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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Playoff Picture: Detroit Lions Week 13

By Michael Rothstein

This is a weekly look at the NFC playoff picture as it relates to the Detroit Lions.

Detroit -- and the rest of the NFC North -- is in a bad position right now. For the Lions, the Bears and the Packers, the scenario is simple: Win the NFC North or likely miss the playoffs entirely.

After losses by Detroit and Chicago and a tie by Green Bay, the two of those NFC North teams that don’t win the division are sitting a game back of the sixth seed and two games back of the fifth seed in the wild-card race.

So with five games left, that chance seems unlikely. It’s possible still, sure, but there is little-to-no margin for loss for anyone in the NFC North.

Record: 6-5
Remaining opponents record: 22-31-2
Next game: Thursday vs. Green Bay
Next three games: vs. Green Bay, at Philadelphia, vs. Baltimore

NFC North:
Record: 6-5
Remaining opponents record: 23-30-2
Next game: Sunday at Minnesota
Next three games: at Minnesota, vs. Dallas, at Cleveland
Lions' interests: Right now, the Lions have to at least keep pace with the Bears and that begins Thursday against Green Bay. The good news for Detroit here is three of the Bears’ next four games are on the road and their remaining two home games are against Dallas and Green Bay in the season finale. The best possible scenario for Detroit is for the Bears to lose out.

Green Bay
Record: 5-5-1
Remaining opponents record: 25-30
Next game: Thursday at Detroit
Next three games: at Detroit, vs. Atlanta, at Dallas
Lions interests: Like the Bears, the Packers have three of their last five games on the road, which is a helpful thing for Detroit. But all that should matter for the Lions right now is beating the Packers on Thursday. The Packers haven’t won in November, so that’s a benefit for Detroit. But if the Lions lose to the Packers, they are in a bad position. Thursday is turning into an elimination game in the league.

Wild-card race:
Record: 8-3
Remaining opponents record: 28-27
Next game: vs. Tampa Bay
Next three games: vs. Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, vs. New York Jets
Lions interests: At this point, it might not matter what happens with the Panthers. Carolina, barring a collapse, is a likely playoff team with a one-game lead on San Francisco and Arizona and a two-game lead on everyone else. Two games remain with division-leading New Orleans, but either the Saints or the Panthers are going to likely be the No. 5 seed.

San Francisco
Record: 7-4
Remaining opponents record: 27-28
Next game: Sunday vs. St. Louis
Next three games: vs. St. Louis, vs. Seattle, at Tampa Bay
Lions interests: The 49ers are essentially out of the NFC West race barring a meltdown by Seattle, so San Francisco and Arizona will fight it out for the last wild-card spot. The teams play the final week of the season, so that could be for a playoff berth. What Detroit needs here is a complete collapse by San Francisco to open up a spot.

Record: 7-4
Remaining opponents record: 33-22
Next game: Sunday at Philadelphia
Next three games: at Philadelphia; vs. St. Louis; at Tennessee
Lions interests: The Cardinals are doing a lot of good things and if you’re looking for the complete reason why Detroit won’t be in a wild-card spot, look to Week 2. Arizona now has a game and a tiebreak in hand with five games left against the Lions. Like San Francisco above, only a complete meltdown here will open up the No. 6 slot for the Lions, Bears or Packers.