Detroit Lions need to keep winning and get help to make NFL playoffs: Here’s the path

Detroit Free Press

There have been two winning streaks of six games or longer in the NFL this season.

The Philadelphia Eagles won eight straight to start, beginning with a Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, and the Minnesota Vikings won seven straight from late September through mid-November, a streak that also began with a win over the Lions.

The Lions’ role in both those streaks is less significant than the fact they need one themselves to make the playoffs.

They’ve played like one of the best teams in the NFL for the past month and have surged to 14th in this week’s power rankings, but their odds to make the postseason remain long.

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At 5-7 and coming off a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions likely need to win all five of their remaining games against the Vikings, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers to get in.

The Dallas Cowboys control the first wild-card spot, already have nine wins and are all but assured of a trip to the postseason, and three more teams are ahead of the Lions in the wild-card standings with two playoff berths up for grabs.

At 7-4-1, the New York Giants control the second wild card, though their grip on playoff positioning is tenuous. The Giants have the toughest remaining schedule of the wild-card contenders with two games left against the Eagles, one against the Vikings, one against fellow wild-card contender Washington Commanders and a fifth at home against the lowly Indianapolis Colts.

The Lions hold the tiebreaker against both the Giants (7-4-1) and Commanders (7-5-1), but that seems unlikely to come into play after New York and Washington tied last week − the Lions would have to tie one of their final games for head-to-head to matter. One of the Giants and Commanders should get an eighth win when they play each other in Week 15, and it’s easy to find one more win (and possibly two) on both teams’ schedule. A 9-7-1 finish would best the Lions at 9-8 if Detroit won only four of five.

The Commanders have a bye this week, then close the season with home games against the Giants, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys (in Week 18, when the Cowboys could be resting their starters), and a road game against a San Francisco 49ers team that just lost its second starting quarterback of the season but still has one of the league’s best defenses.

If the Giants or Commanders get to 10 wins, the Lions can’t overtake them for a wild-card spot. If they finish with nine, the Lions need 10 wins to get in.

The Seattle Seahawks (7-5) hold the NFC’s final wild-card spot and have the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lions by virtue of their October win at Ford Field. Seattle has a manageable final month of the season with games against the Panthers and 49ers, at the Kansas City Chiefs, and home against the Jets and Los Angeles Rams.

If they get to 10 wins, the Lions can’t pass them in the standings. If they finish with nine, the Lions once again need to win out to get in.

It’s possible the Seahawks overtake the 49ers (8-4) for the NFC West title, but the Lions would need the final month to go just right to have the tiebreaker edge over a 10-win San Francisco team.

The 49ers are competing to become the third NFL team with a six-game winning streak this season when they host the NFC South leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) this week.

Winning six straight is not easy to do in the NFL; three teams – the Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans have had streaks snapped at five games this season. But that’s what it might take for the Lions to make the playoffs.

TRENDING:Detroit Lions’ blowout win over Jaguars marks a turning point with higher expectations

This week’s power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Eagles

2. Kansas City Chiefs

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Buffalo Bills

5. Dallas Cowboys

6. Cincinnati Bengals

7. San Francisco 49ers

8. Miami Dolphins

9. Baltimore Ravens

10. Tennessee Titans

11. Los Angeles Chargers

12. New York Jets

13. Seattle Seahawks

14. Detroit Lions

15. Washington Commanders

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

17. New York Giants

18. New England Patriots

19. Green Bay Packers

20. Las Vegas Raiders

21. Cleveland Browns

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

23. Atlanta Falcons

24. Arizona Cardinals

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

26. Indianapolis Colts

27. New Orleans Saints

28. Los Angeles Rams

29. Carolina Panthers

30. Chicago Bears

31. Denver Broncos

32. Houston Texans

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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