The Magpies head for Fulham on Monday night knowing they face a difficult run of fixtures afterwards, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal all waiting in the wings before the end of 2012.
Injuries to Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor and Cheick Tiote's impending departure for the African Nations Cup will stretch their resources, and Pardew is hoping for a positive January transfer window.
His side will run out at Craven Cottage having prevented their manager from celebrating two years in charge at St James' Park with a fifth successive Barclays Premier League defeat for the first time, but with the 51-year-old knowing they need to make a dramatic improvement over a sustained period if they are to come anywhere close to replicating last season's top-five finish.
Pardew said: "This is a critical period, from now until January. I do feel after January this team is definitely going to be stronger.
"But we are going to lose Cheick, we have obviously lost Cabaye, we have lost Steven Taylor and we have got some big teams coming, big clubs, bigger clubs than us - and there aren't many that are bigger than us.
"It will be a real test in the next two months. We have got to really nail ourselves down and get as many points as we can and see where we are.
"We are not actually too far away from that fifth, sixth place - probably the same as we are from the relegation zone.
"That's where our season is right now."