The Detroit Lions were off on Sunday afternoon, meaning a boring weekend took hold for plenty of fans who were forced to sit back and watch other teams play. Scoreboard watching can become fun, though, when it involves monitoring the Lions' potential playoff hopes.
In the NFC, the Lions, who aren't currently in first place in the NFC North division, got to sit back and watch the action. What games may have helped or hurt their playoff cause this weekend? Here's a look at what happened on Sunday afternoon for all the key competition within the conference.
Carolina (5-3) defeats Atlanta (2-6) 34-10. It's quickly looking like the Panthers might become a major competitor for Detroit in the wild card race, and that's especially so after their convincing win over a Falcons team which was looking to claw back into the hunt. At 2-6, any faint playoff hopes Atlanta possessed are probably done, while the Panthers have big games looming against San Francisco and New England. Though Carolina is a team to watch, they also haven't played New Orleans yet, and have one more road date with the Falcons.
Philadelphia (4-5) defeats Oakland (3-5) 49-20. The Eagles may have found an answer to their quarterback problem after Nick Foles carved up the Raiders for seven scores through the air. Detroit and Philadelphia play later this season, meaning the Lions will have their shot to hang a critical loss on the Eagles as it pertains to their playoff hopes in December. Still, with the win and a major offensive surge, Philadelphia will be another team to watch during the last two months from a Lions' perspective.
Dallas (5-4) defeats Minnesota (1-7) 27-23. With some late heroics, the Cowboys turned the tide from their heartbreak last week against the Lions, grabbing an important win against the miserable Vikings. Minnesota remains terrible and isn't going anywhere in the NFC North, while Dallas continues to lead the NFC East. If it comes to it, the Lions do have their victory over the Cowboys to fall back on and later match ups with the New York Giants and Eagles in their NFC East series.
Seattle (8-1) defeats Tampa Bay (0-8) 27-24. The Seahawks continue to win, staying ahead of the San Francisco 49ers (6-2, bye) in the NFC West. A wild card team is probably coming out of that division barring a meltdown by somebody, so Lions' fans will have to root for Seattle to win out and the 49ers to suffer a few tough losses down the stretch. Tough games against Seattle, New Orleans and Arizona remain for them, so that's not completely inconceivable.
New York Jets (5-4) defeat New Orleans (6-2) 26-20. Behind a solid defense, Rex Ryan and the Jets secured a victory against the Saints, who have looked human on the road against quality opponents. With Carolina's victory, the Panthers are now only one game behind the Saints, adding some intrigue to the NFC South. The Lions can't afford two quality teams from that division, so they'll have to root against the Panthers the rest of the year, especially against New Orleans.
Chicago Bears (4-3) against Green Bay Packers (5-2). The Lions and their fans should be rooting for the Bears, whom they play this weekend on a shortened week, to come up big and beat the Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football. Divisionally, they've beaten the Bears once and lost to the Packers once, so the more Detroit can do to stay in the division race the better, including getting help from a team that they'll face next Sunday.
Clearly, as the old saying goes, the best thing the Lions can do to improve their playoff chance is win. It's never wrong, though, to examine what kind of help the team could end up getting as the season begins to evolve.
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