As a Lions fan things may seem pretty bleak right now. At a glance the Lions just lost a division game with serious playoff implications. That is if your just looking at immediate snap shot of standings, if the playoffs started today, but they do not. The thing is, that the Lions have played a disproportionate amount of road games to start the season, and the rival they just lost to has played a disproportionate amount of home games. The Lions may be down, they may be licking their wounds, but they are a far cry from out of the playoff hunt.
Looking at the Lions division rivals there are several different approaches that you could take, what if everyone wins out at home, and loses out on the road, what if everyone wins out at home and splits on the road? Both of those kinds of scenarios heavily favor the Lions to not only equal the Vikings, but surpass them in the standings before it is all said and done.
Lets take a look at the fist scenario. Win out at home and lose on the road, for the entire NFC North. This would put the Bears at 10-6, the Packers at 9-7, the Lions at 9-7, and the Vikings at 8-8. At this point the Lions losses to the Vikings really sting, since it would give the Packers the tie breaker for just about every scenario imaginable. However the Lions still very much have their fate in their hands. What happens if the Lions can just flip one game from this scenario, in Green Bay? Pretty simple math, the Lions end up 10-6 and the Pack finish out 8-8.
Lets now take a look at the second scenario. Win out at home and split on the road, for the entire NFC North. This would put the Bears at 12-4, the Packers at 11-5, the Vikings at 10-6 and the Lions at 10-6. Wow! Interesting Scenario eh? Once again that second Lions loss to the Vikings really comes back to sting.
That is the thing about scenarios and what if's though, reality rarely fits into a nice neat set of rules and constraints. Call it chaos theory, call it reality, call it free will, call it whatever you will. So how do we get to the bottom of all of this? Well all we have to do is look at a few factors.
Factor one, home games. This heavily favors the Lions in just about any scenario, however, it particularly favors them in concern to the Vikings. Christian Ponder is a young quarterback who has struggled on the road, much like the Seahawks Russell Wilson this season. That means that things are probably trending down for him. Couple that with the often injured Percey Harvin and the Vikings are looking some at some hardships ahead. Not to mention that their only two remaining home games are against the Packers and Bears.
Factor Two, playing to potential. The Vikings have been exceeding expectations this season, from Adrian Peterson's amazing injury recovery to Christian Ponders flashes of brilliance, to Percy Harvin emerging as one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL, to the Vikings defense holding up much better than expected. When you couple this with the home game factor I would be very nervous as a Vikings fan going down the stretch. The Lions on the other hand have been beating themselves. Stupid penalties, special teams woes, lethargic offense to start games, and lack of execution in general. There is a lot of room for improvement for the Lions on the field.
All things considered, the outlook is not so bleak. The Bears and Packers both figure to finish somewhere around the 11-5 mark leaving the Lions and Vikings to vie for a third playoff spot in the division. While the Vikings hold the upper hand at the moment, there is a lot that can tip the scales in the Lions favor down the stretch. Don't throw in the towel just yet Lions fans. There are two very tough home games coming up against the Packers and Texans, however, should the Lions win those games, everything starts to look a lot better. Considering that the Vikings next two games are at the Bears then at the Packers it is not exactly easy sledding for them either. As a matter of fact, the Vikings remaining games are against the Bears twice, the Packers twice, the Texans and the Rams. So even if the Vikings do well down the stretch then the Bears and Packers are probably not doing so well. Hope still remains, there is a lot of football left to be played.