Assessing the Lions’ Remaining Schedule for the 2014-15 NFL Season

Even with their loss in the desert last Sunday, the 7-3 Detroit Lions find themselves in great shape. The team has a share of the lead in the NFC North (and currently holds the tiebreak with the Packers) with just six weeks remaining. Of course, they were in a pretty similar position last year, and no one needs (or wants) reminding how that turned out. There’s still a long way to go, and the Lions have a few significant tests left to overcome in their schedule. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for Detroit.

For starters, the Lions still have to face arguably the two best teams in the NFL, beginning with the New England Patriots on the road. According to TopBet’s current NFL betting lines, the Lions are more than touchdown underdogs this week in Foxborough, which is a lot of points, but it’s more than justifiable given how great the Pats have been playing, especially at home. It’s possible if not probable that the Lions are looking at their first losing streak of the season.

After that, though, they have four very winnable games in a row, including three-straight at home against the Bears, Bucs and Vikings, before heading to Chicago in Week 16. These are exactly the types of games the Lions need to be winning in order to be considered a legit playoff team, and aside from a pretty egregious fourth quarter collapse against the Bills in Week 5, they’ve taken care of winnable games this season.

Granted, they haven’t been particularly impressive, especially over the last month where they needed Matthew Stafford to pull out a win in the dying moments against the Saints, Falcons and Dolphins. But this isn’t college football where style points matter. They just need wins, which many other teams, some with significantly less talent than the Lions, have taken from those three.

So suppose the Lions go 4-1 over the next five weeks. That sets up a potential winner-take-all showdown with the Packers in Green Bay for the NFC North in Week 17. The Packers, who are also currently 7-3, take on the Patriots the week after the Lions do, but it’ll be in Green Bay. Apart from a potentially tricky trip to Buffalo, that could be the only game where the Packers could realistically slip up.

Even if Green Bay does run the table heading into the final week, Detroit would still have the edge in that scenario. If the Lions win at Green Bay and finish tied, they claim the division by way of sweeping the series against the Packers. Of course, there’s the small matter of 23-straight losses at Lambeau… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.