Idle Lions move into first place in NFC North
The Lions managed to have a productive bye week without having to do a thing. With losses by the Vikings and Packers on Sunday, the Lions moved into first place in the NFC North.
After starting the season with five straight victories, Minnesota dropped its fourth straight, losing to Washington, 26-20. Taking a 20-14 lead into the half, Minnesota failed to score over the final two quarters, watching a six-point halftime advantage get erased by four Dustin Hopkins field goals.
Minnesota had a shot at the end of the game, driving to Washington's 21 with 40 seconds remaining, but were done in by a pair of sacks and a holding call.
“I’m concerned, obviously, but I still believe,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I believe that (if) we do a couple things here or a couple things there, we’re going to win some games. … I just feel like if we can get over the hump, if we can keep fighting until we do that, positive things will happen. It doesn’t look like that right now.”
In addition to the Vikings' loss, the Packers were throttled by the Titans, 47-25.
The Packers were blitzed out the gate, falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter and never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way. The Titans offense faced little resistance all afternoon. Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 19-26 for 295 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown run, and also threw a 10-yard touchdown pass on a gadget play.
The Vikings and Lions now have matching 5-4 records, with the Lions holding the tiebreaker after edging the Vikings in overtime last week. The Packers fall to 4-5.
This is the third time in four years the Lions have held the division lead this late into the season. The team had a one game advantage after Week 13 of the 2013 campaign, but crumbled down the stretch, losing their final four. In 2014, the Lions and Packers had matching 11-4 records heading into a season-ending matchup, which the Packers won.
The Lions have never won the NFC North since the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002. The team's last division crown came in 1993 when it was still the NFC Central.
Detroit will return from the bye next Sunday to host the Jaguars, who fell to 2-7 with a loss to the Texans.
The Lions play three of their next four at home, including a game against the Vikings on Thanksgiving. All three of the Lions' remaining divisional games will be at Ford Field, where they've gone 3-1 this season.
Minnesota could have a tough time pulling out of their nose dive. The team's next three are against Arizona, Detroit and Dallas. Green Bay closes the season on New Year's Day in Detroit, a game that could decide the division.