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NFL playoff picture: Lions get no help in Week 12

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The Lions didn’t help themselves, and the rest of the NFC followed suit.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions didn’t do themselves any favors in Week 12. Their loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday pretty much doomed any chance that they could win the NFC North.

Here’s a look at the divisional standings:

  1. Minnesota Vikings: 9-2 (3-1 in division)
  2. Detroit Lions: 6-5 (3-1)
  3. Green Bay Packers: 5-6 (2-2)
  4. Chicago Bears: 3-8 (0-4)

Detroit is three games back with five games to go. Not only would the Vikings have to lose at least three of their final five games, but Detroit would have to go undefeated in their final five. Even that may not be enough, because if the Vikings only win against the Bears and Packers, they’ll still win the division, because they’ll have (at least) an equal division record as the Lions and a better conference record.

In other words, don’t bother getting your hopes up for an NFC North title in Detroit.

Instead, let’s look at the wild card race, which got a lot tighter for the Lions on Sunday, because our Week 12 rooting guide went exactly 0-6 in the afternoon games.

  1. Eagles: 10-1
  2. Vikings: 9-2
  3. Rams: 8-3
  4. Saints: 8-3
  5. Panthers: 8-3
  6. Falcons: 7-4
  7. Seahawks: 7-4
  8. Lions: 6-5
  9. 4 teams tied at 5-6 (GB, DAL, WAS, AZ)

Six of the seven teams ahead of the Lions in the standings all won in Week 12, distancing themselves from Detroit and sending them firmly down to eighth in the NFC. Not only are the Lions now essentially two games out of a wild card (one, plus the tiebreaker), but there’s now another team (Seahawks) to jump before even getting into that spot.

The Seahawks are a legitimate hurdle for the Lions, even though they have much tougher schedule ahead. Seattle now has a slight edge in the tiebreaker, holding a 5-3 conference record in comparison to Detroit’s 5-4.

There are a few teams nipping at the Lions’ heels below them in the standings, but if Detroit is going to make a real run at the playoffs (4-1 or 5-0 down the stretch), none of those teams should be of much concern.

Instead, the Lions must hope that these difficult schedules for NFC contenders starts resulting in some losses. Here’s the strength of schedule for the teams above the Lions (excluding the Eagles and Vikings):

Falcons: 0.673
Seahawks: .636
Panthers: .600
Saints: .545
Rams: .545
Lions: .407

So the schedule certainly works in Detroit’s favor, but they have to start winning football games first. And it all starts with the Ravens next week.