I hope that Lions fans have recovered their sanity by now after the humiliating loss to the Bears in Chicago in Week 10. Having had time for calm reflection, I erased the game from my DVR. It was somewhat liberating, like expunging a bad dream.
What are the implications of the Lions loss, and the other key games of Week 10 on the NFC playoff picture? And, what Week 11 games will impact upon the NFC playoff race?
First, let’s take a snapshot of the current playoff picture:
Division champs: Green Bay (9-0), San Francisco (8-1), New Orleans (7-3) and New York Giants (6-3)
Wild Cards: Chicago (6-3) and Detroit (6-3)
Contenders: Dallas (5-4), Atlanta (5-4) and Tampa Bay (4-5)
Here’s the Week 10 results and ramifications on the NFC playoff race:
Tampa Bay’s loss to Houston was likely an elimination event. The Bucs will need too much help during the remainder of the season in order to sneak into playoffs.
Oddly enough, the season-ending injury to Texans QB Matt Schaub will have some impact on Atlanta’s playoff hopes down the line.
The Bucs travel to Green Bay in Week 11 for a game that will, in all likelihood, end their 2011 playoff hopes.
Like the 4th-down-and inches call by Atlanta head coach Mike Smith in OT or not, The Falcons dug a hole from which it will be difficult to recover. The Saints are now in the driver’s seat with a two-game lead in the NFC South after a Week 10 OT victory over the Falcons.
Atlanta faces a tough home game in Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans, who will be motivated by AFC playoff aspirations of their own. Atlanta should treat this like an elimination game. A loss would add almost insurmountable distance between other wild-card contenders and themselves.
The Cowboys stomped the Bills in Week 10. The sudden burst of momentum we’ve seen of late has propelled Dallas into contention for a division championship in the NFC East.
Only a game behind Chicago and Detroit in the wild-card hunt, the Cowboys are taking dead aim at the Giants, who faltered in Week 10. The Cowboys have two games remaining against the Giants that will clarify the playoff picture in the NFC East.
The Lions' Week 10 loss in Chicago had the cumulative effect of eliminating the Lions from serious divisional championship consideration, and has given a huge boost to every other NFC wild-card hopeful.
I don’t think that the loss itself was as damaging as how the Lions lost, and the lingering aftertaste that has to be dealt with by the Lions coaches, players and fans.
The Lions have a Week 11 home game against the Panthers. A game that was once seen as a get well game has now taken on some ominous wild-card implications.
A win over the Panthers no longer “holds serve” for the Lions as the favorite for the top wild-card spot. It merely allows the Lions a tenuous hold on a wild-card chance that looks anything but a sure thing.
The blowout Week 10 win over the Lions has given the Bears a springboard jump into the second half of the season. They hold the tiebreaker against Atlanta and have a softer schedule than any other wild-card contender.
The Bears host a reeling San Diego team in Week 11 and are now in the catbird position of holding serve for the top wild-card spot. The Chargers are in the "must win" mode to keep their AFC West playoff hopes alive.
The Division Leaders
Green Bay and San Francisco are now locked in a race for home-field advantage. The 49ers have an uphill climb as both teams look to be locks for a late playoff matchup.
The story in the NFC South is a bit murkier. New Orleans has a bye in Week 11, but their division lead is safe for the time being. Atlanta has the Titans on deck while the Saints will be watching on TV.
The NFC East race has become more interesting with the Giants coming back to the resurgent Cowboys. This divisional race will depend largely on the two head to head matchups remaining on the schedule.
Lions fans should watch the NFC East race carefully. Both New York and Dallas have a shot at that final wild-card spot if the division lead is lost.
The wild-card race has heated up after Week 10. Tampa Bay and Atlanta suffered the most damaging losses of all. Losses by Detroit and New York brought them back to the pack.
Chicago, New Orleans and Dallas helped their playoff stock the most with Week 10 wins.
Green Bay and San Francisco look like the cream of the crop for the foreseeable future.
How will the NFC playoff picture change after Week 11? Stay tuned!