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Four teams set to tumble down the stretch

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Entering the second half of the season, plenty of teams in both conferences remain alive for a playoff berth. Some squads have it easier than others.

The NFC South, for instance, is off to a fast start and a good bet to keep rolling thanks to an inviting slate of remaining games starring the inept AFC South.

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It's a different story for the teams below, a handful of still-relevant clubs facing a string of brutal tilts down the stretch.

Who faces danger ahead?

Teams primed for a fall:


1. Minnesota Vikings: Football Outsiders ranks Minnesota's remaining schedule as the toughest league-wide. Sitting at 5-2, their next six games never let up, with dates against the Rams, Raiders, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks and Cardinals. The Vikings draw Green Bay again in the regular-season finale. If they survive this murderer's row with a winning record, Mike Zimmer's players will be adequately prepped for whatever they encounter in the postseason.

2. Buffalo Bills: Buffalo's schedule is less disastrous than Minnesota's, but the Bills have yet to beat a team with a winning record. Three straight divisional tilts against the Dolphins, Jets and Patriots will tell us plenty about Rex Ryan's roster. Then come the Eagles, a second battle with Gang Green and the Cowboys (with Tony Romo back in the saddle) over the final four weeks of the season. Looking back, that Jaguars loss in Wembley looms as a crusher.

3. New York Giants: The Giants sit atop an awful NFC East, but we don't predict a hot streak with the Patriots and Panthers still ahead. Beyond those heavyweights, New York faces a better-than-advertised Tampa squad on Sunday. The Giants also have an unpredictable Redskins team on the road in Week 12 before bouts with the Jets, Vikings and Eagles. The good news for Big Blue is that the rest of the East is equally inclined to fall on its face.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Give them credit for getting to 4-4 during a season when Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant have played just 16 snaps together. Losing Bell for the rest of the year is an absolute killer. So is a slate that features the Seahawks, Bengals and Broncos along with the frisky Raiders on Sunday. The Ravens and Browns are junk this season, but North-on-North tilts are never a guarantee. 

Rough schedule won't knock this team out:


Arizona Cardinals: I expect the Cards to survive -- and thrive -- despite a pair of games against the Seahawks along with tilts against the Bengals, Rams and Packers. Arizona is up to the task. Carson Palmer's offense is putting up yards and points at will, the defense is a joy to watch and Bruce Arians is a top-three NFL coach with the skills to keep his team focused. No slump in the desert.

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