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NFL playoff picture: Lions return to the top six

After a week on the outside looking in, the Detroit Lions are back in the top six in the NFC playoff picture.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Following their loss to the New England Patriots in Week 12, the Detroit Lions dropped from second to seventh in the NFC playoff picture. By the end of Thanksgiving, though, the Lions were back in control of a playoff spot thanks to their win over the Chicago Bears and losses by the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. Specifically, they took control of the No. 6 seed, and that remains the case following Sunday's games. Take a look:

  1. Arizona Cardinals (9-3) *NFC West champion*
  2. Green Bay Packers (9-3) *NFC North champion*
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) *NFC East champion*
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-7) *NFC South champion*
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4) *Wild card*
  6. Detroit Lions (8-4) *Wild card*
  7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
  8. San Francisco 49ers (7-5)

Bye: Cardinals, Packers | Wild-card round: Eagles vs. Lions, Falcons vs. Seahawks

If the season ended today, the Lions would make the playoffs over the Cowboys by having a better conference record (6-2 > 5-4). In turn, this means that the Lions would be headed to Philadelphia to play the Eagles if the season ended today. Of course, the season doesn't end today, and the Lions actually still control their own destiny in the NFC North. If they win out -- meaning that they beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 -- they will win the NFC North and possibly even earn a first-round bye as well.

Obviously, there's still a lot up in the air with four weeks left in the season. Things look pretty good for the Lions right now given their upcoming schedule, but as we found out last year, that doesn't exactly mean much. You still have to go out and beat your opponents, no matter how favorable the schedule looks on paper. First things first for the Lions, that means taking care of business against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.