The Detroit Lions are still tied for first place in the NFC North, and they amazingly still control the No. 3 seed in the NFC. On Thursday, the Lions will look to add to their lead over the Green Bay Packers in the division, and they will look to ensure that they stay in first place going into Week 14.
Aside from the Lions, which teams should you root for this week? Here's our Week 13 rooting guide:
If the Lions' only real path to the playoffs involves winning the division, this game is irrelevant to them. However, for the sake of the wild card being a backup plan, I suppose it's best for the Cowboys to lose going forward, especially this week against an AFC team.
Root for: Raiders
This is the biggest non-Lions game of the week for Detroit. The Lions could really use a Vikings win -- or another tie, I guess -- to move a game ahead of the Bears in the standings. Because the Lions own the tiebreaker, a one-game lead would essentially put them two games ahead of the Bears, so I'll say it for the second week in a row: Go Vikings.
Root for: Vikings
This is a tough call. If you want to think about the short-term seeding implications, a Cardinals win is better for the Lions. That would keep Detroit ahead of the Eagles and in control of the No. 3 seed. However, it's more important to think about the long-term implications. An Eagles win would bump the Lions down to No. 4 for now, but handing the Cardinals a loss is bigger for the wild-card backup plan. Plus, the Lions have a chance to beat Philly next week, whereas Arizona already holds the head-to-head tiebreaker vs. Detroit.
A tie would probably be the best-case scenario here for the Lions, but to keep it simple and for the long-term implications involving the wild card, I say root for the Eagles. Having two 8-4 teams in control of the wild-card spots would not be good.
Root for: Eagles (but a tie would be fine)
The Panthers are actually in the mix for a division title now thanks to their seven-game winning streak, and they are in excellent position in the wild-card hunt. A Tampa Bay win would be outstanding to not only stop that Panthers winning streak, but also to bring them a bit closer to the rest of the pack in the wild-card chase.
Root for: Buccaneers
Although a Rams win would get them into the wild-card mix at 6-6, a loss would help drop the 49ers down a bit in the NFC playoff picture. That's the preferable option when it comes to the wild card.
Root for: Rams
Unless the Lions run the table and the Saints and Panthers fall apart, a first-round bye is highly, highly unlikely. However, for the sake of that scenario remaining on the table, I guess a Seahawks win would be for the best. It probably doesn't matter one way or another at this point, though.
Root for: Seahawks
If the Lions beat the Packers on Thursday and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC playoff picture will look like this going into Week 14:
- Seattle Seahawks (11-1)
- New Orleans Saints (9-3)
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
- Detroit Lions (7-5)
- Carolina Panthers (8-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (7-5)
- Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
- St. Louis Rams (6-6)
- Chicago Bears (6-6)
- Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
Bye: Seahawks, Saints | Wild-card round: Eagles vs. 49ers, Lions vs. Panthers
As mentioned, the Lions would actually drop down a spot to the No. 4 seed in this scenario. A Cowboys win would keep Detroit at No. 3, but the long-term plan is what's important. For the sake of the wild card as a backup plan, dropping to No. 4 for a week isn't a huge deal, especially with the Eagles on the schedule next week.
If the Lions can take complete control of the NFC North (starting with a win on Thursday), the main focus of our rooting interests will obviously shift to seeding, but we're not to that point just yet. Right now it's simply about getting into the playoffs.