NFC North Playoff Tilt Lurks into View

Storylines for Giants
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) and Detroit Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

Count me among those who’d be a bit nervous about seeing Dan Campbell’s Lions in the Wild Card Round. After last Sunday’s loss, though, that possibility is alive and well. Indeed, an NFC North playoff tilt has shown up in the rear-view mirror, causing at least a little consternation as the season hastens toward its conclusion.

Currently, the Vikings would take on the New York Giants if the playoffs were to start today. Brian Daboll’s squad has exceeded expectations, though it’d be hard to get overly concerned about seeing Daniel Jones & Friends in RD1.

The strategy, I imagine, would rest in going all out to slow down Saquon Barkley, forcing Jones to confront consistent long yardage on 3rd down. Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connell would likely be leaning on Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison a fair bit since the Giants defense has allowed the 4th-most rushing yards for the season.

If the Giants keep stumbling, they may not hold onto that coveted final spot.

The Seahawks are still in play, but so too are the Lions. Jared Goff is leading a potent offense, one that can put up points in a hurry. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a ferocious competitor, a great route runner capable of being a true WR1 in the NFL. His PFF grade is actually a touch higher than Justin Jefferson’s. Does this mean he’s actually better? By no means, and yet it does help to illustrate that he’s an underrated weapon.

Partner St. Brown with Jameson Williams, D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and D.J. Chark. Heck, even Penei Sewell can join the fun:

The broader point, folks, is that Detroit is no joke. Minnesota’s win in Week 3 came by a mere 4 points. Were it not for some Cousins magic at the end of the game – included below – then Detroit would have two wins over our friends in purple.

As most football fans will tell you, strange things can happen when divisional teams play. Are the Lions actually the better team? Frankly, no, probably not. Detroit is an ascending team, one that’s likely still a year or two away from reaching its potential. Minnesota, in contrast, is built to win in the present. Whether they do so is a different story, but there’s no debating that the goal is to contend in 2022.

At 10-3, the Vikings still find themselves in a nice position. Taking down the Colts later this week will guarantee at least a single game at U.S. Bank Stadium. In the hypothetical we’re exploring, the Lions would need to travel to Minnesota to take down their division rival, a task that’s much more difficult than winning at home.

Even still, it’d be an unnerving matchup, one that would likely come down to the wire.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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