Now that we’ve placated all those crazy Kool-Aid drinking Detroit Lions fans with the playoff edition of our rooting guide, it’s time for you “realists” out there to get your fix, too. I know there’s a ton of you “true” fans that have the team’s best future in mind and want this team to tank their way to a top-five pick.
Well, I’m here to tell you that your dreams are important, too. Not only that, they’re quite possible! By the end of this article, you’ll be dreaming of scenarios in which the Lions may even get a top two quarterback in the draft. Okay, that may be pushing it, but a shot at a top-five pick remains a serious possibility.
Here’s what needs to happen this week:
Texans (4-8) at Bears (5-7) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Texans
Easy to root against the Bears, and it makes a ton of sense here. Houston has a couple rough games remaining on their schedule in the Colts and Titans (but also the Bengals). At best, they’re getting to six wins, so let’s try and get them there as fast as possible. Meanwhile, the Bears could easily pick up that sixth win over the Vikings or Jaguars later.
Cowboys (3-9) at Bengals (2-9-1) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Cowboys
The Bengals are essentially a pipe dream at this point. They need to win three out of their remaining four games for Detroit to catch them, and they aren’t beating the two of the Steelers, Texans and Ravens games remaining.
Dallas is much more catchable, especially with one of the easiest remaining schedules left (Bengals, 49ers, Eagles, Giants).
Cardinals (6-6) at Giants (5-7) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Giants
Remember, you’re an NFC East fan for the rest of the season. Last week was great, with both Washington and New York picking up upset wins. Let’s keep it coming.
Vikings (6-6) at Buccaneers (7-5) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Vikings
A win for Minnesota would put enough distance between them and Detroit that even a Week 17 win for the Lions over the Vikings would not be enough (alone) to push the Vikings ahead of Detroit in draft order.
Broncos (4-8) vs. Panthers (4-8) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Panthers
This one simply comes down to strength of schedule remaining:
Both may be hard pressed to win another game this year, but I’d give the Broncos a better chance against the Chargers and Saints. So let’s give the Panthers a win this week and hope the Broncos can pick up a win or two in the final three weeks of the season.
Titans (8-4) vs. Jaguars (1-11) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Jaguars
It’s still mathematically possible, right?
Saints (10-2) vs. Eagles (3-8-1) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Eagles
You. Are. An. NFC. East. Fan.
Falcons (4-8) vs. Chargers (3-9) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Falcons
If the Lions are going to jump Atlanta, they need to do it right now. The Falcons’ last three games are against the Buccaneers twice and the Chiefs. Uh oh.
A Chargers loss would put them on the verge of uncatchable, but with games against the Broncos and Raiders still on their schedule, they would still have a chance to get to five wins on the season.
Washington (5-7) vs. 49ers (5-7) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Washington
This one is a little tricky. Both teams have winnable games on their schedule after this (Washington: Panthers, Eagles ; 49ers: Cowboys, Cardinals), but here’s the thing. The NFC East is not only annoying because they all have terrible records, but also because they have such a soft strength of schedule, seeing as they have six games within their own crappy division. Strength of schedule is the first tiebreaker in draft order, so it makes them particularly hard to catch (lower SOS = higher draft pick). So let’s just have Washington finish with a better record.
If everything works out this way...
Here’s a look at what the draft order standings would look like after Week 14 if the Lions also lose to the Packers.
(Note: Tiebreakers are based on current strength of schedule, as calculated by Tankathon.)
- Jets: 0-13
- Jaguars: 2-11
- Bengals: 2-10-1
- Chargers: 3-10
- Cowboys: 4-9 (.490 strength of schedule)
- Broncos: 4-9 (.565)
- Eagles: 4-8-1
- Lions: 5-8 (.505)
- Bears: 5-8 (.518)
- Panthers: 5-8 (.536)
- Falcons: 5-8 (.536)
- 49ers: 5-8 (.536)
- Texans: 5-8 (.547)
- Washington: 6-7 (.464)
- Cardinals: 6-7 (.474)
- Patriots: 6-7 (.508)
The Lions would jump to eight, but would have the opportunity to jump higher or much lower. In this scenario, six teams would enter Week 15 with a 5-8 record. If Detroit loses out, they’re almost guaranteed to finish above them all given their current strength of schedule. Plus they have the opportunity to catch at least the two teams above them.
Top five may seem like a stretch at this point, but if Detroit loses out, there’s a good chance they’re in the discussion.