This is it. This is the biggest week of the season for the Detroit Lions (so far). Not only are they in a situation where they have to win at least four of their last five games to make the playoffs, but this week specifically should have a huge impact on their postseason chances. Of the seven teams currently ahead of the Lions in the NFC, six are playing against each other. There will be losses.
Here are the teams you should be rooting this week
Who to root for: Vikings
Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with just two more wins, as long as those two wins are against the Bears and Packers. So Lions fans are just going to have to swallow their pride and root for Minnesota the rest of the way, because they play a few wild card contenders down the stretch.
The Falcons are one of those teams and are one of the most catchable for the Lions, despite losing the head-to-head matchup.
Buccaneers (4-7) at Packers (5-6) — 1 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Buccaneers
Green Bay is a longshot to make the playoffs, but the sooner their out of contention the better, because it looks like Aaron Rodgers is coming back. If the Packers are already out of playoff contention, there will be no real reason to bring him back, which would be great news for Detroit, since they finish their season with another game against the Pack.
Who to root for: Saints
This is a toss-up since the teams have identical records and both have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Detroit. However, there’s a chance that the Lions could actually have the tiebreaker over one of these teams should there be a three-way tie with the Seahawks. For head-to-head tiebreakers to be relevant in a three-way tie, one team must have beaten the other two (or a team is eliminated if they lost to both). Because Detroit does not play Seattle and neither the Panthers nor Saints have defeated the Seahawks, there is no head-to-head tiebreaker.
Therefore, the tiebreaker would default to conference record. At the moment, the Panthers (4-3) have a worse conference record than the Saints (6-2), so Carolina is more easily caught. So there’s a slight preference for a Saints win here, although it will be good for Detroit when either of these teams pick up a loss.
Who to root for: Cardinals
The Cardinals are just barely clinging to playoff hopes, but since the Lions have the tiebreaker over them, they aren’t much of a threat.
A Rams loss here provides some insurance, should the Seahawks go on a run. Los Angeles could still be catchable if they collapse down the stretch, and that’s certainly possible looking at their schedule (vs. Eagles, @ Seahawks, @ Titans, vs. 49ers). It’s unlikely, but a Rams loss opens up an avenue for the Lions should Los Angeles lose their lead the NFC West and become a wild card contender.
Eagles (10-1) at Seahawks (7-4) — 8:30 p.m. ET - NBC
Who to root for: Eagles
The Eagles aren’t going to be a threat in the wild card. The Seahawks will be. It’s as simple as that. Detroit needs Seattle to lose and lose right now, because this is a team that finishes with the Cowboys and Cardinals—two teams that aren’t likely to be playing for anything in those games.
Should these games unfold as they appear above, and the Lions defeat the Ravens, here is what the standings would look like:
- Eagles: 11-1
- Vikings: 10-2
- Saints: 9-3
- Rams: 8-4
- Panthers: 8-4
- Falcons: 7-5
- Lions: 7-5
- Seahawks: 7-5
- Cowboys: 6-6
- Cardinals: 6-6
The Lions would be in a three-way tie with the Falcons and Seahawks. Because Atlanta has defeated both teams, they would hold the six-seed. The Lions would be ahead of Seattle because of record in common games (conference record is tied).
So Detroit would just be a tiebreaker away from a playoff spot and a game outside of the five seed, as well. As pointed out earlier in the week, the Lions’ playoff odds can double this week, so get your rooting caps on.