Coming out of the bye week, the Arizona Cardinals now enter what could be their most important four-game stretch. Three of the next four games are on the road and all three are against NFC West opponents. It will likely determine their playoff hopes.
Over the next eight weeks, the Cardinals have four home games and four games on the road. They end the season with three of four at home and they now have three of the next four on the road.
Here is how it plays out:
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)
Week 11: home vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday Night Football)
Week 12: at San Francisco 49ers
Week 13: at St. Louis Rams
Week 14: home vs. Minnesota Vikings (Thursday Night Football)
Week 15: at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16: home vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 17: home vs. Seattle Seahawks
Yes, the final four games are also important. All four teams Arizona plays to end the year are teams in the playoff mix.
But whether the Cardinals win the NFC West will be determined in large part over the next three weeks because they play their full division road schedule now.
They currently are 1-1 in the division, having beaten the 49ers and having lost at home to the Rams.
I have said since before the season I believe the Cardinals must go 4-2 in the division to win the division. That means the absolutely must beat the Rams in St. Louis and at least split the games in San Fran and Seattle. Then they would have to close the year winning in Week 17.
The Cards have a two-game cushion right now in the West. It is right where they want to be, but with so many division games left, they can't be too comfortable, That could change in a hurry.
With a week off, the season really starts now. The good thing is they have a cushion to hit the stretch run.