Breaking Down The Detroit Lions’ Wild Card Picture

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This article operates under the assumption that the Vikings win the division. This is by no means a done deal. A win against the Vikings on Thanksgiving would have given the Lions a very good chance at winning the division. The Lions couldn’t secure victory on Thursday, so those odds are significantly worse now. While still possible, the Lions are probably banking on the wild card now.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the Detroit Lions wild card chances are shaping up. For each contending team, I will be looking at their remaining schedule and determining whether each of their opponents is a team that they should beat, should lose to, or whether it is a match up that could go either way. Games that could go either way will be counted as a half win and a half loss, indicating that they could go either way.

Tie breakers for wild card spots are as follows:

  1. Winner of a Head to Head Match Up
  2. Winning Percentage Within The Conference
  3. Winning Percentage Against Common Opponents

I will be diving into how the teams stack up in these categories and how it affect the Detroit Lions’ wild card situation.

Detroit Lion Wild Card Situation

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The Detroit Lions have a very easy schedule for the remainder of the year. After the loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving, the following four games against the Ravens, Buccaneers, Bears, and the Bengals are all games that the Lions should win. I’m putting the game against the Packers as a toss up right now. If Rodgers comes back, the Packers have a good chance at winning that game. If he doesn’t, the Lions will probably win that game.

This would put the Lions record at 10.5-5.5, somewhere around ten or eleven wins. Their record within the conference would be 7.5-4.5, somewhere around seven or eight wins.

How the NFC South Affects The Detroit Lions’ Wild Card Situation

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The contenders of the NFC South swept the Detroit Lions in their head to head match ups. That means that every one of the teams that affect the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances has the edge in the tie breaker. While the Lions could have definitely used some wins in this division, it is what it is. The Lions need to beat them in terms of their records at this point.

New Orleans Saints

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The Saints currently sit at 8-2. They lead the division and given their upcoming games, look likely to finish the season atop the division.

The Saints will probably win games against the Panthers, the Jets, the Buccaneers, and the Falcons at home.

The game against the Falcons in Atlanta is a toss up for me. The Saints in my opinion, are a better team than the Falcons but divisional games on the road are always tough.

This would put the Saints at 12.5-3.5 and firmly atop their division. From here on out, Lions fans should be rooting for the Saints. The Lions do not have a tie breaker, and they have virtually no chance of overtaking the Saints in terms of record, if the Saints were to somehow fall out of the lead in the division. Best case scenario for the Detroit Lions’ wild card aspirations is for the Saints to win their remaining games.

Carolina Panthers

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Carolina Panthers are an interesting case. They are competing with Lions for one of the two wild card spots. On the other hand, they play Falcons who are also competing for a spot and they also play the Vikings and the Packers, two teams that are competing with the Detroit Lions for the division. Theoretically, they are a team that Lions’ fans want to lose but in reality, we want them to win at least those three games and at that point, we should just want them to win out.

I have the Panthers winning against the Buccaneers. They will likely lose to the Saints. Their games against the Vikings, the Falcons, and their game against the Green Bay Packers that may have Aaron Rodgers are all toss ups for me.

This puts the Panthers in the ten to eleven win range. That puts them firmly within competitive range of the Lions and it significantly affects the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances. The Panthers are currently in the best position to win a wild card spot. They have the tie breaker over the Lions. At this point, it is probably alright to just call this one a loss and hope that the Panthers win their remaining games and knock down everyone else.

Atlanta Falcons

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The Atlanta Falcons are a team that the Lions hate, almost entirely, from here on out. The game against the Vikings is obviously one that fans hope the Falcons win. Anything to bring down the Vikings is welcome. Outside of that, assuming that the Panthers win one of the two wild card spots, the Atlanta Falcons are one of two primary threats to the Detroit Lions’ wild card claim.

I have the Falcons losing to the Saints in New Orleans. Aside from that, they have games against the Vikings, the Panthers, and both the Saints and Buccaneers on the road. All of those games are undecided for me.

That puts the Falcons at 9-7. That is firmly within range of the Detroit Lions’ wild card prospects. While I have the Lions at ten or eleven wins, it is close enough that the Falcons could very well be a threat. For the sake of the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances, fans should root against the Atlanta Falcons for every game outside of the Vikings match up.

In the case of a tie, the Falcons, due to a win vs. the Lions, hold the tie breaker.

