NFL power rankings: Possible supersized playoffs gives Detroit Lions even more hope

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions played “a bad football game” Sunday, in Matt Patricia’s words. But somehow, the events of the weekend might have helped their playoff push.

ESPN reported Monday that the NFL is discussing a contingency plan to expand the expanded playoffs to eight teams in each conference in the event games are lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The league, you recall, expanded its playoffs from 12 to 14 teams — seven in each conference — earlier this spring, and now that more revenue could be lost with potential cancellations, is looking to grow the postseason again.

On one hand, I hate this proposal. The playoffs are watered down enough and making it so half the league qualifies for the postseason is gross; only 13 teams finished with winning records last year.

On the other, more football — especially the do-or-die kind — is good, and if you’re a Lions fan, it gives you one more thing to root for (or against) the next two months.

Using this week’s standings as a guide, because that’s what the NFL would do, the Lions currently sit 10th in the NFC, two games out of a playoff spot. And with games against sub-.500 teams on the docket each of the next four weeks, well, you know where I’m going.

If the expanded, expanded playoffs started today, three of the four NFC West teams (all but the San Francisco 49ers) would be in the postseason, along with the NFC Least champ, the Philadelphia Eagles, plus two teams each from the NFC North (Packers, Bears) and NFC South (Saints, Buccaneers).

The 49ers would be the first team out, but with what seems like 90% of their roster on injured reserve and six games left against potential playoff teams (under the current format), they seem like a good bet to fade.

That leaves the Lions as next man up, the little kid tagging along with his big brother to the baseball field hoping the older boys finally let him play.

Ultimately, games — probably plural — would need to be canceled in order for the new, new playoff format to take place, and that’s assuming owners approve the competition committee proposal, which, they love money, so why wouldn’t they?

[ Why T.J. Hockenson is confident Lions’ season can still ‘go the way we want it to’ ]

The Lions play the Minnesota Vikings, another outside-looking-in team, this week, and it’s worth noting the Vikings were placed in the NFL’s intensive COVID-19 protocol Monday after an opponent, Packers running back A.J. Dillon, tested positive for the virus one day after playing in a game.

The NFL has done an excellent job navigating the pandemic so far, but we’re getting to the point where bye-week makeups are no longer an option — both the Lions and Vikings already have had theirs — so this new playoff format may be closer to reality than it appears.

This week’s rankings:

1. Chiefs (7-1)

2. Steelers (7-0)

3. Seahawks (6-1)

4. Saints (5-2)

5. Buccaneers (6-2)

6. Ravens (5-2)

7. Packers (5-2)

8. Titans (5-2)

9. Cardinals (5-2)

10. Bills (6-2)

11. Raiders (4-3)

12. Browns (5-3)

13. Colts (5-2)

14. Rams (5-3)

15. Bears (5-3)

16. Dolphins (4-3)

17. Eagles (3-4-1)

18. 49ers (4-4)

19. Panthers (3-5)

20. Lions (3-4)

21. Broncos (3-4)

22. Chargers (2-5)

23. Patriots (2-5)

24. Bengals (2-5-1)

25. Vikings (2-5)

26. Washington (2-5)

27. Falcons (2-6)

28. Texans (1-6)

29. Cowboys (2-6)

30. Giants (1-6)

31. Jaguars (1-6)

32. Jets (0-8)

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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