NFC North: playoff picture

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

It is a division title or bust now for the Lions.

With the Lions -- and Bears -- now two games back of Carolina and San Francisco for the wild-card berths in the NFC with three games to play, any chance of losing a divisional title and still making the playoffs is infinitesimal.

The good news for Detroit is it would still be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The bad news is the Lions have lost three of four games and still have three games left this season.

So it is a three-team race for essentially one playoff spot.

Detroit
Record: 7-6
Remaining opponents' record: 15-23-1
Next game: Monday vs. Baltimore
Remaining games: vs. Baltimore, vs. New York Giants, at Minnesota

Chicago
Record: 7-6
Remaining opponents' record: 18-20-1
Next game: Sunday at Cleveland
Remaining games: at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, vs. Green Bay.
Lions' interests: Obviously, the Lions need the Bears to lose to take some pressure off and give them any sort of cushion. The good news for Detroit is the Bears are just 2-4 on the road and have their next two games away from Soldier Field. Now tied again for the divisional lead -- Detroit has the tiebreaker -- Chicago has to keep winning and hope for help.

Green Bay
Record: 6-6-1
Remaining opponents record: 19-20
Next game: Sunday at Dallas
Remaining games: at Dallas, vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago
Lions interests: The Packers are still on the fringe here, but they stopped their five-game winless skid last week against Atlanta. Green Bay's schedule gets harder from here, facing fellow playoff contenders Dallas and Chicago on the road in two of the final three weeks. Green Bay still needs a lot of help to make the playoffs. The Packers need to win and have a combination of Bears and Lions losses. What might help Green Bay? Aaron Rodgers seems like he could end up returning at some point this season, so if the Packers can stay in the race until then, they’ll have a huge weapon for the end of the season.
This is a weekly look at the NFC playoff picture as it relates to the Detroit Lions.

The way the NFC is starting to take shape -- and yes, there is a long way to go still -- the NFC North might only get one playoff team this season and for the Lions, that means they better win the division.

Consider, too, that the Lions have never done that before, at least with the division in its current arrangement.

Surging Carolina, consistent New Orleans and San Francisco and a tiebreaker edge for Arizona all are major concerns for the Lions as they start to hit the back end of the season.

Speaking of tiebreakers, that’s also why the Lions are in the playoff hunt right now -- because they hold the tiebreaker over Chicago by sweeping them this year.

Detroit
Record: 6-4
Remaining opponents record: 23-38
Next game: Sunday vs. Tampa Bay
Next three games: vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Green Bay; at Philadelphia

NFC North:
Chicago
Record: 6-4
Remaining opponents record: 26-35
Next game: Sunday at St. Louis
Next three games: at St. Louis, at Minnesota; vs. Dallas
Lions' interests: While it would help Detroit if the Bears could drop at least one of their next two games against teams not really in the playoff picture, as long as Detroit keeps pace with Chicago, the Lions are in decent shape here.

Green Bay
Record: 5-5
Remaining opponents record: 25-35
Next game: Sunday vs. Minnesota
Next three games: vs. Minnesota, at Detroit; vs. Atlanta
Lions' interests: No Aaron Rodgers, but this is a crucial three-game stretch for the Packers if they want to stay in the playoff picture. Minnesota and Atlanta are winnable games and there’s also the Lions on Thanksgiving. Detroit would obviously want to win then and also have Green Bay drop at least one of the other two games.

Wild-card race:
Carolina
Record: 7-3
Remaining opponents record: 30-30
Next game: Sunday at Miami; vs. Tampa Bay
Next three games: at Miami, vs. Tampa Bay; at New Orleans
Lions' interests: Every time it looks like Carolina might fall back in the wild-card race, Cam Newton and his team keep winning. The Panthers have now won six straight games and seven of their last eight after dropping their first two of the season. Carolina still has to face New Orleans twice and those games could decide the division -- but the Panthers look like a clear-cut playoff team now.

San Francisco
Record: 6-4
Remaining opponents record: 27-34
Next game: Monday at Washington
Next three games: at Washington, vs. St. Louis; vs. Seattle
Lions' interests: At this point, Detroit really would like Washington and St. Louis -- or at least one of those teams -- to upset San Francisco, which has lost two straight games. While the 49ers would be an interesting playoff opponent for Detroit, the Lions could use San Francisco to lose two of its next three to give it a decent position should it be in the wild-card race.

