After three months of clawing their way back from a 1-3 record and countless in-game deficits, the Detroit Lions have a chance to make it all pay off this Sunday. Sitting at 9-4 on the year and comfortably at the two-seed in the NFC, Detroit can clinch their third playoff appearance in six years and their first division title in over two decades.
The Lions are among six other teams that can clinch a playoff spot this week and just one of four teams that can clinch their division in Week 14. At the moment, no team has been declared the winner of their division.
There are only two scenarios that can happen that would result in a Lions NFC North title this week.
In the first scenario, the Lions would have 10 wins on the season, and the Packers’ ceiling would be just nine after the loss. It wouldn’t matter what the Vikings did, as their current ceiling is just 10 wins, and because the Lions already beat them twice, Detroit permanently holds the tiebreaker over them.
In the second scenario, the Lions would be 9-4-1, the Packers would be 7-7 and the Vikings would either be 7-6-1 or 7-7. Again, the Packers’ ceiling (9-7) would be below the Lions’ worst possible record (9-6-1), while the best the Vikings could hope for was a tied 9-6-1 record, which wouldn’t be enough to beat out Detroit.
A Lions win this week is certainly possible. They’re currently seen as a four-point underdog, which isn’t all that much considering the Giants have home-field advantage. The Packers play the Bears this week and are a 5.5 point favorite. But with Aaron Rodgers dealing with a calf injury, anything is possible at Soldier Field.
Unfortunately, there are no scenarios for the Lions to simply clinch a playoff berth alone this week without wrapping up the division. That’s likely because the Wild Card race kept pace with Detroit last week, with the majority of the NFC contenders winning in Week 14. Here’s a look at the current standings (first four teams listed are division leaders):
- Dallas Cowboys: 11-2
- Detroit Lions: 9-4
- Seattle Seahawks: 8-4-1
- Atlanta Falcons: 8-5
- New York Giants: 9-4
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-5
- Washington: 7-5-1
- Minnesota Vikings: 7-6
- Green Bay Packers: 7-6
As you can see, just two games separate second place from ninth place in the NFC. With three games remaining, a lot can still change, but the Lions have a chance—albeit a small one—to put the NFC North race to bed early.