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NFC playoff picture: Week 13 Detroit Lions rooting guide

Two road teams from Texas could help the Lions immensely in the battle for the NFC North.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Week 13, the NFC playoff picture looks like this:

Seed Team Record entering week Result this week
1 Dallas 10-1 Beat Washington, 31-26
2 Seattle 7-3-1 Lost to Tampa Bay, 5-14
3 Detroit 7-4 Beat Minnesota, 16-13
4 Atlanta 7-4 Beat Arizona, 38-19
5 New York 8-3 Won at Cleveland, 27-13
6 Washington 6-4-1 Lost at Dallas, 26-31
7 Tampa Bay 6-5 Won at Seattle, 14-5
8 Minnesota 6-5 Lost at Detroit, 13-16
9 New Orleans 5-6 Beat Los Angeles, 49-21
10 Green Bay 5-6 Won at Philadelphia, 27-13

Detroit, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans hold conference record tiebreakers over other teams with the same overall records as each of them. Green Bay slides into the 10th spot as the head-to-head winner over Philadelphia (now also 5-6) on Monday. New York, in spite of having a better record than both Detroit and Atlanta, comes in 5th behind them because it is not projected to be a division champion.

Must-watch games:

Dallas (10-1) at Minnesota (6-5) - 8:25 p.m. ET - NBC (Thursday)

Who to root for: Dallas

This is why the rooting guide is going up early. As distasteful as it seems to cheer on Dallas, all Detroit fans until the end of the year should be pulling for both Minnesota and Green Bay to lose every game. Jeremy Reisman said last week the goal should be winning the division, and that still holds true. The one game lead on Minnesota while holding the head-to-head sweep tiebreaker is nice, but a two game lead would be better.

Houston (6-5) at Green Bay (5-6) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

Who to root for: Houston

Very straightforward here with an AFC squad playing an NFC playoff contender (always root for AFC over non-Detroit NFC) which happens to be the Green Bay Packers (always root against the Packers). A-A-Ron’s nearly flawless performance at Philadelphia kept the cheeseheads’ playoff hopes alive with the assistance of the mystery tent, and he will likely have his way at Lamborghini Field. Detroit has a two game lead on Green Bay in the NFC North, which is nice, but a three game lead would be better. Go Texans!

Pretty important games:

Carolina (4-7) at Seattle (7-3-1) - 8:30 p.m. ET - NBC (Sunday)

Who to root for: Carolina

The Panthers are more or less out of the running for the playoffs, but can help by pushing the Seahawks down the seeding chart. The NFC West division leader holds a half-game advantage for the first-round bye; a Lions win plus a Seahawks loss would vault the Lions into the second seed. This is cool but not as important as making the playoffs to begin with, which is why this game is not up in the must-see tier.

New York Giants (8-3) at Pittsburgh (6-5) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Pittsburgh

With a better record than Detroit, New York is an obvious threat if the NFC North title slips away and Jim Caldwell has to switch to plan B. Again, AFC team versus an NFC playoff contender is an easy call, and Pittsburgh can help Detroit by keeping the top dog of the NFC Wild Card pack within striking distance.

Kansas City (8-3) at Atlanta (7-4) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

Who to root for: Kansas City

Yet another confrontation of AFC team versus an NFC contender, there is an obvious preferred winner. The Chiefs are fighting hard to stay in the lead of the AFC Wild Card race, and should give MVP dark horse Matt Ryan and the Falcons a heck of a time in the Georgia Dome. Should the Buccaneers overtake the Falcons for the NFC South division lead, a worse record for the Falcons will help the Lions’ Wild Card backup plan.

Games to keep an eye on:

Washington (6-4-1) at Arizona (4-6-1) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Arizona

The Cardinals are in nearly as bad shape as the Panthers when it comes to the NFC Wild Card race, so a victory for them should not harm the Lions. Washington, on the other hand, is still very much in the mix.

Tampa Bay (6-5) at San Diego (5-6) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: San Diego


Philadelphia (5-6) at Cincinnati (3-7-1) - 1:00 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Cincinnati


Games that don’t matter:

Los Angeles (4-7) at New England (9-2) - 1 p.m. ET - FOX

Denver (7-4) at Jacksonville (2-9) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

Miami (7-4) at Baltimore (6-5) - 1 p.m ET - CBS

Buffalo (6-5) at Oakland (9-2) - 4:05 p.m ET - CBS

Indianapolis (5-6) at New York Jets (3-8) - 8:30 p.m. ET - ESPN (Monday)

San Francisco (1-10) at Chicago (2-9) - 1:00 p.m. ET - FOX

If Lions fans get their way, according to this rooting guide, these would be the six playoff seeds heading into Week 14:

Seed Team Record after this week Notes
1 Dallas 11-1 Projected NFC East Champion
2 Detroit 8- 4 Projected NFC North Champion
3 Seattle 7-4- 1 Projected NFC West Champion
4 Atlanta 7-5 Projected NFC South Champion
5 New York 8-4 Projected Wild Card
6 Washington 6-5-1 Projected Wild Card

Dare to dream.

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