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Updated NFC playoff picture: Detroit Lions just 1 game out of the Wild Card

After taking care of business vs. the Jets, the Detroit Lions are just one game out of a playoff spot in the NFC.

Detroit Lions v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions took care of business on Sunday, even if it didn’t come easy. With a hard-fought road win over the New York Jets, the Lions are now 7-7 and winners in six of their last seven games. They’ve seen their playoff odds jump from under two percent, now to over 40 percent.

Week 15 was mostly good to the Lions and their playoff chances. While they didn’t get the coveted #DoubleTie out of Commanders vs. Giants, they did get some much-needed help from the Seattle Seahawks, and the future looks pretty good for the Lions postseason chances.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the updated NFC playoff picture, not including the Monday night game between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams.

Here’s the latest.

Division leaders:

  1. Eagles: 13-1 — Clinched playoff spot
  2. Vikings: 11-3 — Clinched NFC North
  3. 49ers: 10-4 — Clinched NFC West
  4. Buccaneers: 6-8

Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Cowboys: 10-4 — Clinched playoff spot
  2. Giants: 8-5-1
  3. Commanders: 7-6-1
  4. Seahawks: 7-7
  5. Lions: 7-7
  6. Packers: 5-8

The Detroit Lions gained a full game on the Commanders and Seahawks this week, and are now within striking distance of surpassing both as soon as next Sunday. That’s right, the Lions could be in control of their own destiny as soon as next week.

And here’s the thing: there’s a very good chance all of that happens. Look at next week’s schedule:

  • The Lions are currently 3-point favorites over the Panthers
  • The Seahawks are 10-point underdogs vs. the Chiefs
  • The Commanders head to San Francisco to face the 10-4 49ers (no betting line yet)

Even the Giants have a tough matchup on the road against the 11-3 Vikings.

Let’s take a look at these four teams and their remaining schedules:

Lions:

  • at Panthers (5-9)
  • vs. Bears (3-11)
  • at Packers (5-8)

Total strength of schedule: .317

It’s a pretty easy looking schedule, but one thing to consider is that the Panthers are still in the playoff race, as they’re only a game behind the division-leading Buccaneers in a horrible NFC South.

Seahawks:

  • at Chiefs (11-3)
  • vs. Jets (7-7)
  • vs. Rams (4-9)

Total strength of schedule: .537

Giants:

  • at Vikings (11-3)
  • vs. Colts (4-9-1)
  • at Eagles (13-1)

Total strength of schedule: .679

The Giants have the toughest schedule for the group, but the problem is the Eagles could very well have nothing to play for in Week 18. They currently have a two-game lead for the one-seed and just one more win or Cowboys loss means they’ll have the NFC East wrapped up.

Commanders:

  • at 49ers (10-4)
  • vs. Browns (6-8)
  • vs. Cowboys (10-4)

Total strength of schedule: .591

Another daunting schedule, but like the Eagles, the Cowboys may not have something to play for. There is an extremely good chance (almost a certainty) they will be locked into the five seed by Week 18. Will they be motivated to keep their starters in Week 18?

The entire Week 18 thing is a bit of a bummer for the Lions, but remember: they only have to jump two teams by the end of the season, and they’re just one game back of the Seahawks and Commanders. The playoff path is suddenly much clearer.