I thought I’d do everyone a solid and offer up some things that might inspire some optimism during these uncertain times.
Off the start, let’s throw out how the Lions themselves will perform against the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers in the final three games of the season. As any fan knows, they have been as unpredictable as any team in the league thus far.
However, there are some interesting bilines to this story; Week 14 may have opened up some doors for the Lions to take advantage of in their last push towards the playoffs.
Everyone in Michigan let out a collective sigh in week 13 when the New York Giants nearly put an end to the Packers’ perfect run. A loss then would have taken the emphasis off the perfect season and more on securing the first seed in the NFC. So, if they had a loss going into week 17 against the Lions, they would be less inclined to ride their starters for the entirety of the game. Unfortunately the G-Men let everyone rooting against the Pack down.
But now the Packers have some other things to think about. With Greg Jennings, their most dependable receiver, going down with a knee injury that looks to keep him out 2-3 weeks, they might be reconsidering what’s most important. While they undoubtedly could continue running their high-flying offense without Jennings, they would obviously rather have him on-hand in the post-season than sitting on the bench. Maybe it’s time to think rest rather than record. Paired with an unexpected San Francisco 49ers loss last week, the Packers are sitting pretty atop the NFC standings, as the closest teams are the ‘Niners and New Orleans Saints both at 10-3.
|1||z - Green Bay||13||0||0||1.000||4-0-0||10-0-0||.444||.444||NFC North Champ|
|2||z - San Francisco||10||3||0||.769||3-1-0||8-2-0||.450||.408||NFC West Champ
Wins tie break over New Orleans based on best win percentage in conference games.
|3||x - New Orleans||10||3||0||.769||3-1-0||6-3-0||.462||.454||NFC South Champ|
|4||NY Giants||7||6||0||.538||2-2-0||4-6-0||.515||.429||NFC East Champ (Wins tie break over Dallas based on head-to-head win percentage.)|
|5||Atlanta||8||5||0||.615||2-2-0||6-4-0||.473||.346||Wins tie break over Detroit based on head-to-head win percentage.|
|7||Chicago||7||6||0||.538||2-2-0||6-3-0||.521||.407||Wins tie break over Dallas based on best win percentage in conference games.|
|9||Seattle||6||7||0||.462||3-1-0||5-4-0||.485||.410||Wins tie break over Arizona based on head-to-head win percentage.|
(standings from espn.com)
The top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs is now certain, and Jennings’ injury may be a wake up call for the coaching staff to watch their players a little more closely. It’s a long season and every player is being ground down more and more; injuries are much more likely to happen in the latter weeks. I can almost guarantee that if they see one more injury to a starter, they will throw away their dreams of a perfect season in favor of making sure they are healthy and ready for their playoff run.
This offers a small ray of hope- as much as it would disgust every Packer fan to see a desperate Lions team come in to Lambeau and steal a cheap win against a bunch of backups, it’s a definite possibility that’s exactly what may happen.
Now, as for the other NFC Wildcard teams in the hunt, this is how I see it: I think everyone will agree the Chicago Bears aren’t going to go anywhere with the offense they’re running under Caleb Hanie and an injured Matt Forte. They are pretty low threat. The Giants just beat the Dallas Cowboys, two teams in contention. The best part about this is that those two teams will meet again which guarantees one of them will get another loss. The Lions, at 8-5, have a better record than both of those teams who are each 7-6. One of them will win the NFC East, so at the moment it really doesn’t matter who beats who in their week 17 head-to-head. The Atlanta Falcons hold the tie-breaker with the Lions, so they look like a strong candidate for the other Wildcard slot. The only other potential threat is if either the Arizona Cardinals or Seattle Seahawks can run the table (which isn’t out of the question) to finish at 9-7.
The Lions do control where they end up, though. If they can win out, none of this matters. But it sure does look a little better in case they stumble the next couple weeks and have to beat the Pack to get to the playoffs.