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Lions have strong grip on NFC North lead with 5th win in last 6 games

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks don’t play the Detroit Lions in the regular season, but a date in January could be imminent. The Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-13 on Thursday on a Matt Prater field goal after Darius Slay picked off Sam Bradford with under a minute to go in a tie game.

The win puts Detroit at 7-4 with two wins over the 6-5 Vikings. For Minnesota to have a shot at the division now, they’ll have to probably win their last five games and then hope the Lions stumble; the Vikings would need to be two games better than Detroit over the final five games in order to get into the playoffs by way of the division. It was Minnesota’s fifth loss in the last six games while the Lions have won five of their last six.

The 4-6 Green Bay Packers travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Monday night; the Packers have lost five of their last six with their only win being a close one over the 2-8 Chicago Bears.

What does it mean for the NFC North’s chances in the playoffs against Seattle or anyone else? Most likely the Lions are going to win the division and get a home game (though they’ve blown bigger division leads) and the danger is that Matthew Stafford now has SEVEN game-winning drives. Yes, every win has been a game-winning drive. So they aren’t easy to put away. They’re a decent team but arguably worse at running the football than even the Seahawks this season. The defense is nothing special but they have good players like Slay and Ezekiel Ansah, though Ansah has zero sacks in eight games so what do I know?

I don’t think Detroit will make it to the NFC Championship game because they’re going to have a hard time winning on the road against the Dallas Cowboys or in Seattle, but might resemble a 2011 or 2012 Seahawks team because they’ve kept literally every game close.

The Vikings meanwhile seem to be headed to an 8-8 or 7-9 season which is going to make the trading of a 1st and conditional 4th round pick for Sam Bradford look pretty bad, especially after he threw the game-losing pick on Thursday. Minnesota then gets to untangle the issue of having an expensive Bradford and a hobbled Teddy Bridgewater next season with a top-20 pick to help provide them help at wide receiver or offensive line which is desperately needed.

For more on the NFC North, I wrote this for Rolling Stone yesterday predicting the Lions as the victors.