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NFL Week 16 power rankings: Detroit Lions near unanimous top-12 team

Checking in on where the Detroit Lions stand in the national rankings.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions (7-7) have shown they can blow out teams at home and win tough games on the road. They are on the cusp of the playoffs—just one game out of the Wild Card spot with three games to go—and they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. For some national analysts, the Lions represent a team ready to compete with the top 10 teams in the league, while others are simply ranking them where they fall in the standings. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which.

Let’s take a look at this week’s NFL power rankings. 7 (Previous: 10)

From Dan Hanzus:

“The Lions can win ugly, too. Dan Campbell’s Grit Monsters went to the Meadowlands and struggled to break through against a stellar Jets defense ... until it mattered most. Facing fourth-and-inches at midfield with less than two minutes to play, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson (his head coach stock going up by the week) called a brilliant misdirection play that resulted in a 51-yard touchdown for Brock Wright. The Lions have won six of seven with an opportunity to move into NFL playoff position if they can take out the Panthers on Sunday. “A lot of these close games are starting to lean more toward us than them,” said Jared Goff. “That hasn’t always been the case around here. We fully believe in each other and know that somebody’s going to make a play to do something right.”

The Athletic: 8 (Previous: 10)

From Bo Wulf:

“There won’t be any kneecaps left in the Detroit metro area if Dan Campbell’s Lions are able to pull off this rally to the playoffs. After Jared Goff hit Brock Wright — a real high-water mark season for Brocks leaguewide — for a 51-yard game-winning touchdown to beat the Jets, Detroit has a 57.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Mock’s projections. Its schedule the rest of the way looks there for the taking, but there isn’t a Lions fan alive who feels comfortable. And if they don’t pull it off, well, there might not be any Lions fans alive.”

Yahoo Sports: 9 (Previous: 11)

From Frank Schwab:

“The Jets game seemed like the one Detroit needed in the playoff race. And it came down to executing a fourth-and-inches play that went 51 yards to tight end Brock Wright for a touchdown. When is the last time the Lions made a clutch play like that? The Lions are far from a lock to make the playoffs but given how well they’re playing, you have to like their chances.”

USA Today: 10 (Previous: 13)

From Nate Davis:

“Feels like Dan Campbell’s bandwagon is filling up with plenty of folks far removed from Motown. Detroit closes with Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay ... which projects as a nice formula for the Lions’ first playoff venture in six years.

The Ringer: 11 (Previous: 17)

From Austin Gayle:

“The Lions are 6-1 in their last seven games, and the playoffs are starting to feel like a real possibility with remaining games against the Panthers, Bears, and Packers. How did this happen? Fitted with a top-flight offensive line and an improving cast of weapons thanks to the return of receiver DJ Chark and the debut of rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams, the Lions rank no. 3 in offensive EPA per drive since Week 9. Defensively, Detroit has gone from 32nd in offensive points allowed per game (29.1) to ninth (19.8) in the last seven weeks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team pulling off a better turnaround in football than the Lions right now.”

MMQB: 12 (Previous: 16)

From Connor Orr:

“We hoped, we prayed, we begged and we got it: Potentially meaningful Lions football at the end of the season. Dan Campbell taking on the rest of the league, Royal Rumble style. This Jets win was a necessary one, showing Detroit that it could win on a day when the opposing offense is pulling one big play after another out of thin air.”

ESPN: 12 (Previous: 17)

From Eric Woodyard:

Pleasant surprise: LB James Houston

“Nicknamed ‘Da Problem,’ Houston is living up to the name. The Jackson State product has been wreaking havoc over the past four weeks. The rookie was elevated from the practice squad ahead of the Thanksgiving Day game against Buffalo and has been a solid contributor, registering five sacks in his first four career games. He is the third player, since sacks became official in 1982, to record at least 1.0 sack in each of his first four contests, joining Terrell Suggs in 2003 and Santana Dotson in 1992, per ESPN Stats & Information.”

Sporting News: 12 (Previous: 17)

From Vinnie Iyer:

“The Lions keep bringing heavy momentum with their offense still finding big plays from new players for Jared Goff and their defense continuing to improve in every aspect. It might be difficult to deny them a playoff berth under fiery Dan Campbell now.”

CBS Sports: 15th (Previous: 18)

From Pete Prisco:

“After a 1-6 start, they have won six of seven games to get into the playoff race. They play another big road game this week at Carolina.”

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