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Lions coach Dan Campbell focused on clinching division, not playoff berth

Dan Campbell doesn’t care much if the Detroit Lions clinch the division on Monday or any other night. It’s all about winning the NFC North.

Denver Broncos vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 if the Seattle Seahawks fall to the Philadelphia Eagles on “Monday Night Football.” Even if that doesn’t happen, the Lions’ playoff odds are currently somewhere between 99% and 100%. It’s a formality at this point.

But Lions coach Dan Campbell doesn’t care if it happens this Monday or next week. His focus is still the same.

“We came into this (year) saying we’ve got to win this division,” Campbell said. “That’s the goal, and that’s where it is. If something happens between now and then, hey that’s all good, but that is our focus. We talked about that this morning as a team. That was the focus when we entered it and that is still the focus.”

The Lions can accomplish that goal with a win over the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday in Minneapolis... or a win the following week in Dallas against the Cowboys... or during the regular season finale at home against the Vikings again... or if the Vikings lose any of their three remaining games. If that happens, it will be the first time since 1993—back when the NFC North didn’t even exist—the Lions walk away with a divisional title.

Despite the fact the Lions’ odds to win the division are well north of 90 percent, Campbell isn’t taking that task lightly.

“We’re going to do everything we can to win this division, and there’s nothing that’s going to be easy about it,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to go out to Minneapolis and face the Vikings, who are a very dangerous team, and find a way to win it and get this division.”

The Vikings are the only team that can get in the way of the Lions’ divisional title, but their season has been a mixture of ups and downs. They got off to a 1-4 start and when they finally started turning the season around, starting quarterback Kirk Cousins was lost for the season with an Achilles injury in Week 8. Since then, Minnesota has played .500 ball but lost three out of their last four games.

Nick Mullens will start at quarterback for the Vikings this Sunday. The veteran quarterback made his first Vikings start last week—a narrow overtime loss to the Bengals. While Mullens had a very efficient game throwing for 303 yards and two touchdowns on 26 completions in 33 attempts, his two interceptions in scoring position ended up being extremely costly.

But the Lions are focused inwardly this week. They are not listening to the outside noise when the criticism is there, and not hearing the rumblings of seeding and first-round byes.

“For us, that’s all you’ve got to worry about,” Campbell said. “Clean up what we can clean up. We cleaned up the things from the Denver game with the team today. This is where we got to get better, this is what we did well, this is where we’ll continue to go. We’re going to put together a great gameplan for (the Vikings), and we’ll know what we have to do against Minnesota.”

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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.