For two of the next three Sundays, the Detroit Lions will actually have a rare option. They’ll be able to sit back and watch all the football they want without having to worry about playing a game that day.
After dispatching Green Bay, 40-10, on Thursday, the Lions are now off for the weekend. In two weeks, Baltimore comes to Detroit on a Monday night so they’ll get to watch a bunch of games before knowing the exact implications of that Monday night game.
And this is all just a help, as the Lions have control of their own playoff fate at the moment.
So who should Detroit be pulling for today? Here’s a quick look:
Chicago at Minnesota: This is the easiest of the bunch. Detroit will pull for Minnesota. Hard. An upset by the Vikings would give the Lions the NFC North lead by essentially two games with four to play. In the actual standings, it would be a one-game lead but with the Lions holding the tiebreaker over the Bears due to their sweep of the season series, it is effectively a two-game lead in the division if Minnesota wins.
San Francisco vs. St. Louis: Detroit needs the Rams to pull the upset here. If this happens, the Lions would potentially be in line for a wild-card berth depending what happens the rest of the season. As mentioned above, any sort of wild-card berth seems unlikely, but if Detroit wanted some sort of insurance, it should pull heavily for the Rams.
Arizona at Philadelphia: Detroit wants the Eagles to win for multiple reasons. First, the Cardinals have a tiebreaker edge over the Lions due to their 25-21 win in Week 2. But moreover, Detroit plays Philadelphia next week and the fourth and fifth wild-card tiebreakers are strength of victory and strength of schedule. So facing a better Philadelphia team next Sunday would be beneficial for the Lions, especially if they were then to beat the Eagles.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: This, oddly, is for strength of schedule more than anything else. The Buccaneers upset Detroit for their third straight win. While they are out of the playoff picture, the Bucs can do two things. First, a win over the Panthers would increase Detroit’s strength of schedule and it would also bring Carolina slowly back to the wild-card pack. The Panthers are likely a playoff team, but the more jumble at the end, the better for the Lions or the Bears at this point.