We took our first look at where the Arizona Cardinals fit into the NFC playoffs last week and there's much change at the top of the bracket but the bottom of the picture did shuffle quite a bit. Here's how the playoffs would look if the season ended today and some commentary on the teams' remaining schedulues.
1. New York Giants (9-1): The Giants are the class of the NFC, there's no doubt about that right now. They're remaining schedule will test them though considering that every team has a winning record and four of six are on the road.
2. Carolina Panthers (8-2): The Panthers have struggled the past two weeks against inferior opponents but they still did enough to get a win. They're schedule is also pretty tough as they also don't face a losing team the rest of the way and four of the final six are on the road.
3. Arizona Cardinals (7-3): We can become the first team in the league to wrap up the division this weekend with a win over the Giants. Our remaining schedule isn't easy but only two games are on the road and includes two losing teams.
4. Green Bay Packers (5-5): The Packers dismantled the Bears last week to take the lead in the NFC North, but they're still in for a battle considering that three North teams are tied at 5-5. The remaining schedule for the Pack includes three losing teams and three road games.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3): The Bucs just keeping rolling along under the radar but they did take a hit when they lost Earnest Graham for the season this past week. They're remaining schedule includes two losing teams and three road games.
6. Washington Redskins (6-4): The Skins are the only team in the top six that lost last week but they're still 'in' for now. They're remaining schedule looks daunting with four road games but three of them are against losing teams.
Other teams who are still alive:
Dallas (6-4): They kept their dream alive with a win in Washington but they have got to win the next two (SEA and SF at home) because the schedule gets brutal after that (@PIT, NYG, BAL, @PHI).
Atlanta (6-4): They might have blown any shot they had when they lost to Denver at home considering that the remaining schedule includes three road games and only one losing team.
Philadelphia (5-4-1): A tie against Cincy should be enough to automatically eliminate a team from playoff contention but a schedule that includes three road games and only one losing team should do the trick.
Chicago (5-5): They got embarrassed last week by the Packers but the remaining schedule still gives them a shot with three losing teams and three road games.
Minnesota (5-5): The Vikes lost a tough game to Tampa last week and the possible suspension of their stud DTs leaves all kind of uncertainty. They're remaining schedule includes two losing teams and three road contests.
New Orleans (5-5): The Saints kept their ultra-slim playoff hopes alive but their schedule down the stretch is brutal with three road contests and only one losing opponent.
That's where the NFC stands right now. Hopefully the picture will become more clear each week and we can start dropping some of these teams. The NFC North looks like the division that'll come down the wire and I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs overtake the Panthers for the South title sometime soon. If Tampa does eventually overtake the Panthers it would open the door for the Cardinals to get into the #2 seed, but they'll have to continue to perform well in the conference. Both teams have two losses in the NFC.