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NFL playoff picture standings: NFC Wild Card race remains muddled mess

A look at the NFC playoff picture and the Lions’ extreme long-shot at a Wild Card spot

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For NFC teams, Week 12 is over, and while you’d think the playoff picture would be much clearer with only five weeks left in the regular season, it’s really not. There are some teams that are emerging as the division front-runners, the Wild Card picture is just as confusing as ever.

While that technically means the Detroit Lions are still “in the hunt,” don’t get your hopes up. They’re as close to last place in the conference as they are a playoff spot. The team is only two spots out of that six seed, but the problem is there are so many teams between them and a playoff spot. Thanks to losing out on tiebreakers, there are six teams between Detroit and a wild card spot. Overcoming a couple is certain possible for the Lions. Overcoming them would be nothing short of a miracle.

Here’s a look at the NFC standing:

  1. Saints: 10-1 (7-1 conference record)
  2. Rams: 10-1 (6-1)
  3. Bears: 8-3 (6-1)
  4. Cowboys: 6-5 (5-3)

Wild Card standings:

5. Vikings: 6-4-1 (5-3-1)
6. Washington: 6-5 (6-3)
7. Seahawks: 6-5 (5-3)
8. Panthers: 6-5 (4-4)
9. Eagles: 5-6 (3-5)
10. Packers: 4-6-1 (2-5-1)
11. Falcons: 4-7 (4-4)
12. Buccaneers: 4-7 (3-5)
13. Lions: 4-7 (2-6)

It’s certainly possible for the Lions to jump teams like the Falcons, Buccaneers and Packers, who are all on downslides of their own. But due to Detroit’s horrible conference record and their head-to-head losses to the Seahawks, Cowboys and Vikings, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to catch everyone.

Admittedly, Detroit’s schedule is somewhat favorable. After this week’s tough matchup with the Rams, the Lions’ final four games are against teams with a collective record of 16-26-2. The Packers are almost certainly going to be out of the playoff race by Week 17 (of course, they’re probably saying the same thing about the Lions). The Lions will get a shot at the Vikings at home, and their other two games are against the Cardinals (2-9) and Bills (4-7).

But we’re getting way too far ahead of ourselves. If the Lions lose to the Rams, that puts their ceiling at 8-8. Even if the Lions were to rattle off four straight wins to end the season, do you really expect only one of the following teams to finish 8-8 or better: Vikings, Washington, Seahawks, Panthers, Eagles, Packers?

I’m not here to take your fun away. If you’re like me and not ready to pivot to draft preparation, feel free to mess around with the ESPN Playoff Machine and come up with wacky scenarios in which the Lions make the playoffs, and feel free to share your fantasies in the comment section below.