For the third straight week, the Detroit Lions have the afternoon off. That means we get a whole slate of games to watch again, without the stress of dealing with our favorite teams.
This is also an odd week where the entire NFC North has Sunday off. The Bears and Vikings are both on bye weeks, while the Lions and Packers are waiting in anticipation for Monday night. Regardless, there are some games that may affect the Lions’ playoff chances, so here’s who to root for in Week 9.
Buccaneers (2-5) at Saints (5-2) - 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Buccaneers
If the Lions want a shot at a wild card spot, they’re going to need the top of the NFC South to crash and burn. Detroit has already lost games to the Saints, Panthers (5-3) and Falcons (4-3). They’ll never get those tiebreakers back, so the losses need to keep coming. A Bucs win is currently harmless for Detroit, because the Lions play them later in the year.
Who to root for: Giants
Another wild card spot could come out of the NFC West, where the Rams and Seahawks currently share a 5-2 record. Detroit needs one of them to tank, and the Rams seem the most likely to do so. The Giants are already toast, so let them pick up a pity win.
Falcons (4-3) at Panthers (5-3) - 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Panthers
Alright, this is a tricky one, so stick with me. Both teams hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, but Detroit could theoretically still win a tiebreaker if there is a three-way tie for a wild card spot. If none of the three teams have swept the other two (or been swept by the other two), the next tiebreaker is conference record. The Lions currently hold just a 3-3 record in the conference, while Atlanta is 3-0 and the Panthers are 3-3. Detroit isn’t likely to catch the Falcons record there, so it’s hard to see the Lions winning any sort of tiebreaker over them. So let’s just finish with a better record than the Falcons and forget about it.
Who to root for: Broncos
Let’s not kid ourselves, this game won’t have any impact on the Lions’ playoff chances unless something catastrophic happens in Philly. Still, the rule of AFC over NFC stands.
Who to root for: 49ers
Unless you’re a vindictive person that wants to see the 49ers go 0-16, this is a pretty easy choice. The Cardinals are a long-shot to compete for a playoff spot and the Lions have the tiebreaker over them anyways, but it’s always good to have less teams in competition come December. A loss here would demoralize Arizona, likely for good.
Washington (3-4) at Seahawks (5-2) - 4:05 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Seahawks
This is really a toss-up. I’m assuming that the Seahawks win the division, making a win here irrelevant towards Detroit’s needs. It could affect seeding should the Lions win their division, but right now, the primary goal for Detroit should be to just get into the playoffs. This team is in no position to start rooting for seeding.
Anyways, a Washington loss would push them to 3-5, giving the Lions another opportunity to jump a team in the wild card standings.
Who to root for: Chiefs
AFC over NFC. Anyone but the Cowboys. Payback for 2014.
Whatever reason you like, this is the easiest game to root for this week. A Cowboys loss combined with a Lions win means the two teams are tied in record and Detroit climbs yet another spot in the wild card standings (though Dallas would technically still be ahead with a slightly better conference record).
Now here’s a look at what the NFC standings would look like if all of these games went the Lions’ way (and Detroit wins on Monday).
- Eagles: 7-2
- Vikings: 6-2
- Seahawks: 6-2
- Panthers: 6-3
- Saints: 5-3
- Rams: 5-3
- Falcons: 4-4
- Cowboys: 4-4
- Lions: 4-4
- Packers: 4-4
- Washington: 3-5
- Cardinals: 3-5
- Bears: 3-5
- Buccaneers: 3-5
The Lions would only be a single game out of the wild card, but there would be nine total teams in real contention for those final two playoff spots. Still, this isn’t a completely unrealistic scenario, so put on your rooting caps!