With one week left in the season, the NFL playoff picture is becoming clearer and clearer. All but one spot in the AFC has been locked up, and although a few spots are technically up for grabs in the NFC, there are teams with clear advantages of making it to the postseason.
Interestingly, when the dust settles on the NFL playoff picture a week from now, the Detroit Lions could end up having three wins against teams that made the postseason:
- The Packers, the team Detroit beat in Week 14, just need to beat the Bears to clinch a playoff spot. They can also get in with losses by the Giants and Buccaneers.
- Tampa Bay, the team Detroit beat in Week 15, is more of a long shot to make the playoffs, but it's still possible. The Buccaneers can get in with the Saints losing to the Falcons tonight and the Giants losing next week, the Saints losing to the Falcons tonight and the Packers losing next week and both the Giants and Packers losing next week. All of these scenarios require a Buccaneers win next week.
- The Rams, the team Detroit annihilated in Week 5, can get into the playoffs simply by winning at Seattle on Sunday night.
Theoretically all of these teams could end up missing the playoffs, but at least one should make it to the postseason. While that doesn't mean a whole lot for the Lions considering their draft plans will be getting started a week from now, at least they can look back and see that of their either five or six wins, more than half or half of them came against playoff-caliber teams.
You could add a fourth win against a playoff-caliber team to the list had Detroit not been jobbed against the Bears earlier in the season or if the Lions had made a comeback just a few weeks ago at home against Chicago. Right now the Bears are on the verge of getting the second seed in the NFC, and Detroit played them close in both games this season. Moral victories aren't anything to hang your hat on, but the fact that the Lions played playoff teams like the Bears and Jets tough and the Patriots tough for one half does show that this team is improving.