Lions’ Den: a look ahead at Detroit’s playoff chances

With a win over the Cleveland Browns last week, the Detroit Lions have pulled themselves back over .500. Now that we’re past the halfway mark and Detroit’s a winning team again, it seems appropriate to talk playoffs.

The hardest part of the Lions’ season is over. After a five game span in which the Lions lost four, they have bounced back for two straight wins.

The Lions have it pretty easy for the rest of the season. As it stands right now, the only opponents the Lions will face with a winning record are the Minnesota Vikings (7-2) and the Green Bay Packers (5-4), both of whom the Lions have already beaten this season on the road.

The Lions won a close game against the Vikings back in Week 2, 14-7. Later, in Week 9, the Lions pounced on the Packers for a 30-17 victory in Lambeau Field, where quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for his highest completion percentage of the season.  

This time around, the Vikings and the Packers have to come to Ford Field. Oddly enough, the Lions are 2-3 at home. They are the only winning team to have a losing record at home, but their three losses all came from the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers, all playoff contenders.

With the easier schedule, Detroit is going to be tough to beat at home. In fact, some fans have made the bold prediction of the team winning out, bringing their winning streak up to nine games to finish the season.

Sounds crazy, right? Maybe not.

Winning out is actually a very real possibility. The combined record for Detroit’s remaining opponents is 28-35. Take the Vikings and the Packers out of the equation, and it drops to 16-29.

The team’s toughest matchup will be the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.

The Lions played the Vikings on Thanksgiving in 2016, winning 16-13 on a last second Matt Prater field goal. The Lions have given their fans something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving the last four seasons. A win this year could really put them in reach of an NFC North division title–and hosting a playoff game.

Realistically, the team is not expected to win out. Winning the final seven games would be tough for any team, no matter who they are playing. But, the point is, they all seem to be winnable games for Detroit. Finishing the season with 10 or 11 wins would be a much more realistic figure.

Fortunately for the Lions, 10 or 11 wins may be enough to win the NFC North. The Vikings sit in first place with a two-game lead over Detroit. However, Minnesota will have to work much harder for their wins for the remainder of the season: five of their seven games are against teams with winning records.

As every fan knows, the Lions have squandered plenty of good chances in the past. Just a season ago, the Lions would have clinched their division by winning one of the final three games of the season. They went on to lose all three of them.

Right now, the team is not in the playoff picture, so obtaining a wild card spot is what the team needs to focus on first. The Lions, along with the Falcons, sit just one game behind the Seattle Seahawks for that wild card spot.

Remember that 10-second runoff fiasco at the end of the Falcons game? Well, looks like it might weigh in on the Lions’ playoff chances.  The Falcons would get the tie-breaker due to that Week 3 win.

With one of the more favorable schedules in the NFL, Lions fans should be optimistic. A chance at the playoffs is still alive and well in Detroit.