NFL Playoff Picture: Sketching Out the Road to a Berth for Detroit Lions

Eric VincentCorrespondent INovember 14, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 11:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions huddles with his team against the Minnesota Vikings on November 11, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Clayton KIng/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are now hitting the rough stretch of their schedule. After a tough division loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10, Detroit has some ground to make up for postseason positioning.

Head coach Jim Schwartz doesn't like talking about playoffs or the distant future, only the next week ahead. But with the regular season set to end soon enough, it's hard not to ponder the Lions' playoff chances. 

According to the numbers, all hope isn't lost for the Lions' postseason goal. They're currently ranked 11th in the NFC with a 4-5 record, but only sit a couple games outside the wild card.

The Lions have been swept by the Vikings and suffered a brutal Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears, damaging their chances of winning the division. Detroit will face the Green Bay Packers twice and close out the season at home against the Bears. 

Losing to the Vikings on Sunday realistically eliminated the Lions' chances of battling for the North. The Bears are ranked second in the conference and a game ahead of the Packers in the division. Green Bay and the Seattle Seahawks are in control of the two wild-card seeds. The Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints also sit ahead of the Lions in the wild-card race.

Again, all hope isn't lost for the Lions, but what reason have they provided to believe? This team has plenty riding against them, including a grueling end to the schedule, a multitude of injuries and a season of underachievement. It's also troublesome chasing six playoff contenders, including five coming off momentum-swinging victories this past week.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been playing his most efficient football of the season the past three weeks. He's thrown for 966 yards, six touchdowns and seems to have regained control of the offense. Detroit's best attack on either side of the football lies through the passing game. If the Lions want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll need their franchise quarterback at the top of his game.

Realistically, Detroit needs to pull off plenty of upsets in the next seven weeks. Luckily, the Lions have five games at home to their advantage. Their two road games are in hostile environments against the Packers and the Arizona Cardinals

The Lions have enough firepower to keep up with any of their next seven opponents. But how will the defense hold up against offenses like the Packers, Colts and Texans? Can Detroit be disciplined enough to escape with a victory? Will they put together complete games or continue their last-second efforts?

Detroit could shock the world and snag a wild-card spot, or shoot their own dreams away. Week after week we've witnessed a different team on the football field, and now their fate rests in the hands of their own and six other teams. The Lions have a chance, but it's no easy hill to climb.