With the Detroit Lions slipping all the way to seventh in the NFC playoff picture, it's imperative that they start actually getting some help from other teams. Obviously the most important thing is for them to beat the Chicago Bears on Thursday, but the Lions are now in a situation where additional help is needed, at least in the short term. With that in mind, here's a guide to which teams you should root for this week:
New England Patriots (9-2) at Green Bay Packers (8-3) | 4:25 p.m., CBS (Sunday)
This is certainly the most important non-Lions game in Week 13. The Lions really need the Packers to lose for the sake of the NFC North title race, and the Patriots are actually good enough to make that happen. Hopefully Tom Brady and co. get the job done.
Root for: Patriots
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7) | 4:05 p.m., FOX (Sunday)
The No. 1 seed is really the last thing the Lions need to worry about at this point, but just for the sake of keeping it in play, the Cardinals need to continue losing.
Root for: Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3) | 4:30 p.m., FOX (Thursday)
In all honesty, the result of this game isn't all that relevant. The most important thing is that one of these teams will drop to 8-4 unless there's a tie. That's important because the loser of this game will have the same record as the Lions if Detroit is victorious on Thanksgiving. And since the Lions will have a better conference record than both the Eagles and Cowboys with a win over Chicago, they will own the tiebreaker for one of the wild-card spots and move back into the top six.
In the interest of actually picking a team to root for, though, I guess I'm going with Dallas. Why? Well, the Cowboys already have a 5-3 conference record, whereas the Eagles are 4-3 in the NFC. That's not a huge difference, but Philly would really be at a disadvantage with a 4-4 conference record, especially if the Lions are able to improve to 6-2 in the conference by beating Chicago. Again, that's not a big difference, but it's really in the Lions' best interest if one of these teams runs away with the division, and it might as well be Dallas at this point.
Root for: Cowboys, but it really doesn't matter
Seattle Seahawks (7-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4) | 8:30 p.m., NBC (Thursday)
For the wild-card race, this is the most interesting and impactful game for the Lions this week. Much like the Cowboys/Eagles matchup, the main thing is that either Seattle or San Francisco will fall to 7-5 on Thanksgiving barring a tie. Of course, that means the winner of this game will move to 8-4 and into a tie with the Lions should they beat Chicago, but one team will fall a step behind.
So, who should you root for? I'm going with San Francisco simply because Seattle has the same exact conference record as the Lions and owns the common games tiebreaker. That's the reason the Lions are seventh instead of sixth right now. With San Francisco, the Lions have a better conference record by one game and therefore have the tiebreaker advantage. Since the Lions can't win a tiebreaker with the Seahawks if they finish with the same record, Detroit needs Seattle to lose some games and fall behind in the standings.
Root for: 49ers
If the Lions beat the Bears on Thursday and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC playoff picture will look something like this going into Week 14:
- Arizona Cardinals (9-3) *NFC West champion*
- Dallas Cowboys (9-3) *NFC East champion*
- Detroit Lions (8-4) *NFC North champion*
- Atlanta Falcons (5-7) *NFC South champion*
- San Francisco 49ers (8-4) *Wild card*
- Green Bay Packers (8-4) *Wild card*
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
Bye: Cardinals, Cowboys | Wild-card round: Lions vs. Packers, Falcons vs. 49ers
Despite all of the doom and gloom from Sunday, the Lions can move all the way up to No. 3 in the NFC this week simply with a win on Thursday and a Packers loss on Sunday. And even if Green Bay wins, the Lions are still basically guaranteed to at least move back into one of the wild-card spots with a win over the Bears thanks to the Cowboys/Eagles and 49ers/Seahawks games.
To make a long story short, this week really presents a situation where the Lions simply need to do their part and the rest will sort of take care of itself as far as the wild-card race goes. They need the Patriots' help in the short term when it comes to the NFC North race, but the other wild-card contenders are going to do some damage to each other simply by meeting on Thanksgiving. In that sense, the Lions are in position to have a much better week from a rooting standpoint than they did in Week 12, when literally every single outcome went against them.