As early as the first week of the season we were talking about important games that would help sort out the playoff picture later on. Wins in these games meant holding a head to head tie breaker once the regular season wrapped up.
The season opening game in Tampa had that feel to it and it was something I discussed on this blog. The Bucs were coming off a 10-6 season and figured to be in the playoff hunt with a core of young and talented players. Now, the Bucs sit at just 4-7 and are likely already irrelevant in the playoff picture.
The matchup with the Bucs didn’t turn out to be as big of deal as we thought it might, but games against Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago have certainly panned out as important games as the NFC playoff picture takes shape. However, there is one team that isn’t on the Lions schedule that could be a great help in getting the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999: the New York Giants.
It might sound odd that another playoff contender could help another by winning but that scenario exists with the Giants.
Their game that could help the Lions is this weekend when they host the Green Bay Packers. This is one of the few remaining games that NFL analysts point to when trying to identify potential pitfalls in the Packers’ run towards an undefeated regular season. A Green Bay loss to the Giants means the Pack likely has nothing to play for when they face the Lions in week 17. I like the Lions’ chances in that game a lot more than if the Packers are aiming for 16-0.
The Giants enjoyed much of the first half of the season as the front-men in the NFC East but they now find themselves looking up at the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the two teams will face each other two times in the final four weeks of the season. A couple Giants wins could put them back in position to win the NFC East and bump the Cowboys down to where the Lions head to head advantage over Dallas could mean something.
While the above is a tall task for the Cowboys to complete, it does add an extra wrinkle to follow along with the results of games involving the Falcons and Bears. At this point, the Lions will need a little help from somewhere to make the playoffs and the Giants shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the teams that provide it. If they do, their rewards might just be the right to host the Lions on Wild Card weekend.