It’s official: the pressure’s on. The days of playing play-off spoiler are gone for the Detroit Lions. There’s a new meaning to winning in the second half; time for the big playoff push! Looking at the rest of the season, this game against a deceivingly tough Carolina squad seems like a cake game compared to what lies ahead. That’s why they can’t mess around this weekend.
Fortunately, the Lions have home field advantage against a rookie quarterback. Cam Newton and the Panthers are winless (0-3) on the road thus far. By no means should they take this for granted, as I think we’ve all seen how explosive the Panther offense can be and how many times they’ve lose close games (sound familiar?)
After Carolina it only gets tougher. Green Bay comes to town on Thanksgiving with their unbeaten record. This will be an emotional game, as it is each year, and I’m not sure what to expect from it yet. Watching Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic on Monday Night Football, I couldn’t find too many weak spots. The running game is suspect, who needs that when Rodgers can throw to the outside hip of his receivers at will? Following a long break after Turkey Day, they’ll head south to New Orleans to face an offense that is just as dangerous as the Packers. Minnesota follows the Saints.
Meanwhile, the Bears will try their hand against the AFC West, hosting San Diego, playing at Oakland, and then home for the Chiefs. The way they’re playing, they’ll get no less than two of those wins, perhaps struggling in Oakland against a suddenly sound Raider squad. That will put them at 8-4
So, let’s take a worst-case-scenario look at how the rest of the season may play out. Prepare yourself because this may get a bit complex.
Carolina: ?? San Diego: W
Green Bay: L @Oakland: L
@New Orleans: L Chiefs: W
Minnesota: W @Broncos: W
@Oakland: W Seahawks: W
San Diego: W @Packers: L
@Green Bay: L @Minnesota: W
Now, the New Orleans game is certainly up for grabs, and the Oakland/San Diego games won’t be easy. Also, week 17 against the Packers could be one in which Green Bay sits many of their starters in preparation for the playoffs. But the Bears clearly have a much easier schedule from here on out. The Lions can still have a worse record than the Bears and make that second Wildcard slot, but with the Cowboys and Falcons breathing down their necks at 5-4, they’d rather not chance it.
According to my predictions, the Lions will finish 9-6 (excluding the Panthers game), and the Bears will go 11-5.Even if they were to tie, the tie-breaker would be that Atlanta game (assuming each team wins against SD, OAK, and Detroit loses to NO). The Bears beat the Falcons back in week 1, and the Lions lost to them.
So, hoping the Bears hit a snag somewhere (perhaps away at Minnesota in week 17?), and the Lions can pull off a win against New Orleans or Green Bay, you can see how important it is to get this win at home this Sunday.
It looks like Chicago holds all the tie-breakers against the Lions, but this will likely be the game that decides whether the Lions sit in the 5 seed or 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture.