Detroit Lions 2011 Playoff Race: The Week 16 Dash to the Finish
It’s known as “The Drive.”
It came in January, 1987 during the AFC championship game between the Denver Broncos and the visiting Cleveland Browns. John Elway guided the Broncos 98 yards down the field for a touchdown that tied the game with 37 ticks left on the clock. Denver went on to win the game in overtime, 23-20.
The so-called "Drive" by Elway took 5:02.
That now seems like an eternity, especially when compared to the Lions' heroics that were on display in Oakland last Sunday.
Mathew Stafford drove the Lions 98 yards in 95 seconds for the winning TD. This drive will go down as one of the greatest in Lions history.
Ninety-eight yards in 95 seconds.
The Lions (9-5) beat the Raiders (7-7) to keep their NFC wild card hopes alive. While I am loath to make the assertion that the Lions are going to the playoffs, Detroit’s chances got a bump up to 85 percent with the huge road win, according to PlayoffRace.com.
In other NFC news, the Giants (7-7) can’t beat the lowly Redskins (5-9), the Cardinals (7-7) and Seahawks (7-7) continue their mostly-irrelevant winning ways, and the Eagles (6-8) have suddenly become relevant again by beating up on the Jets (8-6).
Atlanta (9-5) got it’s groove back by stomping the Jaguars (4-10). The Saints (11-3), 49ers (11-3) and Packers (13-1) continue to dominate (if you don’t count the Chiefs (6-8) thumping the Packers, that is).
If the season ended today, here’s how the NFC playoff seeds would look:
Division champs: Green Bay (1 seed), New Orleans (2 seed), San Francisco (3 seed) and Dallas (4 seed). The Saints hold the tie-breaker over the Niners with the better conference record.
Wild cards: Atlanta (9-5) and Detroit (9-5). Atlanta holds the tie-breaker with the head-to-head record.
Contenders: New York Giants (7-7), Arizona (7-7), Chicago (7-7), Seattle (7-7) and Eagles (6-8).
Lets look at the percentages for these teams, and how Week 16 might impact the NFC playoff race.
I’ll use the numbers provided by PlayoffRace.com.
The resurgent Eagles now have a 5.8 percent chance of making the playoffs after the Giants implosion in Washington. The Eagles need Dallas and New York to lose in Week 16, followed by a Dallas win over the Giants in Week 17 to steal the NFC East crown.
The Eagles have zero wild card chances remaining.
The Seahawks are down to a 7.32 percent chance of making the playoffs. That number will drop to zero if San Francisco bests them in Week 16.
The Bears are down to an 8.01 percent chance of a wild card berth. They travel to Green Bay for what may be a Christmas night massacre—unless the Packers sit most of their starters.
The Cards keep winning, but have only an 8.06 percent chance of a wild card spot in the NFC. They travel to Cincinnati (8-6) to face a Bengals team desperate to make the AFC playoffs.
Arizona is the favorite—to be eliminated, that is.
New York Giants (7-7)
The Giants have zero chance for an NFC wild card spot. They do, however, have a 30.82 percent chance to win the NFC East, but need some help to do it.
The Giants must beat a Jets (8-6) team that is smarting from the Week 15 drubbing at the hands of the Eagles, and needs a loss by Dallas (8-6) to visiting Philadelphia (6-8) to avoid elimination.
A win or a tie in the Lions' Week 16 home game against San Diego (7-7) will lock up a wild card berth in the NFC. The Lions are an 85.09 percent favorite to do so.
The Lions have a 32.4 percent chance of taking the fifth NFC playoff seed if Atlanta stumbles in New Orleans (11-3) and Detroit wins out.
The Cowboys path to the playoffs is very difficult. They host the Eagles next week. Then travel to New York for a Week 17 showdown that will likely determine the NFC East champion.
The Cowboys do hold their own destiny, having a 64.83 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. The Cowboys wild card chances are down to only 1.4 percent.
The Lions will finish the season:
Green Bay locks up the NFC home field advantage with a win over the Bears in Week 16. The Packers perfect season is now behind them and they might focus on resting players for their playoff run. Green Bay will try to cobble together an offensive line in the meanwhile.
San Francisco can put a stranglehold on the number two seed with a victory over Seattle in Week 16. They are a 61.7 percent favorite to do so.
New Orleans has a big home game with NFC South rival Atlanta on Monday Night Football. The Saints are a 55.8 percent favorite to win the third seed in the NFC playoffs, but only have a 32.4 percent chance of getting the second seed.
The Lions would love to win their remaining two games and steal that fifth seed away from Atlanta. They have a 32.4 percent chance of accomplishing that worthwhile goal.
Let’s face it, the Lions would much rather face Dallas/New York than New Orleans in the first round of the NFC playoffs.
That'd be a nice gift.
Happy holidays, everyone.
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