By: Will Burchfield
The Lions need help to make the playoffs, and they got it in a big way on Sunday.
The Rams crushed the Seahawks on the road, allowing the idle Lions to leapfrog Seattle (8-6) in the wild card race. Detroit (8-6) is now seventh in the NFC, a half game behind the Falcons (8-5) for the final playoff spot.
The Falcons play at the Buccaneers Monday night.
After the Lions’ win over the Bears on Saturday, they needed two outside factors to work in their favor to make the playoffs: At least one loss by the Seahawks and at least two losses by the Falcons. Check one item off the list.
As of Monday morning, the Lions’ playoff odds stand at 21 percent, according to 538.com. Should they win their final two games — at the Bengals (5-9) on Christmas Eve, home versus the Packers (7-7) on New Year’s Eve — those odds jump to 49 percent.
It’s essentially a coin flip as to whether the Falcons, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, will lose two of their final three games.
Following tonight’s tilt in Tampa, Atlanta plays at the Saints (10-4) before hosting the Panthers (10-4). Both New Orleans and Carolina figure to be playing for the division title and possibly a first-round bye, so the Falcons certainly won’t have it easy.
Nor do the Lions, of course. They must win out and then count on a collapse by the NFC Champs.
“Yeah, we did it to ourselves, though,” said Eric Ebron following Saturday’s win. “We’ve got to fend for ourselves. That’s kind of how it works. … Right now we’re just rolling with the punches and know what we’ve got to do.”
The players are fully aware of what needs to happen in order for them to sneak into the playoffs. So is Jim Caldwell. But the coach can be expected to block out the big picture in the coming weeks.
“That’s not our focus. We don’t talk about all that stuff, that’s for you guys to write about. Our focus is on one thing: Cincinnati. That’s it, nothing more than that,” Caldwell said on Saturday.
He’s adamant that the Lions keep a narrow focus.
“It’s extremely narrow,” he said. “We deal with what’s in front of us and what we can control. All the other talk and all these projections and what you can and can’t do, that stuff really doesn’t matter to us.”
The second wild card spot is all that’s left for the Lions. The first wild card is out of reach and the Vikings (11-3) wrapped up the NFC North on Sunday.