5 Games the Detroit Lions Must Win to Make the Playoffs
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The Detroit Lions managed to land a playoff bid last year without beating a playoff team in the regular season. With improved rosters around the league, that same method might not work this time around. The 2012-13 season will show if the Lions are ready to compete for a Super Bowl or if they're still a young team learning to win.
There are plenty of grudge-match games on this year's schedule, including the San Francisco 49ers. But playing the Niners in Week 2 makes that more of a personal matchup instead of a playoff-position game.
The Lions have five pivotal games on their schedule that could decide their playoff fate. There could be plenty of postseason hope if Detroit is victorious during these weeks next year.
Week 6 @ Philadelphia Eagles
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Coming fresh off a Week 5 bye, the Lions will be tested immediately when they travel to Philadelphia.
With the addition of DeMeco Ryans at linebacker and drafting Fletcher Cox at tackle, the Eagles have significantly improved on defense. Also, a healthy Michael Vick returning with a newly paid DeSean Jackson should provide a spark that was missing last season on offense.
Vince Young prematurely anointed the Eagles the "Dream Team" before last season began. Michael Vick is treading similar waters by referring to Philadelphia's potential of being a dynasty. The Eagles might not become a dynasty or dream team after this year, but they pose a serious threat to the Lions.
Detroit could end up with a winning record before their bye week. When they face the Eagles, it marks the beginning of the Lion's playoff push. A road win against the Eagles sets a great tone for Detroit's postseason hopes.
Week 7 @ Chicago Bears
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There's no tougher way to start the series than a Monday Night Football showdown at Soldier Field.
The new-look Chicago Bears added an impressive pool of talent this offseason, including receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Michael Bush and rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery. Chicago also added second-rounder Brian Price at defensive tackle, giving their front four a much stronger force.
Both teams could have close records at this point of the season. Each team could gain an advantage with a Week 7 victory. On the grand Monday Night stage, it adds major momentum moving forward through the season.
Detroit and Chicago both need this game, but the Lions could make a major statement with a road victory against a divisional opponent.
Week 11 vs. Green Bay Packers
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After the infamous Suh stomp this past Thanksgiving and Matt Flynn's record setting performance, people forget the Lions had chances to defeat the Packers. With a shot at redemption, Detroit has plenty to prove against Green Bay.
A Week 11 victory would put the Lions in great shape.
The Packers remain a heavy Super Bowl favorite as long as Aaron Rodgers is on the field. Green Bay returns the same key elements on offense, but they added high-potential rookies Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy on the defensive line. Last year's bottom-ranked defense received a much needed upgrade that should provide a real boost for Green Bay.
The Lions and Packers have managed to recharge their long-lasting rivalry. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch exchanged a war of words with receiver Greg Jennings this offseason.
With both teams having plenty to prove, expect a tough Round 1 between the two.
The Lions still struggle heavily at Lambeau Field, so a home win against Green Bay keeps the Lions in good shape for the playoffs.
Week 16 vs. Atlanta Falcons
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The Falcons and Lions had a solid back-and-forth matchup last season at Ford Field. In the end, it was decided by Atlanta's ground game and running back Michael Turner. The Falcons return to Ford Field in Week 16 for another crucial Monday Night game.
Detroit hits a tough end of their schedule at this point of the season with the need of a positive ending. Atlanta should again be a playoff contending team this season.
If the Lions win double-digit games this season, it's imperative to defeat teams like the Falcons.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford played one of his worst games against the Falcons last season. The Lions will need a rebound performance by Stafford this time around, especially if the backfield stays healthy. Backs Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure could provide a punch to Detroit's offense that they missed last season against Atlanta. With Best and Leshoure healthy, they could help paint a different outcome for the Lions.
Week 17 vs. Chicago Bears
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The Lions face their divisional foes four times during the second half of the season, including the finale at home against Chicago Bears. Detroit and Chicago could have close records at the end of the season. Assuming the Lions and Bears are successful in 2012-13, the final game of the year should decide each team's playoff hopes.
After playing each other already in Week 7, both teams should have a clear understanding of each other. The Lions need to end their season on a positive note as well as secure a playoff spot with this win.
The NFC North is arguably the best division in the NFL, and Week 17 will be a great example of why.
Detroit was blown out last season at Chicago, but they picked up a Monday Night victory in Week 5. Every game counts in the NFL, including the last against a division rival.
The Lions must establish their place within the division, and they'll be heavily tested against the Bears.