For the 5-7 Lions, the fun and games are over. The weak part of the schedule ends and Detroit’s degree of difficulty will ratchet up significantly in the coming weeks. In fact, the Lions will have the toughest finish to the season of any team in the league at this point.
Recently, Mike Clay of ESPN took a closer look at the schedule strength across the league, and the Lions’ predicament is a tough one. They’re going to have to try and stay relevant in a crowded field while playing some of the best teams in the NFL the rest of the season.
That graphic paints an ugly picture for the Lions, who would have had their work cut out for them anyway without the benefit of this miserably tough schedule. It was already feeling like a long shot that the Lions made the playoffs, but that might be closer to reality if the schedule strength finds a way to hold the rest of the way.
Lions Still Alive Within NFC Playoff Race
Detroit might be alive for the postseason, but the work stands to get much tougher the rest of the way as this metric and others are showing. The soft part of Detroit’s schedule is now complete and the Lions now are set to play teams with solid records over the next three weeks. The Lions will tangle with the Packers, Titans, Buccaneers and Vikings to close the season. The combined record of those teams? A solid 30-18. Obviously, this means there will be no easy games at the end and the Lions will earn everything they get if they manage to stay relevant within the playoff push moving forward. It’s probably not likely the Lions will be favored in many of those upcoming games the rest of the way.
Even with some of the team’s recent uninspiring defeats on the field, the Lions remain on the periphery of the NFC race for the postseason. They will be battling the likes of the Cardinals, 49ers, Buccaneers and Vikings to make a push for the playoffs in the second half. The win over Chicago was huge to keep the conversation going, and now the biggest challenge for Detroit is to continue to find a way to stack wins against better competition.
Why Lions’ Schedule Could Complicate Matters
Detroit has struggled this season, especially on defense. If the team is going to make a run, they have to find a way to start getting teams off the field, pressuring the pocket and creating turnovers. It was only when Detroit did those things against Chicago that they were able to win, so being able to do it against high level competition will have to be the goal now moving forward.
Even with that in mind, the fact the Lions are playing solid teams won’t help matters. Three of the final four games the Lions will play come against teams in the top five in total offense this season. Only Tampa Bay remains on the outskirts of this group, and they are led by Tom Brady as well as an offense which puts up a respectable 362 yards per-game. Detroit will have to find a way to keep scoring as well as defending in order to make these games count.
All the signs point to that being very tough for the team to do in the end.