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NFC Playoff picture: Week 11 was a big help to the Lions

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Detroit doesn’t currently hold a playoff spot, but they’re close.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Thanks to a three-game winning streak, the Detroit Lions find themselves just on the outside of the current playoff picture in the NFC. After their win on Monday night, the Atlanta Falcons have taken over the six-seed with an identical 6-4 record that the Lions hold. Having beat the Lions earlier in the season, the Falcons hold the tiebreakers over both them and the Seahawks team they just defeated.

But before we get into the nitty gritty of the conference standings, let’s take a look at where things stand in the NFC North.

  1. Minnesota Vikings: 8-2 (2-1 in division)
  2. Detroit Lions: 6-4 (3-0 in division)
  3. Green Bay Packers: 5-5 (2-2 in division)
  4. Chicago Bears: 3-7 (0-4 in division)

Working from the bottom up, the Chicago Bears are nearly mathematically eliminated from division contention. They’re five games back of the Vikings with only six games remaining. It was nice knowing you, Chicago. We’ll see you in 2018.

The Packers were shutout by the Ravens and now sit three games behind the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers is still, at the very minimum, three games away from returning, so if Green Bay can’t pick up a win or two before then, there won’t be a point in bringing Rodgers back.

As for Detroit, despite their winning streak, they were unable to gain any ground on the Vikings, who are on a six-game streak of their own. In fact, Minnesota hasn’t lost since Detroit beat them back in Week 4. This week, the Lions will try to get a series sweep and come within a game of the NFC North leader.

NFC conference standings:

  1. Eagles: 9-1 (7-0 in conference)
  2. Vikings: 8-2 (6-1)
  3. Saints: 8-2 (6-1)
  4. Rams: 7-3 (4-3)
  5. Panthers: 7-3 (4-3)
  6. Falcons: 6-4 (5-1)
  7. Lions: 6-4 (5-3)
  8. Seahawks: 6-4 (4-3)
  9. Packers: 5-5 (4-4)
  10. Cowboys: 5-5 (4-4)
  11. Washington: 4-6 (3-5)
  12. Cardinals: 4-6 (3-5)
  13. Buccaneers: 4-6 (2-4)

Week 11 was a minor miracle for the Lions. In our rooting guide, five of the six teams Detroit was rooting for won. Sadly, the most important one (Rams over Vikings) didn’t happen. Still, this was a good week for Detroit.

The Lions not only have the same record as a team in a playoff spot now, but they’re also just a game out from the five-seed. Considering the Lions have a very respectable 5-3 record in the conference, they could have the edge in some future tiebreakers, too.

Here’s the problem: The two teams that currently hold the wild card spots have both already defeated the Lions. So Detroit is going to need some help from one or both of those teams to assume a spot in the wild card.

But the best thing that happened for Detroit this week involves the teams behind them in the standings. The Seahawks, Packers, Cowboys, Cardinals and Washington all lost. The less teams in contention for this wild card spot, the better. And now Detroit has a little breathing room ahead of those teams not only by overall record, but Detroit’s 5-3 conference record is also better than any team below them on the standings.

Considering the Lions’ favorable schedule and current conference record, it seems like their playoff chances are on the rise. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, Detroit’s playoff odds rose 11 percent this week (from 40% to 51%). Detroit could see a huge spike in their postseason odds by picking up a huge win over the Vikings on Thursday.