There's still a lot of football left, but the Detroit Lions are entering the second half of the season with sole possession of first place in the NFC North and the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC. It obviously remains to be seen if they will be able to hold on to either of those things over the course of their final eight games, but it's time to start seriously thinking about the playoffs.
With that in mind, below is our first Lions rooting guide of 2014. At this point, the main focus for the Lions is on winning the NFC North and securing a first-round bye, but we're going to keep an eye on the wild-card race as well just in case things don't work out in the division. Take a look:
Considering the Bears are currently in last place in the NFC North, there's no reason to root against them this week. They could potentially get back into the divisional race with a strong second half of the season, but the Packers are the Lions' main threat right now. As a result, the Bears could do the Lions a big favor by winning at Lambeau on Sunday night.
Root for: Bears
Only the Cardinals are currently ahead of the Lions in the NFC standings. If they fall on Sunday and the Lions win, both teams will have a 7-2 record going into their meeting next week. I believe the Cardinals would still technically hold the No. 1 seed by winning the strength of victory tiebreaker, but that obviously wouldn't mean much with a head-to-head matchup coming up.
Root for: Rams
For the wild-card race, it would be better for the Lions if the NFC South only has one team in contention for a playoff spot. However, even with a Panthers win, it remains highly unlikely that two NFC South teams will end up in the playoffs, so for seeding purposes, the Lions are better off with an Eagles loss.
Root for: Panthers
This one is pretty simple: Root for the AFC team.
Root for: Jaguars
A Saints win could inch them closer to the Lions from a seeding standpoint, but considering Detroit owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, I don't think it would be that big of a deal at this point in time. Plus, a Saints win would move the 49ers another step away from the playoffs, and for the sake of the wild card, that would definitely be a good thing.
Root for: Saints
The Giants don't look like a team that will make any noise in the playoff hunt, but the Seahawks are a definite threat for a wild-card spot. As a result, a Giants win would be best for the Lions.
Root for: Giants
If the Lions beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC playoff picture will look something like this going into Week 11:
- Arizona Cardinals (7-2) *NFC West champion*
- Detroit Lions (7-2) *NFC North champion*
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-3) *NFC East champion*
- New Orleans Saints (5-4) *NFC South champion*
- Dallas Cowboys (6-4) *Wild card*
- Seattle Seahawks (5-4) *Wild card*
- Green Bay Packers (5-4)
- Carolina Panthers (4-5-1)
- Chicago Bears (4-5)
- St. Louis Rams (4-5)
- New York Giants (4-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
As mentioned earlier, I believe the Cardinals would hang on to the top overall seed going into next week's game against the Lions. Even so, the Lions would suddenly have a two-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North and a one-game advantage over the No. 3 seed. That would put them in a really solid position with two tough road games coming up.