Arizona
Record: 6-4
Remaining opponents record: 37-24
Next game: Sunday vs. Indianapolis
Next three games: vs. Indianapolis, at Philadelphia; vs. St. Louis
Lions' interests: Detroit needs Arizona to start losing. Now. The Cardinals have a tiebreaker over both the Lions and the Panthers, but have a really difficult stretch run. They have four potential playoff teams in their final six games -- Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco. But if Detroit is pulling against any team right now other than the Bears and Packers, it should be Arizona because of that tiebreaker.

Lions Playoff Picture: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
11:15
AM ET
This is a weekly look at the NFC playoff picture as it relates to the Detroit Lions.

Detroit put itself in fairly good position Sunday by knocking off Chicago, sweeping the season series and now the Lions have a one-game lead on both the Bears and Green Bay in the NFC North.

They also, in some ways, kept pace with New Orleans as the Lions trail the Saints by one game for a potential bye in the first round of the playoffs. The bigger concern would be what is happening in the wild-card race.

If the season ended today -- the Lions would be the only team from the NFC North in the playoffs and would have to play host to San Francisco instead of Carolina. That would not be a very favorable matchup for Detroit.

But there is still a long way to go between now and the end of the season.

Detroit
Record: 6-3
Remaining opponents record: 22-41
Next game: Sunday at Pittsburgh
Next three games: at Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Green Bay

NFC North:
Green Bay
Record: 5-4
Remaining opponents' record: 26-38
Next game: Sunday at New York Giants
Next three games: at Giants, vs. Minnesota, at Detroit
Lions' interests: Green Bay’s quarterback situation is a mess right now and could be until Aaron Rodgers returns, whenever that may be. From a divisional standpoint and a wild-card perspective, a Giants win Sunday would be massive for Detroit.

Chicago
Record: 5-4
Remaining opponents' record: 29-37
Next game: Sunday vs. Baltimore
Next three games: vs. Baltimore, at St. Louis, at Minnesota
Lions' interests: The Bears are in a tough spot when it comes to the divisional race having been swept by Detroit. The bigger chance for them is in the wild-card hunt, but they, like the Packers, need to get their quarterback situation rectified to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Unlike Green Bay, though, Josh McCown has proven to be a capable backup to Jay Cutler.

Wild-card race:
San Francisco
Record: 6-3
Remaining opponents' record: 30-34
Next game: Sunday at New Orleans
Next three games: at New Orleans, at Washington, vs. St. Louis
Lions' interests: This is where things get interesting for Detroit. If the season ended today, Jim Harbaugh and crew would be the Lions’ wild-card round opponent, perhaps the worst of any potential matchups for them. A somewhat surprising loss for the 49ers against Carolina put them in this position. The Lions would be best served with a Saints win Sunday because it could cloudy up the playoff wild-card picture even more if the Lions were to lose the division. A 49ers win, though, could give Detroit the beginnings of a shot at a wild-card round bye.

Carolina
Record: 6-3
Remaining opponents' record: 32-29
Next game: Monday vs. New England
Next three games: vs. New England, at Miami, vs. Tampa Bay
Lions' interests: Carolina put itself firmly in the playoff conversation with a win at San Francisco on Sunday, the Panthers’ fifth straight victory. They still have two games left with division-leading New Orleans and the Monday nighter against New England this week, but Carolina is a team that should be in the playoff hunt until the end of the season at the very least.

Arizona
Record: 5-4
Remaining opponents record: 35-31
Next game: Sunday at Jacksonville
Next three games: at Jacksonville, vs. Indianapolis, at Philadelphia
Lions' interests: The Cardinals have the toughest closing stretch of any contender, finishing the season with division rivals Seattle and San Francisco -- including the Seahawks game on the road. If it became a wild-card situation, though, the Cardinals have the tiebreak over Detroit, so Arizona continues to hang around. For now.

NFL playoff picture

December, 28, 2009
12/28/09
9:57
AM ET
Here is a look at the AFC and NFC playoff picture if the postseason started today, as well as a list of playoff scenarios.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22