Cowboys would like to have Elliott this week (if the courts allow it).

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan hasn't been as good this year as he was while winning the MVP last season, but a Dallas defense that has just four interceptions this season might be exactly what he and Julio Jones need to kick-start a playoff run. Both of these teams need this win, but neither will be finished if they don't get it.

This Could Be the 49ers' Best Shot at a Win

Arizona Cardinals vs San Francisco 49ers
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N.Y. Giants at San Francisco | Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox

The New York Giants (1–7) stink, but the San Francisco 49ers (0–9) are worse. Two of the NFL's most dreadful teams will meet during the coveted 4:25 p.m. (ET) time slot this Sunday to show millions of fans just how badly professional football can be played. Maybe this is why ratings are down?

For San Francisco, this is perhaps their last, best chance to avoid an 0–16 season. They'll need to take advantage of the Giants' general discontent and play a mistake-free game to win. Rookie C.J. Beathard gets the start at quarterback this week, not recently acquired Jimmy Garoppolo.

Somehow, both of those quarterbacks have brighter futures than New York's two-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning. Plagued with a leaky offensive line and an embarrassing lack of talent around him in the backfield, Manning is suffering through a bad season. He's been sacked 19 times, fumbled six times and thrown six interceptions. The Niners' defense won't scare him, but he'll still have to win this game on his own. This will likely be 60 minutes of ugly football.

Can the Patriots Extend the Broncos' Skid?

Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagle
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New England at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Ho-hum, another NFL season has reached its halfway point with the Patriots leading the AFC East. Thanks to early losses to the Chiefs and the Panthers, New England (6–2) doesn't seem unbeatable, but they certainly seem like they'll be headed back to the postseason thanks to NFL passing yards leader Tom Brady.

This week, Brady will have to avoid Von Miller and the Broncos persistent pass rush. Given the anemic offense of Denver (3–5), getting to Brady and scoring on defense is maybe the Broncos best hope to pull an upset and end their four-game losing streak. Avoiding turnovers and controlling the clock would be smart, too. Not sure either Denver quarterback — Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler — is up to that challenge, even against the Pats' sometimes awful defense.

Other Games:

Thursday, November 9
Seattle at Arizona | U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Sunday, November 12
Green Bay at Chicago | Soldier Field, Chicago; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Cleveland at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Cincinnati at Tennessee | Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
N.Y. Jets at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Minnesota at Washington | FedEx Field, Landover, Md. ; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
L.A. Chargers at Jacksonville | EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Monday, November 13
Miami at Carolina | Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Bye Week:
Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Baltimore

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