With two consecutive wins, the Detroit Lions have pushed themselves back into the playoff picture. They may only technically sit a single game behind the second wild card spot, but this team still has a lot of work to do to establish themselves as real contenders.
Detroit is mathematically eighth in the NFC right now, but the biggest concern is that three of the teams above them, including two wild card contenders, all have wins over the Lions.
As always, the simplest way to get into the playoffs would be through the division, but the Vikings are making that hard with five straight wins. It would be nice if the Lions had a Plan B to fall back on. So here are the teams you should be rooting for in Week 11.
Rams (7-2) at Vikings (7-2) — 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Rams
Until that ball drops and it’s 2018, you root against the Vikings and you root with all of your might. If Minnesota drops this game, and the Lions win in Chicago, Thanksgiving is for first place in the NFC North. Let’s go Rams!
Who to root for: Ravens
AFC over NFC.
But with rumors that Aaron Rodgers’ recovery is coming along well, and hopes still floating that he could make a return as early as Week 15, Green Bay needs to be buried as soon as possible. We don’t want Rodgers to get it in his head that he can pull another division miracle out of his behind. Make it so the Packers don’t even have a decision to make come Week 15.
Washington (4-5) at Saints (7-2) — 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Saints
Some may disagree with this, since the Lions already have a lead on Washington, but I think it’s best for the Lions to just consider the Saints uncatchable. Let them run away with the NFC South, and in the meantime, the fewer contenders for the wild card the better.
The first priority for Lions fans should be to get their team into the postseason, not seeding. Having Washington drop another game clears the way for Detroit to contend for one of those wild card spot.
Who to root for: Texans
It’s the same idea here. The Lions have the tiebreaker over the Cardinals already, and if Arizona loses this week, along with a Detroit win, the Lions will have a convincing three-game lead over the Cards. That’s nearly eliminating them from contention with only six games remaining.
Who to root for: Eagles
Let’s just give the Eagles the No. 1 seed right now. It doesn’t do the Lions any harm. The Cowboys, on the other hand, could certainly steal that wild card spot away from Detroit. Dallas may be in serious trouble without Ezekiel Elliott for the next few games, while Sean Lee and Tyron Smith deal with injuries.
The quicker Dallas plummets, the better for Detroit.
Who to root for: Falcons
This is the hardest game of the week to navigate. Some believe the Seahawks are done now that Richard Sherman and (likely) Kam Chancellor are out for the year. I’m not too sure of that.
So even though the Falcons hold the tiebreaker over the Lions and the Seahawks don’t, I still think you should root for Atlanta, simply because of the record difference.
Additionally, the Falcons have a tough road ahead, including two more games against the Saints, a contest with the Vikings and their finale against the Panthers. They will have plenty more opportunities to lose down the line.
The Seahawks, too, have some tough games ahead (Eagles, Jaguars, Rams, Cowboys), but they seem to thrive in the dead of the winter.
If all of these games fall they way the Lions would like—and Detroit beats Chicago—here’s how the standings would look after Week 11:
- Eagles: 9-1
- Saints: 8-2
- Rams: 8-2
- Vikings: 7-3
- Panthers: 7-3
- Falcons: 6-4
- Lions: 6-4
- Seahawks: 6-4
- Packers: 5-5
- Cowboys: 5-5
- Washington: 4-6
- Cardinals: 4-6
So by the end of Week 11, even if everything goes the Lions way, they’ll still be on the outside looking in.
That being said, they’d be in a position to make a big move in Week 12. Not only could Detroit catch the likes of the Falcons or get even with the Panthers, but they could take over the lead for the NFC North. With two Detroit wins in the next two games and two Vikings losses, the teams will share a 7-4 record. But the Lions will permanently hold the tiebreaker over them as the winner of two head-to-head matchups over Minnesota.