It's probably to early to print Arizona Cardinals playoff tickets but a four game lead with seven to play has me thinking, 'what if." I normally not one to get ahead of myself but with a 6-3 record, I simply can't help myself. First I will say that the Cardinals still have plenty of work to do before they can start worrying about playoff seeding. This weeks game against a suddenly healthy Seahawks game can not be over looked, especially considering that it's on the road. If they don't win that game, they'll be faced with two very difficult games (NYG and PHI) that could leave them staring 6-6 in the face. Bottom line the Cardinals have to continue playing well if they want keep pace in a tough NFC.
Here's what the playoff picture looks like after week nine and a quick note on the top teams remaining schedules (after the jump):
1. New York Giants (8-1) - The Giants remaining schedule is pretty tough considering that every team is over .500. After this weeks match-up with the Ravens, every remaining game will be against a NFC team vying for the playoffs including three NFC East opponents and Arizona, Carolina and Minnesota. Four of their final seven games are on the road.
2. Carolina (7-2) - The Panthers have an easier schedule than the Giants but the surprising strength of the NFC South keeps it from being too easy. They've got the Lions this week followed by road games at Atlanta and Green Bay. Next is back to back home games against Tampa and Denver. Then they go on the road to finish the season with consecutive road games against the Giants and Saints. They face three losing teams in the final seven (DET, GB & NO) but four of the final seven are on the road.
3. Arizona (6-3) - I'm pretty sure that we all know the Cardinals schedule for the remainder of the season. But just to make sure we're looking at apples to apples, the Cardinals will face three losing teams (SEA twice and STL) and four of the final seven are at home.
4. Chicago (5-4) - Looking at the Bears schedule makes you wonder if they're not the team that's poised to finish the season very strong. They face six losing teams in the final seven including GB (twice), STL, JAC, NO and HOU. Obviously the Packers will play the Bears very tough but still. The only winning team that they face with a winning record is Minnesota who's 5-4. Four of their final seven are on the road.
5. Tampa Bay (6-3) - The Bucs have a pretty easy schedule to finish the season with four losing teams on the schedule (DET, NO, SD & OAK). They're most difficult games will be at Carolina and at Atlanta in consecutive weeks. They play at home against Minnesota this week and they'll be at home for four of the final seven.
6. Washington (6-3) - The Skins would seem to have a easy home stretch, especially if they can get by Dallas this week at home. They'll face three losing teams (SEA, CIN & SF), but four of their final seven are on the road.
Other teams still very much in the race: Atlanta (6-3), Minnesota (5-4), Dallas (5-4), Philly (5-4), Green Bay (4-5), New Orleans (4-5)