Week 10 has the potential to be huge for the Detroit Lions. Not only can they pull within a game of the division lead, but several NFC contenders are in action this week, some facing off against each other. In other words, there is going to be a lot of losing in the conference, and if the Lions can take care of their own business, they’re likely to end the week in a much better position than they entered it.
Obviously the biggest game of the week—as it will likely be for the rest of the season—involves the Minnesota Vikings. They have the tough task of going on the road and facing a Washington team that just took down the Seahawks in Seattle.
But NFC contenders like the Saints, Falcons and Cowboys all have tough games this week. The Lions could really make things complicated in the wild card race and truly contend for a playoff spot, even with some key losses within the conference.
Last week, our Week 9 rooting guide didn’t go so hot. Of the seven games we mentioned, only one of the teams Detroit Lions fans should have been rooting for won. That leaves the Lions in a tough position in the wild card race, but there is plenty of football to be played. Let’s look forward and see which teams to root for in Week 10.
Thursday Night Football
Who to root for: Cardinals
The Lions have the tiebreaker over the Cardinals, and, to be honest, I don’t really respect Arizona’s chances to compete this year with Carson Palmer out for the season. The Seahawks, on the other hand, tend to play really well in the final two months of the year and currently hold one of two wild card spots. Down with Seattle.
Who to root for: Bills
AFC over NFC always. The Lions may prefer the Saints to win the division, since New Orleans holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Detroit, but should the Lions win their division, another New Orleans loss could help with seeding.
Who to root for: Packers
Green Bay is done. They can start building their draft board because their hope for the 2017 postseason was broken along with Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone. The Bears are still holding out a little hope to potentially make a run for their division (their schedule is pretty easy, too). So let’s dash their hopes this week, so that they’re too distraught to play next week.
Jets (4-5) at Buccaneers (2-6) — 1 p.m. ET - CBS
Who to root for: Jets
AFC over NFC, even if Tampa is pretty much out of it already.
Vikings (6-2) at Washington (4-4) — 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Washington
This is the most important game for the Detroit Lions this week. The clearest path to the playoffs is atop the NFC North, and there is only one team that currently stands in their way. For the rest of the season, root against the Vikings. No exceptions.
That being said, a win for Washington isn’t great for the Lions. They are right in the middle of the wild card race and currently have the same record as Detroit. Still. Minnesota must go.
Who to root for: Texans
AFC over NFC. There’s no harm in the Rams running away with the NFC West, but, again, if the Lions end up winning their division, seeding could end up making a big difference. The Rams currently hold the 4-seed, but with two games up on Detroit, the Lions would need them to have a mini-collapse to jump them.
Who to root for: Falcons
This is a tricky one, because the Falcons ultimately have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Detroit. But considering Atlanta has currently lost four of their past five games, it appears they could be headed out of the playoff picture completely.
Although, Dallas could be headed for some trouble, too, now that Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension has been upheld (for now). Still, Dallas has the better record, and in my opinion, they pose the bigger long-term threat. So let’s hand them a loss, and as an added benefit, they don’t gain ground on the “common games” tiebreaker with the Lions, considering Detroit already lost to Atlanta.
Who to root for: Giants
The reasoning here is two-fold. One, I want another 0-16 team. Screw all that “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone” stuff. Misery loves company. Give me another 0-16 team right now.
But there is actually some real benefit for Detroit here if the Giants win. Way down in the tiebreaker procedure, there is something called “strength of victory”—the fifth tiebreaker for the division and fourth for the wild card. That is basically the cumulative record of the teams you beat. The Lions beat the Giants, so the better record they have at the end of the year, the better Detroit’s strength of victory will be.
Dolphins (4-4) at Panthers (6-3) — 8:35 p.m. ET (MONDAY) - ESPN
Who to root for: Dolphins
AFC over NFC. The Panthers are one of those pesky NFC South teams that have already defeated the Lions, and that will make it tricky for Detroit to claim a wild card spot. But if they lose this week and the Lions win, Detroit will only be a half game behind them.
If all of these game break this way, and the Lions beat the Browns, here’s what the standings will look like after Week 10:
- Eagles: 8-1
- Saints: 6-3
- Vikings: 6-3
- Rams: 6-3
- Panthers: 6-4
- Falcons: 5-4
- Lions: 5-4
- Cowboys: 5-4
- Cardinals: 5-4
- Packers: 5-4
- Seahawks: 5-4
- Washington: 5-4
- Bears: 3-6
Wow. This would create an insane situation in which there are seven 5-4 teams vying for that final wild card spot, a few of which are just a game out of their own division lead. I could go through all the tiebreakers on why the Falcons would be temporarily in the sixth spot, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. There won’t be this kind of logjam at the end of the season.
What’s important to note here is just how hotly contested this wild card spot could be down the road. If the Lions want to avoid such a complicated mess, just win and root for Vikings losses.