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Seven teams that could slide because of schedule

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Around The NFL continues to break down the league at midseason as our comrades at NFL NOW hand out all sorts of awards. Next up is time for a little schedule analysis: Which teams are set up for second half failure because of a tough slate of games?

Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins


The Bills and Dolphins are two of the 11 AFC teams that enter Week 9 with a winning record. Their defensive lines are both among the top five groups in the league. But they both have imbalanced offenses and very difficult schedules in the second half of the year.

Buffalo has road games in Denver and New England, and some difficult home games against Green Bay and Kansas City. The Bills will probably need to pull off a big upset or two to get to 10 wins.

Miami has similar problems, possibly even more acute. They travel to Denver, New England and Detroit. They have tough home games against San Diego and Baltimore. The Week 11 home game against the Bills is nearly a must win for the Dolphins because of tiebreakers. (Buffalo already beat Miami in Week 2.) We still don't expect a wild card team to come out of the AFC East.

The entire NFC West


St. Louis is out of the playoff mix, so they don't really count for the purposes of this post. (But their schedule is brutal, too.) Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle all face difficult roads to the playoffs in part because they have to play each other.

Seattle and Arizona still have five division games left, and the Seahawks started their division slate with a loss in St. Louis. Arizona is a great home team that still has road games in Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco. The Cardinals also have tricky home dates against Detroit and Kansas City.

The Seahawks still have to go to Arizona and San Francisco, in addition to road dates in Kansas City and Philadelphia. Those will all be difficult games.

San Francisco has two road division games out of the way, which is a positive. But they still have to travel to Seattle, New Orleans, and to New York to face the Giants. They finish with home games against the Chargers and Cardinals.

Late in the season, playoff contenders want a few games where they are heavy favorites. Those are hard to find in the NFC West, where the three contenders could all inflict damage on each other.

Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers


You'll notice a theme in this list. Division teams have very similar schedules, so the difficult paths are grouped together. San Diego might have the toughest closing schedule on this list: at Baltimore, vs. New England, vs. Denver, at San Francisco, and at Kansas City. The Chargers' game in Miami this week could quietly have huge playoff implications.

Kansas City's schedule has its share of cupcakes (Raiders twice and Jets), but plenty of games where they will be underdogs. They travel to Buffalo, Arizona and Pittsburgh. They have tough home games against Seattle and Denver.

It's going to be difficult for the Chiefs and the Chargers to both squeeze in the playoffs. Here's an early prediction: Their Week 17 matchup will be the game flexed into Sunday Night Football because it will be a "play-in" game for a wild-card spot.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the league at the midway point and previews Saints-Panthers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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