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Detroit Lions Week 13 rooting guide: How the Lions could finish Sunday in striking distance of a top-3 pick

If everything falls the Lions way in Week 13, they could be just a half-game out of the No. 2 spot.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With the Detroit Lions now officially eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time for the return of our rooting guide. While debate will rage on—as it always does—about whether the Lions should (or even can) tank down the stretch, everyone can agree that there is no moral dilemma in rooting for other bad teams to win so that Detroit’s draft spot can rise no matter of their own performance.

As so that makes each week’s rooting guide fairly obvious. Root for the bad teams to win more games. There’s some tricky math in some scenarios, but mostly it’s pretty straightforward.

Still, if you want it written out for you, that’s what I’m here for. After all, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands now that I’m not formulating playoff odds or counting down magic numbers or anything like that. Anyways, here’s the Lions’ Week 13 rooting guide.

Games that matter:

Jets (4-7) at Bengals (0-11) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Who to root for: Jets

Let’s start with a tricky one. The Lions’ worse possible record is 3-12-1 this season, while the Bengals’ ceiling is 5-11. With games remaining against the Jets, Browns (twice), Dolphins, and Patriots, it’s possible that Cincinnati gets three, maybe four wins, but that all seems highly unlikely. An 0-11 team winning four of their last five while Detroit losing out is basically impossible to see happening.

So, instead, let’s extend Detroit’s lead over the Jets with a win over the hapless Bengals. That way, we can possibly enjoy the company at 0-16, too.

Eagles (5-6) at Dolphins (2-9) — 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Who to root for: Dolphins

You may think it’s unlikely Detroit catches Miami after their 0-7 start, but they still have games against the Jets, Giants, and Bengals remaining. They are very catchable, and an upset win over a desperate Eagles team would set up a scenario in which Detroit could jump them as early as next week.

Packers (8-3) at Giants (2-9) — 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Who to root for: Giants

I don’t think you need any explanation or convincing here.

Washington (2-9) at Carolina (5-6) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Who to root for: Washington

Washington didn’t seem all that catchable until the Lions went and loss to them last week. They still need to win at least two of their last five games for Detroit to have a shot. Unfortunately, their schedule (CAR, GB, PHI, NYG, DAL) isn’t looking great for them, but an upset in Week 13 could pave a way.

Buccaneers (4-7) at Jaguars (4-7) — 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Who to root for: Buccaneers

This is simply a matter of picking the team you think is less likely to win games down the stretch. Let’s look at the schedules of each team.

Bucs: IND, DET, HOU, ATL
Jaguars: LAC, OAK, ATL, IND

I’d give the slight edge to Jacksonville having the easier schedule, so take the Bucs. That would give the Lions some leeway in case they end up beating Tampa in two weeks, as well.

Rams (6-5) vs. Cardinals (3-7-1) — 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX

Who to root for: Cardinals

If Arizona loses, they’ll have the same record as Detroit, and that could mean the Lions moving down a spot. Nobody wants that.

Chargers (4-7) vs. Broncos (3-8) — 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Who to root for: Broncos

Sure, the Lions can hand the Broncos a win themselves in a few weeks, but why not give yourself some breathing room. A loss by Denver on Sunday means the Lions would jump at least one spot in draft order.

Games that don’t really matter

Titans (6-5) at Colts (6-5)

Browns (5-6) at Steelers (6-5)

49ers (10-1) at Ravens (9-2)

Raiders (6-5) at Chiefs (7-4)

Patriots (10-1) at Texans (7-4)

Vikings (8-3) at Seahawks (9-2)

Potential draft standings

If all these games go in the Lions’ favor, here’s what the draft order will look like. (Note: I am not bothering with tiebreakers, as they are depending on strength of schedule, which will change based on every outcome of Week 13, not just the games highlighted.)

  1. Bengals: 0-12
  2. Giants: 3-9
  3. Washington: 3-9
  4. Dolphins: 3-9
  5. Falcons: 3-9
  6. Lions: 3-8-1
  7. Broncos: 4-8
  8. Jaguars: 4-8
  9. Chargers: 4-8
  10. Cardinals: 4-7-1
  11. Jets: 5-7
  12. Buccaneers: 5-7
  13. Eagles: 5-7

While the Lions would move up just a single spot from where they currently stand, they would suddenly be in very realistic striking distance of a top three pick. That being said, it would also create a scenario where dropping out of the top 10 is still very possible, too. Handing wins to bad teams means handing losses to some mediocre teams.

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