Of course, most of us understand this is an extreme long shot. You can count the number of teams in NFL history who have made the postseason after starting 1-6 on a single finger, and Football Outsiders has Detroit’s current postseason odds at seven percent. To put that into perspective, their odds of landing a top-five pick are currently 16.6 percent.
But you know what? That’s not going to stop us from dreaming for a week. We don’t get to utter the word “playoffs” much in November, and even if we all know it’s not going to happen, we can put logic aside for a week and hope for the best.
So for at least one week, let’s set the table for the NFC playoff race and look at the best possible outcomes for Detroit’s playoff chances.
It’s our Week 11 rooting guide!
First, let’s set the table with the current NFC playoff picture:
Wild card race (top three make it)
- New York Giants (7-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
- San Francisco 49ers (5-4)
- Washington Commanders (5-5)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-6)
- Green Bay Packers (4-7)
- Detroit Lions (3-6)
- Los Angeles Rams (3-6)
Currently, five teams stand between the Lions and a playoff spot, which is a ton, but they could theoretically jump three of them this week.
Here’s what to root for:
Chicago Bears (3-7) over Atlanta Falcons (4-6) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
A Lions win and a Falcons loss would mean Detroit (then 4-6) would jump the 4-7 Falcons. Pretty simple.
Obviously, handing the Bears a win puts them back in the conversation of the playoffs, but Detroit’s tiebreaker of Chicago keeps them firmly in the rear-view mirror.
New Orleans Saints (3-7) over Los Angeles Rams (3-6) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
Y’all should already be rooting for the Rams to lose so that Detroit’s first-round draft pick from the Matthew Stafford trade improves. A loss to the Saints likely drops them out of playoff contention for good, though New Orleans could re-enter the picture.
Baltimore Ravens (6-3) over Carolina Panthers (3-7) — 1 p.m. FOX
Always root AFC over NFC. But if you’re rooting for draft position, root Panthers.
Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1) over Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) — 1 p.m. ET CBS
This isn’t likely going to matter, but AFC over NFC.
Houston Texans (1-7-1) over Washington Commanders (5-5) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
This is an easy one for both playoffs and draft position. AFC over NFC for the playoff race, and give the lowly Texans a win to have them catchable in draft order.
Minnesota Vikings (8-1) over Dallas Cowboys (6-3) — 4:25 p.m. ET FOX
It may seem counterintuitive to root for a divisional rival for a playoff race, but the Vikings are not going to be caught in the NFC North. Give up that dream.
However, the Cowboys are a team you could absolutely see tanking the rest of the season after their meltdown loss to the Packers last week. Their schedule lightens up, though, so better to tally losses now.
Arizona Cardinals (4-6) over San Francisco 49ers (5-4) — Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
This is a tricky one. The Lions need to jump both of these teams to make a Wild Card spot. I’m choosing to root for the Cardinals here simply because the 49ers seem like the better team and the tougher one to jump. So let’s hand them a demoralizing divisional loss, and then hope the Cardinals stink as much as I expect them to for the rest of the season.
If all of these results play out in Detroit’s favor—and the Lions win—here is what the NFC playoff race would look like for Week 12:
- Minnesota Vikings (9-1)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-2)
- Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
Wild Card race
- New York Giants (7-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
- Washington Commanders (5-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
- Detroit Lions (4-6)
- Bears, Packers, Falcons, and Saints all at 4-7
That would bump the Lions up one spot in the NFC playoff race but put them literally just a game outside of a playoff spot. With a win over the Commanders and a solid 4-4 record in the conference (after a win over the Giants), Detroit could hold some key tiebreakers.