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Shutdown Corner

The eight best games in the second-half of the 2011 NFL season

Chris Chase
Shutdown Corner

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With eight weeks left in the NFL season, Shutdown Corner looks at the eight best remaining games on the schedule.

8. New England Patriots at New York Jets -- Nov. 13 -- 8:20 p.m. ET -- NBC

A Patriots win gives them a virtual two-game lead over New York in the AFC East. Since 2006, the Pats have swept the Jets just once, during the 2009 undefeated regular season. One downside to this game: With the Ravens and Steelers finishing their season series last weekend, the two best division rivalries in the AFC are wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

7. Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers -- Dec. 25  -- 8:20 p.m. ET -- NBC

All I want for Christmas is for the Bears to still be in the playoff hunt and for the Packers to have something (like home-field advantage or an undefeated season) to play. That and an iPad.

[Related: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads 2011 NFL All-Midseason team]

6. Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots -- Jan. 1 -- Times and networks to be announced

The NFL plays a full schedule on New Year's Day this season for the first time since 2005. As of now, it's looking like Week 17 could be as exciting as last year's was boring (remember that Rams-Seahawks Sunday night game?) with five games between teams right in the thick of the current playoff race. Eight weeks from now, who knows: We'll probably be stuck with Kansas City vs. Denver getting flexed to the NBC Sunday night slot.

[Video: Julio Jones is Falcons' missing piece]

5. New York Giants at New Orleans Saints -- Nov. 28 (Monday) -- 8:30 p.m ET -- ESPN

A fantastic Thanksgiving weekend of football is capped with the Giants' visit to New Orleans. The last time these two teams played in the Big Easy, both entered with 5-0 records. New Orleans won in a blowout, 48-27, sending the Giants on a 3-8 spiral to finish the year. The Saints? They went on to win the Super Bowl.{YSP:more}

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4. Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers -- Dec. 19 (Monday) -- 8:30 p.m. ET -- ESPN

ESPN's second-half schedule is filled with watchable games, some of which, like Monday's Bears-Eagles matchup, may even provide some weekday entertainment for a change. (Save for the Seahawks-Rams game on Dec. 12.) This one, between teams which could be competing for playoff byes and home-field, is the best.

3. New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys -- Dec. 11 -- 8:20 p.m. ET -- NBC

The Giants and Cowboys meet twice in the final four weeks of the season. This matchup in Dallas could go a long way to determining the stakes for the Week 17 game.

2. San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens -- Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving) -- 8:20 p.m. ET -- NFL Network

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh on Thanksgiving night. When this game was first announced in the spring, it seemed like it would be a primetime game with a nice storyline for analysts to beat into the ground for four days prior. Now it's an awesome primetime game with a nice storyline for analysts to beat into the ground for four days prior.

1. Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions -- Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving) -- 12:30 p.m. ET -- Fox

Remember all those folks who said Detroit should have their Thanksgiving day game taken away? I'm assuming they'll be quiet in two weeks when the upstart Lions host the Packers in the most exciting Thanksgiving game in Detroit since Barry Sanders was in the backfield.

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