After yet another 4th quarter come from behind victory, this time thanks in large part to a great play from Darius Slay to generate a turnover & get the ball into field goal range, the Lions are in 1st place in the NFC North with 5 games to go.
While technically up 1 game on Minnesota, the Lions swept the season series with the Vikings, meaning Minnesota would have to finish a full game in front of the Lions to win, making it effectively a 2 game lead for the Lions.
According to CBS Sports, the Lions have a 68% chance to win the divisions & project for 9.3 wins:
With the Lions remaining schedule, the projection of just over 9 wins makes sense as they play the lowly Bears & the quickly spiraling out of control Packers at home combined with 3 tough road games. 9.3 wins basically equates to a 33% chance of winning one road game plus 2 home wins.
Using Pro-Football-Reference.com’s SRS calculation (Simple Rating System, based on teams W/L, margin of victory & opponants winning %, 0.0 is average) to base the projected line on the Lions remaining games backs this up:
|OPP||OPP SRS||Projected Line|
Since the Lions have stayed within 7 points in every game this season, they do not possess a strong SRS at -1.51, meaning they are a below average team, statistically speaking.
Adding in about 3 points for home field advantage, you can see that the Lions are distinctly favored in the 2 remaining home games & underdogs in all 3 remaining road games.
The Vikings remaining games include some same teams, Dallas, at Jacksonville, Indianapolis, at Green Bay & Chicago and need to win 4 of the 5 games, as long as the Lions can win 2.
This Thursday night in Minnesota against the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys could really set in motion the path to the Lions first division title since 1993. A loss Thursday would mean that the Vikings would have lost 6 of their last 7 games and would then need to win out to pass a Lions team expected to finish 9-7 to overtake the Lions for the division title.
If the Lions are going to win one of their remaining road games, this coming Sunday at New Orleans would be a good chance, as the Saints own the top offense in the NFL, they also have one of the worst defenses, meaning they are a team that Stafford could tear apart (especially once they are down in the 4th quarter).
A division win means the Lions would bring the Lions their first home playoff game since a 28-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the Silverdome.