On the one hand, it does still sort of feel a bit too early in the season to be worrying about what other teams are doing and how their games affect the Detroit Lions' chances of making the playoffs. At the same time, though, it's Week 10 and the Lions are -- wait for it -- TIED FOR FIRST IN THE NFC NORTH. Yes, I'm shouting. This is new territory for a Lions team that has rarely factored into the division race at all, let alone this late in the season, so screw it. The Lions are in the thick of a playoff race, so we're already bringing back the Lions rooting guide. Here it is for Week 10:
On a short week and without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers now have the task of having to get ready for the Eagles' sometimes explosive offense. It's been an up and down season for Philadelphia, but the Eagles now find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot at 4-5. A win would get them into the mix for the wild card, but more importantly, it would drop Green Bay to 5-4.
Root for: Eagles
At 2-6, the Falcons aren't a threat to make the playoffs as a wild-card team or anything like that right now. However, knocking off the Seahawks would be nice for the NFC teams in the playoff hunt simply because of home-field advantage. Playing at Seattle is extremely tough, and the Seahawks have jumped out ahead of the rest of the NFC at 8-1. For seeding purposes, the Seahawks need to start losing some games.
Root for: Falcons
San Francisco is a pretty good bet to make the playoffs no matter what happens in the second half of the season. Actually, the 49ers could end up challenging for the NFC West title if Seattle drops a couple games down the stretch. In other words, the Lions probably aren't going to beat out the 49ers for a wild-card spot. Beating out the Panthers could be necessary by season's end, though, so a San Francisco win would be the preferable outcome here. Yes, the Lions have their sights set on winning the NFC North right now, but it's important to keep the wild card in mind as well.
Root for: 49ers
With Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay ahead of the 4-4 Cardinals, they're not necessarily a huge factor in the wild-card race right now. That doesn't mean they won't be down the road, though, and let's not forget that they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lions. A Houston win would help drop Arizona in the standings and keep them from factoring into the wild-card race.
Root for: Texans
A Cowboys win would put Dallas in a better position to challenge for the No. 3 seed in the NFC, but it would also bring the Saints down a notch and open the door for the Lions to make a run at the No. 2 seed. Considering the Lions hold the tiebreaker with the Cowboys, I'd much rather see New Orleans lose and drop to 6-3.
Root for: Cowboys
If the Lions beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC standings will look like this going into Week 11:
- Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
- New Orleans Saints (6-3)
- Detroit Lions (6-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (7-2)
- Carolina Panthers (5-4)
- Chicago Bears (5-4)
- Green Bay Packers (5-4)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
New Orleans would remain in second because of its better conference record, but the Lions would be all alone in first place in the NFC North and right there with the Saints. With games against the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next after the Bears, the Lions would be in an excellent position going forward.