By: Will Burchfield
Patrick Murray’s potential game-tying field goal drifted wide to the right, and with it the Lions’ playoff hopes landed on life support.
The Falcons (9-5) squeezed out a victory over the Buccaneers on Monday night, 24-21, bringing them within one win of a playoff berth and knocking the Lions (8-6) out of the race.
Atlanta plays at New Orleans before hosting the Panthers to close out the season. Detroit plays at Cincinnati before hosting Green Bay. For the Lions to make the playoffs, they’ll have to win out and the Falcons will have to lose out (or tie).
They can also sneak in if either the Saints (10-4) or the Panthers (10-4) lose out, but they’ll need additional help in either case.
Detroit’s updated playoff odds are down to 14 percent, per 538.com. They stood at 21 percent prior to Atlanta’s win on Monday night.
The one thing working in the Lions’ favor is Atlanta’s schedule. Both the Saints and the Panthers are still fighting for the NFC South title and potentially a first-round bye, so the Falcons won’t have it easy in their final two games.
Would it be surprising to see the defending NFC champs collapse at the finish line? Sure, but crazier things have happened.
Looming large is the Falcons’ win over the Lions in Week 3, controversial ending and all. With the benefit of the head-to-head tiebreaker, Atlanta essentially owns a two-game lead over Detroit.