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NFC Playoff Picture: Lions Get Some Help From Texans, Chiefs

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One of the big concerns going into Sunday was that the Lions would fall another step behind in the NFC wild card race based on what the schedule looked like. The Lions had to take on the Saints at the Superdome, whereas the Bears had a game at home against the Chiefs and the Falcons were taking on a Texans team that is down to its third-string quarterback. Needless to say, it looked like the Lions were going to lose and the Bears and Falcons were in position to each win.

It turns out that only part of that line of thinking was correct. The Lions did lose, as most expected, but the Bears and Falcons also were defeated on Sunday. Chicago came up a touchdown short against the Chiefs and Atlanta also came up a touchdown short against the Texans. The Lions are still on the outside looking in for the playoffs right now, but all things considered, Sunday went pretty well for Detroit, especially when you consider the Giants and Cowboys also lost.

Here's a look at the current NFC playoff picture:

Seeds

1. Green Bay Packers (12-0)

2. San Francisco 49ers (10-2)

3. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

5. Chicago Bears (7-5)

6. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Matchups

First-round bye: Packers, 49ers

Saints vs. Falcons

Cowboys vs. Bears

The reason the Lions are still on the outside looking in despite also being 7-5 is simple: the Bears currently win the tiebreaker against the Lions based on having a better record in the NFC (the first three tiebreakers -- head-to-head record, divisional record and record in common games -- are even) and the Falcons beat the Lions, so they own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Based on how the NFC playoff picture currently looks, Sunday is extremely important for the Lions. A win over the Vikings would give Detroit an 8-5 record and improve their record in the NFC North, the NFC and in common games with the Bears. What's more, if Chicago were to lose to the Broncos, not only would the Bears drop to 7-6, but their common games record with Detroit would take another hit.

Sunday's game against the Vikings isn't technically a must-win for the Lions, but it is of huge importance as far as the wild card race is concerned, to say the least.