By: Will Burchfield
The Lions’ playoff hopes took a big hit last Thursday versus the Vikings.
At 6-5, they’re now trailing by three games in the division and essentially two games in the wild card with five games to go.
But Golden Tate feels the team’s fate is in its own hands.
“I do, I do. Unfortunately we need some other things to happen in order for us to get in, but it’s not like it’s impossible. A lot of those teams that are ahead of us have to play each other,” Tate said.
Per Football Outsiders, the Lions have a 24.3 percent chance of making playoffs. (That number was 49.4 percent last week. No team saw a sharper drop.) The division is all but lost, but Tate’s right that the wild card offers reason to believe.
Though the Lions have to jump two teams in that race — the 7-4 Falcons and the 7-4 Seahawks — the schedule suggests it’s not improbable.
The Falcons, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, still have games against the 9-2 Vikings, the 8-3 Panthers and two games against the 8-3 Vikings. Detroit will need Atlanta to lose at least twice.
The banged-up Seahawks still have to play the 10-1 Eagles, the 7-4 Jaguars and the 8-3 Rams. Detroit will need Seattle to lose at least once.
(The Seahawks currently own the tiebreaker over the Lions by virtue of their better conference record.)
The Lions, meanwhile, only face one winning team the rest of the season, this weekend in Baltimore. After that, they get the 4-7 Buccaneers, the 3-8 Bears, the 5-6 Bengals and the 5-6 Packers. Green Bay will most likely be without Aaron Rodgers.
Should the Lions win out, there’s a very strong chance they’ll leapfrog both the Seahawks and Falcons.
“The biggest challenge I see is with the NFC South,” said Tate. “That’s what I think could give us some trouble because I think all those teams are kind of in the hunt and we’d lose the head to head. But it doesn’t matter what happens if we don’t win, we won’t even need to look at the TV anymore to figure out the scenarios.”
The Saints sit atop the NFC South while the Panthers are first in the wild card. Of course, so much can change in a month.
“You have teams that are in good position, but a lot can happen in five games,” said Glover Quin. “Teams that are 8-3 right now could end up 8-8. We’re 6-5 right now, we could end up 11-5. That should get you in the playoffs every year. Every now and then it don’t, but 11-5 should get you in.”
Indeed, an 11-win team hasn’t missed the playoffs since the Patriots in 2008.
“I know some teams and some situations may look better than others, but at the end of the day you still have to go out and play the game,” Quin said. “You’re not in until you’re in and you’re not out until you’re out.”
Tate said he isn’t eyeing a magic number, but agreed that 11 wins should be enough.
“If we try to go 1-0 for the rest of the season, we’ll see how it all figures out. It’s really up to us. If we don’t get in from handling our business, we need to learn that those games early in the season we need to find a way to get,” said Tate.
For now, the Lions are fixed on the Ravens.
“We have to go one game at a time,” said Quin. “That has to be our focus because you can’t win all five if you don’t win the first one.”
Said Tate, “I think we all understand the situation we’re in.”