After a tough loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions find themselves one game under .500 and on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff race. With seven games left they still have a chance, but it's a very slim one.
After the success of last season, the Lions have to be disappointed with their performance thus far. Despite leading the league in passing—307 yards per game—their offense has been slow to start in all but one game. That's a recipe for disaster and it shows in their 4-5 record.
If the Lions have any hope of turning their season around and making the playoffs, their offense has to start clicking early on.
Even if they do that, the schedule doesn't get any easier going forward. Five out of the next seven games are in the friendly confines of Ford Field, but competition is stiff. They'll face six teams with winning records, including two games against Green Bay and one against Chicago, Atlanta and Houston.
They've dug themselves a hole, but the Lions have the talent to make a run.
These are their odds of making the playoffs, seed by seed.
* Statistical information courtesy of ESPN
The first seed in the NFC playoff race is still up for grabs. At this point in the season, most would agree the Atlanta Falcons (8-1) and Chicago Bears (7-2) are the front runners. However no one should sleep on the Green Bay Packers.
Yes, injuries are mounting for them, but they've won four games in a row and their schedule is favorable. Besides, Aaron Rodgers can walk on water and might be able to win the Super Bowl by himself.
The point is this: One could debate the chances of Atlanta, Chicago and Green Bay until the cows come home. However no one in their right mind could debate the Lions' chances of getting the first seed and home field advantage in the playoffs.
It's a pipe dream. You'd have a better chance winning Powerball. They could win seven straight games and they'd still fall short.
ODDS: No Chance!
If the Lions have no chance at the first seed, then they must have better odds at the second, right? Wrong.
The top two seeds are going to be won by teams with at least 12 wins. As I mentioned in the previous slide, the Falcons and Bears are the two most likely candidates. Despite both teams losing last week, there's no reason to believe they'll slow down.
The Lions still have games against both of them—Atlanta in Week 16 and Chicago in Week 17. They could help their cause by defeating them.
Actually that would do little for the Lions' cause. They're too far out of it. Defeating either of them would only help some other team's playoff chances.
ODDS: No Chance!
Let's face it, the Lions don't have a prayer at winning any of the first four seeds. That's because those seeds will go to the four divisional champions and the Lions don't stand a chance of winning theirs.
The NFC North is arguably the best division in football and the Lions are currently dead last in it. They're the only team in the division with a losing record and they just got run over—for the second time this season—by the Minnesota Vikings.
Even if Jay Cutler's concussion, suffered Monday night against the Houston Texans lingers and the Bears fade down the stretch, the Green Bay Packers will be there to slide into their all-to-familiar position atop the division standings.
The Packers only trail the Bears by one game, so they could overtake them regardless of Cutlers' health. The Vikings are in the same position, albeit with one more loss, so they can't be counted out either.
The bottom line is if the Lions pull off a miracle and make the playoffs, it won't be as the No. 1-4 seed.
ODDS: No Chance!
If the Lions were to win their division and earn one of the first four playoff seeds, they would need to flip a switch and start playing four quarters of dominating football each and every game. There would be no margin for error and no room for silly mistakes like penalties and dropped touchdown balls.
In other words, they'd have to win each of their remaining seven games.
After watching all nine games this season from start to finish, I can say with complete confidence that the Lions cannot do that. They're not good enough. That's why I gave them "No Chance" in the previous three slides.
However, the Lions are a talented team. They are capable of playing very well for stretches. For that reason they are capable of going on a run. In other words, they still have a chance to win one of the two wild card spots and get into the playoffs.
Obviously, the odds are still stacked against them. Especially for the first wild card. There's a good chance that it will go to the second place team in their own division—either Green Bay or Chicago.
No one would be surprised if the surging Packers passed the Bears and won the Division crown. They're the hottest team in the NFL with four straight wins.
The Bears, already with seven wins, have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. It's not hard to see them winning five out of their last seven either.
Either way one of them will win the division and the consolation prize will likely be the wild card.
Detroit can help their cause though. They still have an opportunity to get a win at home against Chicago and to get two wins against Green Bay.
These wins would put the Lions on the right side of a potential tie breaker. Obviously they'd need to win at least two other games as well, but winning those divisional match ups is a must.
ODDS: 2 percent
The Lions best chance at the playoffs is to get in by the skin of their teeth. Although with a losing record and with eight teams in the NFC ahead of them, even the final wild card spot seems out of reach.
The Lions would have to win six of their final seven games to even have a chance. They'd also have to hope for the collapse of at least one team. That would be the Vikings.
The Lions made them look like champions, but they had struggled losing three out of their previous four games. No one would be surprised if they started to fade.
Detroit holds the tie breaker with Seattle, but that's their only advantage. Their only hope is that the other teams struggle down the stretch.
Dallas might be the Lions' alter ego. They are also 4-5, and have not lived up to expectations. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is red hot and looks like the Lions of 2011.
It comes down to this: The Lions' chances are slim because they play in the toughest division in football and they underperformed the first half of the season. The can play near perfect football the rest of the way, but will still have to rely on other teams losing.
ODDS: 5 percent