The Detroit Lions have made an improbable run to playoff contention lately, outlined by two data points–one up to now and the second the history facing them.
We all know the tune by now. The Detroit Lions have won six of their last seven games after Sunday’s Week 15 win over the New York Jets, and their odds to make the playoffs have gone way up over the last two weeks.
To get to 7-7 over the last two weeks, the Lions beat the then 10-2 Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 then the previously 7-6 Jets on Sunday. They’ve also beaten two other teams who have winning records, the 8-5-1 New York Giants and the 7-6-1 Washington Commanders.
Overall, to this point, the Lions have had the hardest strength of schedule in the NFL. They have had five games against teams who have double-digit wins.
The Lions’ final three opponents, the Carolina Panthers (5-9), Chicago Bears (3-11) and Green Bay Packers (5-8) have a combined win percentage of .317 (13-28 record), with the Packers still to play Monday night to close out Week 15 as of this writing. So things do ease up, to help them finish their push for a playoff spot.
Detroit Lions would make rare run to playoff spot if they can finish the job
The Lions have started slowly and made the playoffs a couple times in their history, from a 1-4 start in 1983 and from 0-3 (and 3-6) in 1995 (h/t to Will Burchfield of 97.1 The Ticket). But from 1-6 to a playoff berth is a different animal, a historical one even.
The last NFL team to go from a 1-6 start to earning a playoff spot was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals.
So the Lions are trying to do something that hasn’t been done since the first season after the AFL-NFL merger, and in a 14-game season with fewer teams in the league too. The recent addition of a seventh playoff spot in each conference only helps the Lions’ chances to pull it off this year.
If results go a certain way in Week 16, starting with a win over the Panthers of course, a Christmas present would come to Detroit in the form of being in a playoff spot with two games to go.