The Detroit Lions missed out on officially clinching a playoff spot with the Seattle Seahawks securing a last-minute victory on December 18. The Lions, though, can still punch a ticket to the postseason before their next game if the Los Angeles Rams lose on Thursday Night Football.
But head coach Dan Campbell emphasized that his team has its sights on bigger things.
“We came into this [year] saying we’ve got to win this division,” Campbell told the media on December 18. “That’s the goal, and that’s where it is. If something happens between now and then, hey that’s all good, but that is our focus.
“We talked about that this morning as a team. That was the focus when we entered it and that is still the focus.”
Dan Campbell, Lions Aiming to Win NFC North for First Time
The NFL formed the NFC North in 2002. Since then, the Green Bay Packers lead the division with 12 titles. The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears have earned five and four division crowns each, respectively.
But the Lions have yet to win the NFC North. The last time Detroit won its division, it was the NFC Central title in 1993.
The Lions can end that 30-year drought with a victory against the Vikings on December 24.
“We’re going to do everything we can to win this division, and there’s nothing that’s going to be easy about it,” Campbell told reporters. “We’ve got to go out to Minneapolis and face the Vikings, who are a very dangerous team, and find a way to win it and get this division.”
The Lions currently hold the No. 3 seed in the NFC. But after Minnesota, they will face the Dallas Cowboys, who are the No. 2 seed, in Week 17.
Therefore, if Detroit wins its final three games, it will secure the second seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Lions are also within a game of the top-seed San Francisco 49ers entering Week 16. That makes home-field advantage throughout the playoffs still a possibility for Detroit.
Lions Could Face Vikings Three Times in Four Weeks
The Lions hold a three-game lead in the NFC North with three weeks remaining. But because the Lions and Vikings play twice in the final three weeks, Minnesota can still win the division.
Even if the Vikings don’t win the NFC North, though, they can advance to the postseason as a wild card in either the sixth or seventh seed.
In that scenario, the Vikings would play the second or third seed in the first round of the playoffs. That could very well be the Lions, meaning the two division rivals could meet three times in four weeks.
That possibility presents a unique challenge, but it’s something that Campbell says he isn’t thinking about entering the Week 16 matchup.
“Our whole focus is, this is the first one, so let’s dive into this. Let’s put the best game plan we can,” Campbell said. “We can’t worry about the game two after this after Dallas. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. So we can’t hold anything back.
“This is it. Everything is about finding a way to get this one. The best game plan we can possibly put together.”
Campbell did seem to guarantee one thing about the second Lions-Vikings matchup. The Lions intend to make Minnesota earn its playoff berth.
“When we’re done with the season, they’re going to rest,” Campbell said in response to the possibility of resting players in Week 18. “I promise you that. They’re going to get plenty of time off.”