Schedule can play a big role down the stretch

Every year we see teams rise and fall as the season rolls on. Sometimes that's due to injuries or lineup changes. Sometimes it's a matter of improved execution, or even team chemistry. But sometimes it's a simple matter of who you play. Here's a look at how the second-half schedule sets up for a number of teams with hopes of finishing on a high note:

Set up for potential success

Seattle Seahawks: The 4-4 Seahawks are in great shape to win the NFC West, which they currently lead. And it isn't only because they might not get much of a challenge from the second-place Cardinals (3-5) or third-place 49ers (2-6). The Seahawks' remaining opponents have a combined record of 21-43, and Seattle is home for half of its final eight games.

Arizona Cardinals: If the Cardinals are able to catch the Seahawks, one reason might be their schedule. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 25-39, and five of their final eight games are at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: At 5-4, the Buccaneers look fairly solid at the top of the NFC South. Their remaining schedule, against opponents with a combined record of 23-34, should help keep them there. However, four of their final seven games are on the road.

New Orleans Saints: After a 0-4 start, the Saints have won four in a row. Their remaining schedule, against opponents with a combined record of 24-42, gives them a good shot at continuing their roll. Half of their final eight games are at home.

Cleveland Browns: The red-hot Browns, who have won three in a row on the way to a 5-3 record, have an excellent chance of making a playoff run. After facing the division-leading Steelers in Week 10, their remaining opponents have a combined record of 20-38. The only catch is that the Browns are on the road for five of their final eight games.

Denver Broncos: At 3-5, the Broncos have been one of the disappointments of the first half of the season. They could get some help from a schedule that features remaining opponents who have a combined record of 26-31, although five of their final eight games are on the road. On the other hand, the home field hasn't been kind to the Broncos, who won just two of five home games in the first half.

Set up for potential trouble

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have battled back from a 1-4 start to a 4-4 record. However, the second half of the season poses a significant challenge, given that the Bills' remaining opponents have a combined record of 33-24. That includes two games against the 0-8 Dolphins. Half of their final eight games are at home, including a Week 11 Sunday night clash against the 9-0 Patriots.

Carolina Panthers: The 4-4 Panthers have lost two games in a row and have major quarterback issues. Their schedule doesn't appear to offer much assistance. After facing the 2-6 Falcons in Week 10, the combined record of their remaining opponents is 33-24. However, five of their final eight games are at home.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have suffered two consecutive losses to fall to 4-4. It doesn't look as if they'll get a whole lot of help from their schedule. After their Week 10 game against the 2-6 Bengals, the combined record of their remaining opponents (including back-to-back games against the Patriots and Colts) is 35-22. However, five of their final eight games are at home.

New York Jets: It will be a struggle for the Jets to turn around their 1-8 season. Their remaining opponents, one of whom is the Patriots, have a combined record of 37-20. And four of their final seven games are on the road.

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