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What Week 8 means for the 2021 NFL playoff picture

We have a log-jam of good teams at the top of both conferences. Week 8 could start establishing tiers for the playoff race.

Syndication: USA TODAY Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

We’ve reached Halloween weekend in the NFL, meaning we have officially entered the midway point of the 2021 season. Time flies, doesn’t it?

While we still have a long ways to go before the postseason actually arrives in January, these are the weeks where we start establishing tiers within both conferences while weeding out pretenders.

From a playoff perspective in the NFC, we may have already had our most consequential game this week with a banged up Green Bay Packers finding a way to topple the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals ballclub on Thursday Night Football. The Packers have ripped off seven straight wins since their Week 1 debacle and for the time being, this places them atop of the NFC standings.

The Packers and Cardinals could have company near the top, however, with the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also sitting at 6-1 with the chance to keep pace. The defending Super Bowl Champion Bucs have a road matchup with the New Orleans Saints and could have a firm grip on top of the NFC South with a win heading into their bye week.

There’s also a bit of a log jam at the top of the AFC standings with the top six teams all having two losses. The Cincinnati Bengals have the fortune of playing the lowly New York Jets while the Tennessee Titans will play an Indianapolis Colts team that’s trying to insert itself into the wild card race at 3-4. After their respective byes, both the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Chargers return to action while trying to maintain control at the top of their respective divisions.

AFC playoff picture

1. Cincinnati Bengals, 5-2
2. Tennessee Titans, 5-2
3. Las Vegas Raiders, 5-2
4. Buffalo Bills, 4-2

5. Baltimore Ravens, 5-2
6. Los Angeles Chargers, 4-2
7. Cleveland Browns, 4-3

Outside looking in: Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3), Denver Broncos (3-4), Kansas City Chiefs (3-4), Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

Week 8 schedule

Dolphins (1-6) @ Bills (4-2)
Steelers (3-3) @ Browns (4-3)
Titans (5-2) @ Colts (3-4)
Bengals (5-2) @ Jets (1-5)
Patriots (3-4) @ Chargers (4-2)
Washington (2-5) @ Broncos (3-4)
Giants (2-5) @ Chiefs (3-4)

NFC playoff picture

1. Green Bay Packers, 7-1
2. Arizona Cardinals, 7-1
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6-1
4. Dallas Cowboys, 5-1

5. Los Angeles Rams, 6-1
6. New Orleans Saints, 3-2
7. Minnesota Vikings, 3-3

Outside looking in: Atlanta Falcons (3-3), Carolina Panthers (3-4), Chicago Bears (3-4)

Week 8 schedule

Panthers (3-4) @ Falcons (3-3)
49ers (2-4) @ Bears (3-4)
Rams (6-1) @ Texans (1-6)
Bucs (6-1) @ Saints (4-2)
Cowboys (5-1) @ Vikings (3-3)