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Updated NFC playoff picture: Detroit Lions have simple path to NFC North title

The Detroit Lions are in very good shape in the NFC Playoff race, but the NFC North picture is suddenly close.

Detroit Lioins v Chicago Bears Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions lost against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, and, of course, that hurt their chances of winning the NFC North. They remain ahead by two games, but their level of play right now is not exactly evoking a lot of confidence.

That said, things could have gone a lot worse for the Lions when it comes to results from all the other games. If you were to consult our Week 14 rooting guide, three of the five Sunday games that impacted Detroit’s playoff odds fell in the Lions’ favor. And the Packers’ loss to the Giants forged a much easier path for the division.

Let’s take a look at an updated look at the NFC playoff standings.

First, here are the current NFC North standings:

  1. Lions: 9-4
  2. Vikings: 7-6
  3. Packers: 6-7
  4. Bears: 5-8

The Lions’ lead in the division is down from three to two with the Vikings’ win this week. However, their magic number over the Packers is now just down to two because of Green Bay’s choke job against the Giants.

Simply put: if the Lions win their next two games (vs. Broncos, @ Vikings) they will have clinched their first divisional title since 1993. Those two wins would put them out of reach for the Packers, and the win over the Vikings would hand Minnesota their seventh loss along with Detroit’s 11th win. They’d be uncatchable there, too.

As a reminder, here are each team’s remaining schedule:

Vikings:

  • @ Bengals (7-6)
  • vs. Lions (9-4)
  • vs. Packers (6-6)
  • @ Lions (9-4)

Packers:

  • vs. Bucs (6-7)
  • @ Panthers (1-12)
  • @ Vikings (7-6)
  • vs. Bears (5-8)

The Vikings’ tough schedule makes an undefeated run seem unlikely. And while the Packers have a much easier schedule, a winless streak is far from guaranteed.

NFC Playoff Picture

  1. 49ers: 10-3
  2. Cowboys: 10-3
  3. Lions: 9-4
  4. Buccaneers: 6-7

The Lions lost an opportunity to have a share of the best record in the conference, and their shot at a No. 1 overall seed is now hanging by a thread (1%, per the NYT playoff simulator).

If they hold onto their divisional lead, the three seed seems the most likely, although they could change that conversation with a win over Dallas in Week 17.

In case you’re wondering, the 49ers have the tiebreaker over Dallas, because they beat them head-to-head.


Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Eagles: 10-3
  2. Vikings: 7-6
  3. Packers: 6-7
  4. Rams: 6-7
  5. Seahawks: 6-7
  6. Falcons: 6-7
  7. Saints: 6-7

Here’s where there is some more good news for the Lions. Last week, there was a logjam of 6-6 teams fighting for a Wild Card spot. After the Rams, Seahawks, Falcons, and Packers all lost this week, that logjam is now at 6-7.

In other words, the Lions didn’t lose any ground in a theoretical Wild Card race. With a three-game lead over all of these teams with only four games left, the Lions are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and could potentially have some scenarios to clinch in Week 15.

Per the NYT simulator, the Lions’ playoff chances are still at 99%

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.