5 Contending NFL Teams with the Toughest Remaining Schedules
Through 11 weeks of the 2012 NFL season, we have begun to get a pretty good idea of who the contenders and the pretenders are.
With still a lot of games to go, each contender's remaining schedule will play a huge factor in whether it can earn a playoff spot. Some teams have it relatively easy, while others don't.
Here are the five contending teams with the toughest remaining schedules to the season, considering the conference power balance, or lack thereof, all five of which come in the NFC.
5. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are still among the NFL's elite.
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After a slow start to the season, the Packers are right back where we expected them to be. This despite quite a significant amount of injuries on both sides of the ball thus far.
To close out the season, the Packers will have one of the league's tougher schedules. They will play the Giants, Vikings, Lions, Bears, Titans and Vikings again. How they hold up with these injuries will be tested no doubt, but based on their play as of late, they should be in good shape.
As both the offense and defense get healthy down the stretch, they will only get better. That could be scary for the rest of the NFC.
4. New York Giants
The Giants will need Eli Manning to come up big in these last six games.
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The defending Super Bowl Champion, New York Giants, have one of the league's toughest remaining schedules.
Coming off of a Week 11 bye, the Giants will face the Packers, Redskins, Saints, Falcons, Ravens and Eagles to close out the season. As much as the Redskins and Eagles have struggled in the NFC East, anything can happen in those division matchups.
The Giants, sitting at 6-4, are still just one game ahead of the Cowboys. Considering the Cowboys have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the entire NFL, the Giants will need to play well in these last games.
It will no doubt be tough, but with Eli Manning, we've come to expect wins when the Giants need them most.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin has helped lead the Bucs back to contention.
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Tampa Bay has had one of the league's quickest turnarounds over the past year, establishing itself as a legitimate contender in 2012. However, considering its struggles on defense, and its remaining schedule, playoff qualification could be very tough.
In the Bucs' remaining games, they will play the Falcons, Broncos, Eagles, Saints, Rams and Falcons again. In four of those games, they will face a high-powered passing attack, where their defense does not match up well.
If we have learned anything about the Bucs thus far, it is that they can easily surprise us all. What they are building is quite impressive, but their remaining schedule may keep them out of the playoffs this season.
2. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has led the Saints right back into the playoff race.
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Don't look now, but all of a sudden, the New Orleans Saints are right back in the playoff race. However, if they are going to continue that push, there remains plenty of work to be done.
In their six remaining games, the Saints will take on the 49ers, Falcons, Giants, Bucs, Cowboys and Panthers. These opponents combine for a total record of 35-24-1.
While that is certainly not an easy slate of games, if the Saints continue to play as they have, the playoffs are never out of the question.
Winning five of their last six games after an 0-4 start, the Saints are one of the NFL's hottest teams. It won't be easy, but the NFL is about getting hot at the right time. Despite the schedule, you can't count out a Drew Brees-led team.
1. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson has helped lead the Vikings to a 6-4 start.
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The Minnesota Vikings have surprised many with their performance thus far this season. Leading the way has been Adrian Peterson's remarkably quick return to dominance following his 2011 knee injury.
Currently 6-4, the Vikings are right in the thick of the NFC playoff race, but it will be tough to keep that pace.
Their remaining six games come against teams with a combined record of 40-19-1, and four of which are on the road. This includes playing the Packers twice, the Bears twice and the Texans in Houston.
It is safe to say that the odds are certainly not in the Vikings' favor, and the playoffs could be considered quite a long shot. In a tough NFC, they may still be a year or two away.