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Week 10 NFL playoff picture: Lions could realistically take NFC North lead in 3 weeks

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Don’t look now, but the Lions are in a great spot to retake the division lead.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Now that we’ve officially crossed over into the second half of the Detroit Lions season, it’s time to start seriously thinking about the postseason.

The Lions currently sit at 4-4, the same record they had at this point last year when they qualified for the final Wild Card spot. Though they are currently on the outside looking in, the Lions are definitely in a position where they should be able to legitimately contend for not only a playoff spot, but potentially their first NFC North title. Let’s break it down.

NFC North standings

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

The Lions have a ways to go, sitting a full two games behind the Vikings, who are currently winners of four straight games. But looking forward, Detroit could close that gap considerably in the next three weeks. Check out the schedules for each team.

Lions next 3 games:

  • vs. Browns (0-8)
  • at Bears (3-5)
  • vs. Vikings (6-2)

Vikings next 3 games:

  • at Washington (4-4)
  • vs. Rams (6-2)
  • at Lions (4-4)

The Lions have two games against teams with losing records before the huge Thanksgiving matchup against the Vikings. Though a game at Soldier Field is no gimme for Detroit, they are already 2-0 in road games in the division, and 3-1 overall.

The Vikings, on the other hand, have to play a competitive Washington team on the road, then will face off against the red-hot Rams.

If Detroit can take care of business, and the Vikings drop even one of those two games, suddenly Thanksgiving will be for first place in the division. And if Detroit sweeps the next three games, the outlook is extremely positive from there.

Lions strength of schedule Weeks 13-17: .390
Vikings strength of schedule Weeks 13-17: .488

NFC wild card

Here’s a look at the entire NFC standings through Week 9

  1. Eagles: 8-1
  2. Saints: 6-2
  3. Vikings: 6-2
  4. Rams: 6-2
  5. Panthers: 6-3
  6. Cowboys: 5-3

Outside looking in:

  1. Seahawks: 5-3
  2. Falcons: 4-4
  3. Lions: 4-4
  4. Washington: 4-4
  5. Packers: 4-4
  6. Cardinals: 4-4
  7. Bears: 3-5

Mapped out, things don’t look all that hopeless for the Lions. They’re technically only a game out of that final playoff spot that the Cowboys currently hold. The problem is that there are four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, and two of them have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.

There are also three teams below them with identical records, but Detroit has already defeated two of them in head-to-head matchups.

If Detroit is going to go with their Plan B and get into the playoffs with a Wild Card berth, they are going to need the Falcons and/or Panthers to take a nosedive in the second half of the season. Atlanta could certainly be that team, as they’ve lost four of their last five games and they have tough contests against the Cowboys and Seahawks ahead. But even if the Falcons falter, Detroit would need some help from both Dallas and Seattle later in the season.

Right now, the Wild Card picture is just too crowded to make any real sense of it this far back. But one thing is clear for the Lions: The path to the playoffs looks much easier and simpler with an NFC North crown than through the murky picture in the Wild Card.