The NFC North is the NFL’s only remaining three-way division race, and it’s a race that looks like it will go down to the wire.
Detroit, at 7-6 and with every tiebreaker advantage, is in control of the division. If the Lions win their final three games, home against the Ravens, home against the Giants and at Minnesota, they win the NFC North no matter what else happens.
But Green Bay and Chicago both have to like their chances. The first reason is simple: The Lions have a tendency to lose games they should win. Detroit hasn’t won three straight at any point this season, so the Bears and Packers can feel pretty good about the possibility that Detroit will find a way to lose one over the last three games of the season.
And if Detroit loses a game, then the Bears and Packers both just need to win out to win the division. If the Lions lose one and the Bears and Packers win their next two each, then the winner of the Week 17 Bears-Packers game would win the NFC North.
So how likely is it that the Bears and Packers will each win their next two? The Packers are on the road at Dallas and at home against the Steelers the next two weeks. If Aaron Rodgers is cleared to return, Green Bay is probably the favorite to win both of those games. Without Rodgers, winning both would be a tall order.
The Bears have to go on the road to Cleveland and then to Philadelphia before hosting the Packers in Week 17. Going 2-0 in those two is a tall order as well, although if the Bears play in the next two weeks like they played on Monday night, those are games they can win.
The Lions have lost three of their last five and aren’t inspiring much confidence right now. But the good news in Detroit is that the two games they won in the last five were against the Bears and Packers. And that’s why the Lions remain the favorites to win the division. Barely.