A Detroit Lions fan’s rooting guide for Week 14 vs. Vikings

Detroit News

If you haven’t heard, we’re two weeks into December and the Detroit Lions remain in the playoff hunt. After starting the season 1-6, the team has won four of its past five games and sits on the fringes of the postseason picture in the NFC.

Earning a postseason berth won’t come easy, and starts with the Lions taking care of business at home against Minnesota this Sunday. Otherwise, here’s what Lions fans should be cheering for around the rest of the league to better their team’s odds of sneaking into the playoffs.

▶ Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, Sun., 1 p.m.

Last week’s tie between the Giants and Commanders wasn’t an ideal situation for the Lions. While it allowed them to gain a half-game in the standings on both teams, that’s relatively meaningless when needing to close significant ground and only having five weeks to do it. It also essentially removed the tie-break advantage the Lions held over both teams due to head-to-head victories.

Catching the Giants will be tough, but still remains the Lions’ best bet. Sitting at 7-4-1, New York essentially holds a three-game edge entering the final stretch. But it’s a surmountable deficit, given the Giants play the conference-leading Eagles twice, as well as tough road games against the Commanders and Vikings.

For a team that’s built up its record by squeaking past mostly bad opponents, losing all four of those matchups isn’t out of the question. For the Lions, they need the Giants to start that slide this week.

▶ Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers, Sun., 4:25 p.m.

Tampa Bay, sitting at .500 through 12 games, is holding down first place in the woeful NFC South. But since division winners qualify for the postseason regardless of record, Lions fans should be pulling for Tom Brady and company against the 49ers.

With an 8-4 record, there’s little question the 49ers are in good position to wrap up a playoff spot, but after losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending foot injury, they’re suddenly vulnerable.

One way or another, the 49ers are likely to play a role in the playoff chase these next few weeks. After the Buccaneers, they have upcoming games against the Commanders and Seahawks, two other teams ahead of the Lions in the standings.

But, if San Francisco were somehow to drop all three, and the Lions can win their next three (admittedly no easy feat), they’d draw even in the standings, but still have some tie-breaking work to do down the stretch.

▶ Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks, Sun., 4:25 p.m.

This is a matchup that impacts both Detroit’s draft standing and playoff hopes. The Seahawks hold a daunting two-game lead for the final seed, but it might as well be three, because they bested the Lions earlier in the season, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker.

This home matchup is Seattle’s easiest remaining game. After this week, they host San Francisco, before traveling to Kansas City and welcoming the upstart Jets. An unexpected loss to the Panthers could quickly result in a downward spiral.

In terms of draft ramifications. A loss would drop the Panthers to 4-9 and push them above the Los Angeles Rams in the draft order. That matters because the Lions are getting the Rams’ first-round pick, the lingering compensation from last year’s Matthew Stafford trade.

Jacksonville beating Tennessee on the road and Arizona topping New England at home would also help preserve maximum value for that Rams’ pick after they pulled off a stunning rally over the Raiders Thursday night.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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