How the NFC East Affects The Detroit Lions’ Wild Card Situation

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Philadelphia Eagles

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The Lions don’t need to worry about the Eagles. The Eagles are currently sitting at 8-1. They have a few tough upcoming opponents, but the remaining members of their division have similarly tough schedules. It would be incredibly difficult for any of the NFC East teams to catch the Eagles for the division lead.

If teams somehow catch up to the Eagles in the divisional race, we will revisit how the Eagles affect the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances. Until then, assume that the Philadelphia Eagles win the division.

Dallas Cowboys

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The Dallas Cowboys are currently residing at 5-6. While, record-wise, they still seem relevant to the Detroit Lions’ wild card chase, they are unlikely to be a threat. Without Zeke Elliot, this team does not look like a serious contender for the playoffs.

I have the Cowboys beating the New York Giants. Both teams are struggling but Dallas should be able to find a way to beat them. I have the Cowboys losing to the Philadelphia Eagles and losing to the Raiders in Oakland. Outside of that, games against the Redskins and Seahawks are both tossups for me.

That would put the Cowboys at 7-9, firmly out of playoff contention. The Cowboys hold very little threat to the Detroit Lions’ wild card aspirations.

Washington Redskins

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The Washington Redskins are a dark horse right now. They have had an incredibly difficult schedule so far this year. They’ve played well but not well enough to win. They have talent, enough talent to win down the stretch and that makes them dangerous.

The Washington Redskins play the Giants, the Broncos, and the Cardinals. All of those games are games that the Washington Redskins should win. They also play the Chargers and they play the Cowboys without Zeke. Those games are ones that could go either way.

That would put the Washington Redskins at 9-7. While that is an optimistic projection for them, given their current record, I don’t think it is an unrealistic one. Lions fans need to start rooting against the Redskins immediately. Their game against the Cowboys is the only game that Lions fans may be hoping that the Redskins lose.

Outside of the game against the Cowboys, every loss for the Washington Redskins is a win for the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances.

How the NFC West Affects The Detroit Lions’ Wild Card Situation

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Los Angeles Rams

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The Rams currently sit atop their division at 7-3. By no means do they have an easy schedule down the stretch, but they are a good team that has the talent to win tough games. If they manage to win those tough games, they have a good chance at clinching the division.

I have the Rams winning against the Cardinals, the Titans, and the 49ers. That game against the Titans may be more difficult than I anticipate but I fully expect the Rams to win. I think that games against the Falcons and the Seahawks are all tossups.

That would put the Los Angeles Rams at eleven to twelve wins and very likely, atop the division.

Seattle Seahawks

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The Seattle Seahawks are the second major threat to the Detroit Lions’ wild card chances. They currently are 7-4, a game up on the Detroit Lions. Lions’ fans are adamantly rooting against the Seahawks for the remainder of the year.

I have the Seahawks winning against the Cardinals. I think they probably lose against the Eagles. Their games against the Jaguars, the Rams, and The Zeke-led Cowboys could go either way. If they split those games, the Seahawks end up with either nine or ten wins.

Lions fans are rooting against the Seahawks exclusively, including the game against the Cowboys.

Detroit Lions’ Wild Card Chances

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The Lions wild card chances look pretty good, if they win the games that they should win. If they lose games that they should win, the Detroit Lions wild card opportunities dwindle.

The Lions need to especially worry about two teams. They need to worry about the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions would love the Falcons to beat the Vikings but outside of that, the Falcons need to lose all of their games. If the Lions end up tied with the Falcons, they lose the tie breaker automatically due to the head to head loss.

The Seahawks are another concern. Lions’ fans are specifically rooting for the Jaguars, the Rams, and possibly the Cowboys in the three game stretch in between.

The Lions have a legitimate chance at the wild card. There are only a few teams that, based on the schedule, have a chance at the playoffs via the wild card. The Lions in my opinion, control their own destiny. None of these teams will likely win out. That means that the Lions will make the wild card if they continue to win. Winning, as always, is key. The picture will get more and more clear with each passing week.

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Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! You can follow me on Twitter @Lanny1925 and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.



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About the Author

Sean Lanigan
I love fantasy football, fantasy baseball, music, books, video games, and all things nerd. I'm a big football fan and a bigger Detroit Lions fan. I was born in Michigan but have spent the vast majority of my life living in Viking and Packer country. If you are a Lions fan in Minnesota, hit me up, and let's watch some football.