Aside from the Falcons beating the Panthers, Week 14 went pretty well for the Lions. Most importantly, they beat the Vikings, and they also got help in the wild card race with the Bears choking big time against the Broncos. Also, the Cowboys melted down against the Giants and lost. While this isn't what Lions fans necessarily wanted to happen based on last week's rooting guide, I think the entertainment of watching another Dallas choke job trumped the value of a Giants loss.
As Week 15 rolls on, the Lions find themselves in a pretty good spot. If they can pick up a win at the Oakland Raiders, a playoff berth will go from being merely possible to being very likely. Obviously the disclaimer is that anything can happen (see the Broncos-Bears game last week for proof of that), but if things go the Lions' way the rest of Week 15, the playoffs will be well within sight.
The reason I said the rest of Week 15 is because the Atlanta Falcons beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 41-14 on Thursday night. A Jaguars upset would have really been nice, but that game was completely one-sided and did the Lions no favors. Regardless of what happens the rest of the week, the Lions will not be able to pass the Falcons in the standings since a tie is the best they can do and Atlanta owns the tiebreaker by virtue of their win in Detroit earlier in the season.
Although the Jaguars didn't help the Lions' cause at all, there are several other teams that can do them a solid by beating teams in the wild card hunt this week. Here's the rundown:
Cowboys at Buccaneers (Saturday, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network)
With the Cowboys and Giants set to meet again in Week 17, it seems unlikely that the NFC East will produce two playoff teams. Chances are the only team making the playoffs from that division will be the division winner. Of course, it's always possible that neither team loses in the next two weeks, setting up quite the Week 17 showdown in New York. With that in mind, it's best for the Lions if both teams fall another step behind in the wild card race. The Lions are in good shape anyway if it comes down to them and the Cowboys based on their win in Dallas earlier this season, but I would just assume see both playoff contenders from the NFC East go down this week and fall in the standings.
Root for: Buccaneers
Redskins at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)
If one team is going to run away with the NFC East, Lions fans want it to be the Giants. This is because even if the Cowboys are in the wild card hunt, the Lions own the tiebreaker with them, as mentioned above. They do not have a head-to-head win over the Giants, however, so it would go to conference record if the two teams were tied for a wild card spot. Although New York can't run away with the division if it loses games, all the Lions really need is for one of the NFC East teams to drop a couple games down the stretch and fall out of contention for the wild card, so a Giants loss is still a good thing.
Root for: Redskins
Seahawks at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)
With Seattle sitting at 6-7, this game is not as cut and dry as you might think as far as rooting interests are concerned. I say that because if the Seahawks manage to win out and finish tied with the Lions at 9-7, Seattle would win the tiebreaker based on having a better conference record. In that regard, a Bears win wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Then again, if the Bears fall on Sunday, they would have to get past the Packers and Vikings on the road in the final two weeks to even have a chance of making the playoffs should Detroit win on Sunday. At this point I'd rather see Chicago fall another step behind, especially when you consider Seattle would have to beat the 49ers next week to even be a threat to the Lions.
Root for: Seahawks (or a game that finishes in a tie, although I suppose you could really say that about every game in this post)
Browns at Cardinals (Sunday, 4:15 p.m., CBS)
Thanks to five wins in their last six games, including a victory last week over the 49ers, the Cardinals are not completely out of the playoff picture. Like the Seahawks, Arizona is 6-7 right now. The Cardinals will need to win out to have a chance of making the playoffs should Detroit win on Sunday. Considering the Cards' remaining schedule is vs. Cleveland, at Cincinnati and vs. Seattle, nine wins on the season isn't a completely unrealistic hope. As a result, the Lions could use a Browns victory on Sunday to make sure the Cardinals don't hang around in the playoff picture.
Root for: Browns
If everything goes according to plan this week for the Lions in the wild card race, the standings going into Week 16 would look like this:
1. Packers (14-0 or 13-1)
2. Saints/49ers (11-3 or 10-4)
3. Saints/49ers (11-3 or 10-4)
4. Giants (7-7)
5. Falcons (9-5)
6. Lions (9-5)
7. Seahawks (7-7)
8. Bears (7-7)
9. Cowboys (7-7)
If this scenario actually plays out, the Lions could clinch a playoff spot with a win against the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve. Now that would be quite the early Christmas present.