Detroit Lions Can Still Make the Playoffs Even After Thanksgiving Loss

Brandon LeopoldContributor INovember 27, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions watches as his team takes on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 37-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is the part of the season that separates the good teams from the great teams, and the great from the elite.

Everyone watched as the then 7-3 Lions took on the then 10-0 Packers in the annual Turkey Day classic. And like the past seven years, it was a Turkey Day classic meltdown for the Lions. The Lions dropped to 7-4 and the Packers improved to 11-0.

Fear not, Lions fans. The Lions can still make the playoffs. Here's how:

The loss on Thursday dropped the Lions to 7-4, which is still respectable in the NFL. I'll give you this—Thursday's loss was ugly. I get it. The Lions played like they didn't even belong in the same building as the Packers. The good news—they were playing Green Bay, so few people expected the Lions to actually win.

The loss of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will undoubtedly hurt the Lions' defensive line. Rookie Nick Fairley will likely be inserted into his slot, which is fine. Fairley has loads of talent, which I am sure he is chomping at the bit to show.

If Kevin Smith comes back healthy after his injury (and he has a whole week to work out and relax), the Lions could have some resemblance of a ground game. Smith started out great on Thursday, then the injury slowed him down. Jahvid Best was placed on IR, so it's up to Smith to shoulder the load.

The Lions have five more games remaining on their schedule. There's little hope of a win at New Orleans (because New Orleans rarely loses a game at home), so barring a miracle, the Lions will drop to 7-5.

That's fine with me, because it's a game the Lions are expected to lose. With their depleted secondary, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has no excuse to not go off on the Lions.

After that, the Lions come home to take on the Minnesota Vikings. Let's be real. That team is awful.

There's no excuse not to beat the Vikings at home. That team is in such disarray it will take years to repair. Lions win this one, and improve to 8-4.

Following the division clash with the Vikings, the Lions travel to the Black Hole to take on the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are an up-and-down team in the AFC West, and much like the AFC West opponent they'll face after Oakland, you never know which team you are going to get.

I see the Lions pulling off another road win (hey, they're 6-0 on the road so far) in Oakland, improving their record to 9-4.

Theoretically, that should get the Lions a berth into the NFC Wild Card. In a perfect world, that would be the case. But the NFL is not perfect, as we know.

Following the Raiders, the Lions come home for a Christmas Day battle with the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have been up and down so far this season, too. They stand at 4-6 with losses coming against the Bears, Packers, Raiders, Jets, Chiefs and Patriots.

Assuming the bolts don't completely lay an egg against Denver, Jacksonville or Buffalo, the Chargers will likely suffer their seventh loss of the season against Baltimore before coming to Detroit. If there is any team the Lions match up well against, it's the Chargers. I see the Lions winning this one as well, improving to 10-5.

Up next, the annual showdown at *in his best Chris Berman voice* "the Frozen Tundra" Lambeau Field. The Packers don't lose at Lambeau. Period. Whether they rest all of their starters or not, I don't see the Lions winning this one, again, unless barring a miracle. Final record: 10-6.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon whether or not Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta struggle down the stretch, as all three teams have been known to do.

The loss of Jay Cutler in Chicago is a huge setback, Atlanta has a tough schedule down the stretch, with their final two games coming against New Orleans at the Super Dome and Tampa Bay at home. The Falcons lost to both teams once already this year.

As for Dallas, well, the Cowboys always manage to choke down the stretch. Let's see what other choke jobs Tony Rom-oh no! has up his sleeve.

So fear not, Lions fans. Yes, the Packers game was ugly, but the Lions can still make the playoffs. It's up to them to decide if they want to, and in the words of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, "figure out what team they want to be."