A look around this week’s NFC North games will show you one thing immediately: Winter has arrived.
Three of the four NFC North games this week were played in snowy (or blizzard-like) conditions, as you can see above.
The other, the Monday night game in Chicago, kicked off with a wind chill below zero degrees. So yeah, it’s that time of year again.
Of course, it wasn’t just the weather that got colder; the Detroit Lions’ chances at the playoffs did the same. With their loss, and wins by the Bears and Eagles, the Lions are back to holding onto the NFC North lead by a mere thread, as all three teams are separated by a half-game and some tiebreakers.
Here’s what it looks like in the standings.
NFC North Standings
Detroit — 7-6 (4-1 NFCN)
Chicago — 7-6 (2-3 NFCN)
Green Bay — 6-6-1 (2-2-1 NFCN)
Minnesota — 3-9-1 (1-3-1 NFCN)
A week ago, the Lions appeared to have a stranglehold on the NFC North, perhaps more due to the inability of the Packers and Bears to get anything going as to the Lions’ actual play.
It’s still true that the Lions control their own destiny. Three wins in their last three games, and nobody can stop them from winning the division and making the playoffs.
That being said, the cushion these Lions had last week has evaporated, and if they don’t start playing better, so will their playoff hopes. The NFC North has been a three-team race pretty much all season, and nothing has apparently changed, except that the quality of those three teams is a lot lower than expected.
The possibility of a eight-game division winner is very much on the table at this point, as the Lions, Packers and Bears all stumble their way to the finish line. Right now, the NFC North looks like the most favorable matchup for whatever wildcard team draws them. That may well be true regardless of which team comes out of it.
But then, three weeks is just enough time to get hot. Can any of these teams do it?