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NFC playoff picture: Week 14 Detroit Lions rooting guide

Unfortunately, fans should probably hope both playoff seeds currently ahead of the Lions win their games.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Week 14, the NFC playoff picture looks like this:

Seed Team Record entering week Notes
1 Dallas 11-1 Projected NFC East Champion
2 Seattle 8-3-1 Projected NFC West Champion
3 Detroit 8-4 Projected NFC North Champion
4 Atlanta 7-5 Projected NFC South Champion
5 New York 8-4 Projected Wild Card
6 Tampa Bay 7-5 Projected Wild Card
7 Washington 6-5-1 Cannot win NFC East
8 Minnesota 6-6
9 Green Bay 6-6
10 Arizona 5-6-1

Must-watch games:

Seattle (8-3-1) at Green Bay (6-6) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Seattle

There appear to be two major opinions forming around this game: one which places emphasis on locking up the NFC North division title and a second which assumes the Lions are already assured of the division title and attempting to leapfrog the Seahawks for the first round bye is what’s important. The Pride Of Detroit staff is unanimous in siding with the first group. A Packers loss plus a Lions win reduces the scenarios under which the Packers take the division to just one in Weeks 15 through 17: the Lions would have to lose out the rest of the way and the Packers would have to win out the rest of the way.

Minnesota (6-6) at Jacksonville (2-10) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

Who to root for: Jacksonville

Though Minnesota is now an outside shot at best to make the playoffs and the Lions hold the tiebreaker, a Jacksonville win would all but finish the job. A Vikings loss plus a Lions win guarantees they cannot catch the Lions in the NFC North standings for the rest of the season.

Games to keep an eye on:

Washington (6-5-1) at Philadelphia (5-7) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Philadelphia

Washington remains a viable Wild Card contender, and could challenge the eventual loser of the NFC South division race for the 6th seed in the playoffs. If the Lions remain in the 3rd seed, they would face the 6th seed: whether or not you think Detroit matches up best against Washington determines if you want them to continue winning.

New Orleans (5-7) at Tampa Bay (7-5) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: New Orleans

No matter which team wins the NFC South, the important thing is that they finish with a worse record than the Lions to stay down as the 4th seed. Regardless of how the final weeks play out, all competitors for the NFC South division title help the Lions by spreading losses equally among themselves. Thus, we prefer the 5-7 NFC South team pick up the win against the 7-5 NFC South team.

Atlanta (7-5) at Los Angeles (4-8) - 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Los Angeles

The above reasoning is also true for current NFC South division leader Atlanta. The ideal outcome is for the eventual division champion from that division to be something miserable like 7-9 or 8-8 and locked into the 4th seed. Los Angeles can help the cause by bumping up Atlanta’s loss column.

Dallas (11-1) at NY Giants (8-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET - NBC (Sunday)

Who to root for: Dallas

It is tough to actually want Dallas to win two weeks in a row, but the reality is that Detroit is unlikely to rocket up the standings into the top seed. As such, weakening another Wild Card contender like the New York Giants has some value even if you do not believe Eli Manning has an eminently punchable face.

Arizona (5-6-1) at Miami (7-5) - 1:00 p.m. ET - FOX

Who to root for: Miami


Cincinnati (4-7-1) at Cleveland (0-12) - 1:00 p.m. ET - CBS

Who to root for: Cincinnati

Four weeks to go, folks. We are not hoping for the goose egg out of malice (well, not all of us); sometimes things need to hit absolute rock bottom before healing can begin.

Games that don’t matter:

Oakland (10-2) at Kansas City (9-3) - 8:25 p.m. ET - NBC (Thursday)

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Buffalo (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

Denver (8-4) at Tennessee (6-6) - 1 p.m ET - CBS

San Diego (5-7) at Carolina (4-8) - 1:00 p.m ET - FOX

Houston (6-6) at Indianapolis (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET - CBS

NY Jets (3-9) at San Francisco (1-11) - 4:05 p.m. ET - CBS

Baltimore (7-5) at New England (10-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET - ESPN (Monday)