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NFC playoff picture: Detroit Lions postseason odds increase after Week 14

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The Lions’ path to the playoffs is clearer, but still difficult.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions won by the skin of their teeth on Sunday and kept their playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get much help early in the week. First, the Falcons upset the Saints to move to 8-5. Then, on Sunday afternoon, the Panthers picked up a huge win over the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit desperately needs the Panthers or Falcons to struggle down the stretch, so Week 14 was rough for them.

But the Lions helped themselves with a win, and they got a little bit of help from the Sunday evening games. Overall, their odds jumped from eight percent to 15. Here’s a look at the NFC playoff picture through Week 14.

NFC North standings:

  1. Vikings: 10-3 (3-1 in division)
  2. Lions: 7-6 (3-1)
  3. Packers: 7-6 (2-2)
  4. Bears: 4-9 (0-4)

All the Vikings needed to clinch the division was to win or have the Lions and Packers both lose. None of those things happen, so Minnesota finds themselves in the same exact position heading into Week 15. One Vikings win or one loss from both Detroit and Green Bay and the division is theirs. It’s only a matter of time, really.

NFC Standings:

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

The Lions are just a game behind the Falcons and Seahawks for that final wild card spot. Right now, those are the two teams you need to focus on. Assuming the Lions win out—I know, just bear with me—all the Lions need is for the Seahawks to lose one more game in their final three—vs. Rams, at Cowboys, or vs. Cardinals. The two teams would finish with identical overall and conference record, but Detroit would win the tiebreaker in common games.

The Falcons are a little trickier. Detroit is essentially two games behind Atlanta because of their head-to-head loss. A three-way tie with the Falcons and Seahawks at 10-6 is no good either because Atlanta would win the conference record tiebreaker.

So Detroit absolutely needs the Falcons to lose two of their three remaining games:

  • at Buccaneers (4-9)
  • at Saints (9-4)
  • vs. Panthers (9-4)

Or, to put simply, here are the three things that need to happen for the Lions to get into the playoffs:

  1. Lions win out (vs. Bears, at Bengals, vs. Packers)
  2. Seahawks lose to Rams OR Cowboys OR Cardinals
  3. Falcons lose to 2 of 3 opponents: Bucs, Saints, Panthers

There are other ways for the Lions to make the postseason, but that scenario laid out above is the most realistic.