It’s now very clear that the Detroit Lions’ goal for this season—at the very least—should be an NFC North division title. With four weeks remaining in the season and a two game lead over both the Packers and Vikings, anything less than a divisional crown would be a major disappointment.
That being said, nothing in guaranteed in the NFL and things can change at the drop of a hat. Players get injured, teams get streaky, and vulnerabilities get exploited. The Lions are in a great position to win their division for the time in 23 years, but they have some work to do. Here’s a recap of where the Lions stand in comparison to their NFC North foes.
Chicago Bears (3-9) - Out of contention for NFC North
With the win on Sunday, the Lions moved to 8-4, meaning the Bears cannot mathematically catch them this season. Chicago will get their chance to play spoiler this week as they head to Ford Field to take on Detroit.
Minnesota Vikings (6-6) - Magic Number: 2
[Note: The Magic Number represents the amount of Lions wins + Vikings losses needed for Detroit to clinch a place above them in the standings.]
The Lions simply need to win two more games to put the Vikings in the rear-view mirror for good. The Vikes can only manage 10 wins at best, and if the Lions reach that total, as well, they’ll advance ahead of Minnesota after sweeping the season series.
At this point, the Vikings are a long shot to win the division. FiveThirtyEight has their division odds at just four percent, though they list their overall playoff odds at 28 percent, suggesting that a Wild Card spot is still realistic for the Vikings.
Green Bay Packers (6-6) - Magic Number: 3
Though the Packers have the same record as the Vikings, the Lions Magic Number is still at 3 for Green Bay. Because Detroit is currently losing the tiebreaker against the Packers, they will need to finish with a better record than Green Bay to hold the division title—unless they win the tiebreaker back in Week 17.
The good news for Detroit is that Week 14 can provide a big swing in this relationship between the two teams. The Packers face off against the impressive, 8-3-1 Seahawks in Green Bay, while the Lions face the lowly Bears. If the Packers lose and the Lions win, suddenly the Detroit only has to win one more game in the final three to clinch the entire division. However, if the opposite happens—the Packers win and the Lions lose—suddenly you’re almost guaranteed to have the Packers-Lions game decide the division in Week 17.
Things are looking very, very good for the Lions right now. FiveThirtyEight has them at 82 percent odds to win the division and 90 percent to make the playoffs. If the Packers lose to Seattle this week and the Lions take care of their own business, the Lions will be bringing Champagne to New York... just in case.