In a typical week, I generally don't start looking ahead to the Detroit Lions' next opponent until at least Wednesday. This week, however, I have a different mindset about things. Part of this stems from the fact that the Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in convincing fashion. There's not exactly much to rehash, which is a good thing. The Lions dominated just as most people expected, and they left town with a 31-14 win.
The reason I'm already more interested in looking ahead to the Lions' next game is because it's so important. On Sunday, the Lions will take on the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Lions will be looking for their second consecutive road win against the Vikings after ending their massive losing streak at the Metrodome last year. Also, they will be out for revenge after being handed a 20-13 loss to the Vikings at home earlier in the season.
Whenever the Lions play the Vikings, it's an important game. Not only is it a divisional matchup, but you never want to lose to a rival like the Vikings. That is especially true this week given what the NFC North standings currently look like. The Chicago Bears are firmly entrenched as the division's top team right now, and the Green Bay Packers are next in line in second place. Third place will be up for grabs in Minnesota on Sunday, though. Right now the Vikings are ahead of the Lions by only half a game, meaning a Lions victory would propel them out of last place in the NFC North.
Here's a look at the current standings:
- Chicago Bears (7-1)
- Green Bay Packers (6-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
- Detroit Lions (4-4)
It's not often that third place in the division means a whole lot. This year, however, third place in the NFC North very well may be good enough to make the playoffs as the second wild-card team. The Vikings and Lions are currently in seventh and eighth place in the NFC, respectively. Considering sixth place currently belongs to a Seattle Seahawks team that Detroit owns the tiebreaker against, the Lions are in a pretty good position all things considered. They won't be with a second loss to the Vikings, though. Not only will they fall another step behind in the standings, but they will lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota. What's more, the Lions will drop to 4-5 with quite possibly the toughest remaining schedule in the entire NFL still to be played.
After the Lions dropped to 1-3 with their loss to the Vikings back in Week 4, the playoffs seemed completely out of reach. The focus at the time was really just on the Lions getting back into a position where they could even think about the playoffs. After going 3-1 since that loss to Minnesota, they are in that position. The playoffs aren't out of reach anymore. In fact, one of the wild-card spots is now within their grasp.
A loss to the Vikings would change this in a big way, as the Lions' margin of error for the rest of the season would become that much slimmer. A win against the Vikings wouldn't exactly allow them to breathe easy by any means. However, at the end of the season, if the Lions do end up rebounding from a 1-3 start to make the playoffs, a victory in Minnesota could very likely be something we point back to as being the turning point in this season. That is how important Sunday's game is for the Lions.
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