NFC Playoff picture: Detroit Lions jump one spot in Wild Card race

Pride of Detroit

The Detroit Lions may not currently be in a playoff spot, but they are playing like a playoff team. In the past five weeks, they’ve won four games, including two on the road, two in the division and one big blowout win Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The offense is healthy and back to scoring a ton of points, and the defense is finally competitive enough to give Detroit the look of a well-rounded team.

Unfortunately, the rest of the NFC wasn’t very kind to Detroit’s playoff chances, though. Four teams already in a playoff spot—the Seahawks, Vikings, 49ers, and Eagles—all won on Sunday, and the Giants and Commanders tied, which was quite possibly the worst outcome for a Lions team that needs both teams to start tallying losses. In fact, the only game that went Detroit’s way in our Week 13 Rooting Guide was the Atlanta Falcons’ loss to the Steelers, but that also happened to be the most inconsequential of the games.

Still, the Lions are playing good football right now, which means a strong finish in the final five games of the season is certainly on the table. And that means we aren’t going to stop talking about playoffs until it’s mathematically impossible.

So here’s a look at the latest NFC Playoff picture, with the results of “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football” to come.

Division leaders:

  1. Eagles: 11-1
  2. Vikings: 10-2
  3. 49ers: 8-4
  4. Buccaneers: 5-6

Wild Card race (top three advance):

  1. Cowboys: 8-3
  2. Giants: 7-4-1
  3. Seahawks: 7-5
  4. Commanders: 7-5-1
  5. Lions: 5-7
  6. Falcons: 5-8
  7. Packers: 5-8

The Lions jump the Falcons in the standings and are just two games away from the Seattle Seahawks for the final playoff spot,with only two teams to jump. The problem is the Seahawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and Detroit’s head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Giants and Commanders no longer matters since the teams are unlikely to finish with identical records because of that tie.

The Lions have to jump two of the following three teams: Giants, Seahawks, Commanders. Each team currently has seven wins, and if any of them gets to nine wins, that essentially means the Lions will have to win out and get to 10 wins to beat them. That’s because the Seahawks would hold the tiebreaker if they both finished 9-8, and the Giants or Commanders at 9-7-1 will get in over a theoretical 9-8 Lions team.

So, is it possible that two teams among these three only win one more game down the stretch? Let’s look at each team’s schedule.

Giants:

  • vs. Eagles (11-1)
  • at Commanders (7-5-1)
  • at Vikings (10-2)
  • vs. Colts (4-7-1)
  • at Eagles (11-1)

That is a pretty tough schedule, and it’s certainly possible they go 1-4 down the stretch, especially having won just one of their last five games.

Commanders:

  • vs. Giants (7-4-1)
  • at 49ers (8-4)
  • vs. Browns (5-7)
  • vs. Cowboys (8-3)

Again, that’s not a very easy schedule. Three of the four final games are at home, but the only team with a losing record is the Browns, and they’re a decent football team who just got their star quarterback back. It may be smart to root for the Commanders to beat the Giants in two weeks, and then lose the rest of their games.

Seahawks:

  • vs. Panthers (4-8)
  • vs. 49ers (8-4)
  • at Chiefs (9-3)
  • vs. Jets (7-5)
  • vs. Rams (3-9)

Again, the Seahawks have more tough games than easy ones, but it does feel like they should be able to get to nine wins without incident, especially with home games against the Panthers and Rams still on the schedule.

In other words, cross your fingers that the Giants and Commanders plummet down the stretch… or just hope the Lions run the table, because 10-7 feels like a pretty safe record to get you into the dance.

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