Easy paths for 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dawood asks via Facebook: I was wondering if you can make a chart such as this one, but for NFC West teams.

Mike Sando: I've put together an NFC answer to Tim's AFC chart, courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau via ESPN Stats & Information. I also flip-flopped the chart so Weeks 1 through 8 appeared on top, with Weeks 9 through 17 on bottom.

The charts show strength of schedules for NFC teams based on games played (top chart) and games yet to play (bottom chart). NFC West teams have played four of the seven toughest schedules in the NFC to this point.

Looking ahead, however, the Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks face relatively easy roads ahead. They play three of the four easiest remaining schedules for NFC teams, based on records to this point in the season. The poor Rams draw an even tougher second-half schedule while contributing to a Saints schedule heretofore known as the Big Easy.

Check out the Redskins. They have struggled against the easiest schedule in the NFC to this point. The toughest remaining schedule in the NFC awaits. Good luck, Jim Zorn. You're going to need it.

The Cardinals appear to be in good position to maintain their one-game lead in the division, but a 49ers victory over Arizona in Week 14 -- at Candlestick -- could make things tougher. I see Arizona winning at least five more games, beating the Seahawks, Rams (twice), Titans and Lions. That would put them at 9-7 even if they lost to the 49ers again.

In that case, the 49ers would also need to win nine games if they were to win the division title. To do that, the 49ers would have to win six of their final nine, including against Arizona. The way I see things, they would probably have to win their next two, both at home, against the Titans and Bears. I would also have them beating the Jaguars, Lions and Rams. Picking up another victory somewhere along the way -- say, at Seattle -- would be huge.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, might have a tough enough time getting from 2-5 to 7-9. They could get to 7-9 by beating the Lions, Rams, 49ers, Bucs and Titans. Contending for the division title might require additional victories over, say, the Cardinals and Texans, both on the road. That will be tough.