After losses on Sunday and the following Thursday, the Detroit Lions playoff hopes in 2020 are deader than Nate Robinson’s boxing career. The Lions themselves called “uncle” on the postseason Saturday when they fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.
So this week’s rooting guide shifts its focus from the playoffs to draft order. It’s time to embrace the tank. And while many of you will understandably be rooting for the Lions on the remaining Sundays of the season, there’s no harm in hoping some teams around them help out their draft status.
After their loss to the Houston Texan on Thanksgiving, the Lions have slipped into the top 10, currently holding the ninth overall pick. Here’s what needs to happen this week to see them climb the draft order.
Raiders (6-4) at Falcons (3-7) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Falcons
Atlanta has won two of their last three games and could realistically be on the rebound this year. While playoffs remain a pipe dream for them, they could certainly stack some wins together and jump the Lions in overall standings. The Raiders are a tough matchup, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely out of the question this week.
Who to root for: Chargers
With Austin Ekeler finally back in the lineup, the Chargers are hoping to prove they are better than their record shows. With their only wins coming over the Bengals, Jaguars and Jets, however, they have a long way to go to prove that. A win over the Bills seems highly unlikely, but you never know.
Giants (3-7) at Bengals (2-7-1) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Toss up (I’m leaning Giants)
I don’t think the Bengals, currently holders of the third overall pick, are catchable. Having just lost Joe Burrow for the rest of the season, there’s a pretty good chance they’re in free fall. The good news is that Cincy plays the NFC East this year, and can hand all of those crappy teams a few wins to bump them up the charts. The Giants actually have something to play for, considering they’re just a half-game behind the division lead.
Panthers (4-7) at Vikings (4-6) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Complete toss up (Let’s just say Panthers)
Both of these teams currently sit below the Lions in draft order. Both teams have a few winnable games on their schedule remaining (Panthers: vs. Broncos and Washington; Vikings: vs. Jaguars and Bears). So this one is just up to personal preference. I imagine it’s harder to watch an NFC North team succeed, so the Panthers are the guilt-free option here.
Cardinals (6-4) at Patriots (4-6) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Patriots
It seems unthinkable, but the Lions may actually be in contention with the Patriots for draft order. At 4-6, a season turnaround appears highly unlikely, even with Bill Belichick at the helm. New England still has winnable games against the Chargers and Jets, so I don’t believe they’ll ever catch the Lions in draft order, but a win on Sunday would seal that.
Dolphins (6-4) at Jets (0-10) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Jets
The Lions aren’t catching the Jets, but may as well dream while it’s still mathematically possible.
Browns (7-3) at Jaguars (1-9) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Jaguars
The Lions aren’t catching the Jaguars, but may as well dream while it’s still mathematically possible.
Saints (8-2) at Broncos (4-6) — 4:05 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Broncos
The Saints aren’t going to be picking before the Lions in the 2021 draft, and who isn’t rooting for the team without a quarterback?
49ers (4-6) at Rams (7-3) — 4:05 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: 49ers
The 49ers have just enough injuries that they could be a threat to the Lions’ draft position, even though they are a more talented and better coached team. They do still have games against Washington and Dallas, so they’ll likely find the win column at least once or twice more.
Bears (5-5) at Packers (7-3) — 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC
Who to root for: Bears
Sorry to make you do this, but because there’s always a possibility the Lions look like an inspired team next week against Chicago. A Bears upset win in Green Bay would provide Detroit with a little margin for error—or is it margin for success, in this case? Either way, Green Bay ain’t catching Detroit.
Seahawks (7-3) at Eagles (3-6-1) 8:15 p.m. ET — ESPN
Who to root for: Eagles
Philly is one team the Lions can definitively jump this week in the draft standings, and the Eagles have a realistic chance this week against the Seattle team that has lost two of its last three games. Of course, so have the Eagles, but with a quarterback change coming in Philly, this is a good week to exploit a bad Seahawks defense.
If all things go according to plan....
If the Lions get the benefit of all these outcomes, here’s what the draft order would look like heading into Week 13. Note: I am not calculating tiebreakers, as strength of schedule for each team would drastically change with each of Week 12’s results. But each team’s strength of schedule right now is listed for those teams tied.
1. Jets: 1-10
2. Jaguars: 2-9
3. Bengals 2-8-1
4. Cowboys: 3-8
t-5. Chargers: 4-7 (.497)
t-5. Giants: 4-7 (.500)
t-5. Vikings: 4-7 (.500)
t-5. Lions: 4-7 (.506)
t-5. Falcons: 4-7 (.542)
t-5. Texans: 4-7 (.550)
11. Eagles: 4-7-1
The Lions would find themselves likely around eighth in draft order, potentially a spot a two higher. Considering current strength of schedules are so close, Detroit could certainly make up that ground in the final five games of the season. Of course, if they just continue to lose, strength of schedule may not even come into the equation.