The Detroit Lions are 4-5, but don’t exactly look like the most competitive of teams. The Packers, Saints and Colts all handled them pretty decisively, and Detroit’s only quality win thus far was narrow victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
But despite all of that, Detroit currently sits just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot with seven games left on the schedule. Their next three opponents have a combined 10-19 record, giving them a legitimate opportunity to climb in the standings and put themselves in an opportunity to play meaningful games in December, and maybe, just maybe, into January.
Do I think it’ll happen? Probably not. Am I still going to look at games across the league that could help Detroit’s postseason chances? You betcha, mister.
And with that, here’s our Week 11 Rooting Guide.
Who to root for: Browns
Okay, let’s be honest. This game doesn’t matter. The NFC East isn’t going to produce a Wild Card team. That being said, I’m really, really, really rooting for a division winner to have a record like 5-10-1, so AFC over NFC.
Falcons (3-6) vs. Saints (7-2) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Falcons
While it may be best for Detroit if the Saints win the division, as New Orleans has the tiebreaker over them, there’s a mild chance Sunday could be the start of a big slide for the Saints. With Drew Brees suffering from 11 cracked ribs, it may be awhile before New Orleans has their starting quarterback. Plus, a Falcons win doesn’t threaten the Lions much, since Detroit holds that tiebreaker.
Who to root for: Colts
Won’t need to convince you of this one. AFC over NFC, and just about everyone over the Packers.
Who to root for: Cowboys
The Vikings are one of the bigger threats to the Lions and a playoff spot, as they are winners of three straight and the current holder of the tiebreaker over Detroit. The Lions could win that back, but being 0-3 in the division (with Minnesota currently 3-1), that seems unlikely. Detroit will need to finish with a higher record than the Vikes, and a big upset by Dallas would help.
Rams (6-3) vs. Buccaneers (7-3) — Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET — ESPN
Who to root for: Buccaneers
Currently both the Rams and the Bucs hold wild card spots. The Buccaneers seem like the team less likely to relinquish one of those spots, so if Tampa—and every team in the NFC West—can beat up on the Rams, that’d be great.
If all that happens...
If all these games go the Lions’ way, and Detroit takes care of their own business against the Carolina Panthers, here’s how the standings would look after Week 11.
(Note: Tiebreakers are according to ESPN’s playoff machine)
- Buccaneers: 8-3
- Seahawks: 7-3
- Packers: 7-3
- Eagles: 3-6-1
- Saints: 7-3
- Cardinals: 6-4
- Rams: 6-4
- Bears: 5-5
- Lions: 5-5
The Lions could just a single game out of a playoff spot by the end of the week. Better yet, they’d be a game out of TWO playoff spots. Both the Cardinals and the Rams could be in striking distance, and those two teams still play each other twice in the final month of the season.
And just for fun, here’s a comparison between the schedules of the Cardinals, Rams, Bears and Lions after Week 11, ranked by most difficult to least.
Opponents’ win percentage: 31-25 (.554)
Opponent win percentage: 26-29-1 (.473)
Opponent’s win percentage: 27-31 (.466)
Opponents’ win percentage: 25-29 (.463)
So even if the Lions make up ground in the next couple weeks, they are dealing with one of the toughest schedules down the stretch. If Detroit really wants to make a run at the playoffs, they are going to need to play much better football than we’ve seen thus far, because need to be some seriously talented teams in December.