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NFL playoff picture: Detroit Lions could lose grasp on No. 2 seed this week

A closer look at the NFC Playoff picture through eight weeks, and where the Detroit Lions currently stand.

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are sitting pretty at 6-2 at their bye week, and their gambling odds to make the playoffs are only second to the best team in football. If you’re talking probability odds, it’s sure looking like you can start planning for some Lions postseason football. Just look at some of these statistical models:

But where do the Lions stand in the conference? What seed are they likely to land? Let’s take a closer look at the Week 9 NFL playoff picture.

First, here’s a look at NFC North standings through Week 8:

  1. Lions: 6-2
  2. Vikings: 4-4
  3. Packers: 2-5
  4. Bears: 2-6

The Vikings are just two games behind the Lions, but the Achilles tear to Kirk Cousins drastically changes the outlook for Minnesota. That said, their defense is playing decent football and they—like the Lions—have a fairly easy schedule ahead of them. Let’s compare the two’s remaining schedules:

Lions remaining strength of schedule

  • .420 win percentage (fourth easiest)
  • -6.8% DVOA (fourth easiest)

Vikings remaining strength of schedule

  • .486 win percentage (15th easiest)
  • -6.6% DVOA (fifth easiest)

The only real reason the Vikings’ strength of schedule looks harder than Detroit’s is because they still have to play the 6-2 Lions twice. The Vikings’ only other remaining opponent with a winning record is the 4-3 Bengals.

They have a big, uphill climb to catch the Lions, but in a thin conference, a Wild Card run is not out of the question for the Vikings.

Speaking of a thin NFC, here’s a look at the entire playoff picture in the conference.

Division leaders

  1. Eagles: 7-1
  2. Lions: 6-2
  3. Seahawks: 5-2
  4. Falcons: 4-4

Wild Card race (top 3 make playoffs)

  1. Cowboys: 5-2
  2. 49ers: 5-3
  3. Vikings: 4-4
  4. Saints: 4-4
  5. Buccaneers: 3-4
  6. Rams: 3-5
  7. Commanders: 3-5

The 49ers, once considered the clear favorite to win the conference, have fallen all the way to the six seed. While it’s certainly good for Detroit that the 49ers are losing, it’s not great that the Seahawks now hold the top spot in the NFC West; Seattle obviously holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Detroit, so if they are able to beat the Ravens on the road in Week 9, they’ll jump the Lions for the two seed.

If the Lions were to somehow lose their grasp on the NFC North, they still look pretty safe to secure a Wild Card spot. Here are the four teams fighting for that last, seven seed (not including the Vikings):

  • A Saints team has lost four of their last six games (although they have a ridiculously soft schedule — easiest by DVOA)
  • A Buccaneers team that has lost three straight and Detroit holds the tiebreaker over
  • A Rams team that may be without Matthew Stafford for some time
  • A Commanders team that just traded both of their edge rushers away

If the Lions finish with a worse record than any of these teams, something has gone drastically wrong.

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