The Detroit Lions lost Sunday after their rookie punter shanked a 28-yarder out of bounds, delivering a short field for the Cincinnati Bengals' winning drive. It was just the latest maddening moment for an organization that has endured more than its share of them. But even with their 27-24 home defeat in Week 7, the Lions have never been in better position to claim their first NFC North title. They play one of the NFL's easiest remaining schedules, which certainly helps. But as significant injuries continued to pile up around the NFL, the Lions stand to benefit as much as any team.
While you can bet the Lions are focused inward, their Week 10 visit to Chicago appears less treacherous after the Bears, already suffering from casualties on defense, lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a significant groin injury Sunday. The Green Bay Packers won again and remain a serious threat, perhaps even the favorite. But they watched tight end Jermichael Finley leave the field on a gurney Sunday and they're already without receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones. Top pass-rusher Clay Matthews is also out a while.
Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay, Dallas, San Francisco and Detroit are leading the NFC playoff seeding race through Week 7. We consider here how the NFC North might be won now that key players have been lost. We also weigh the consequences from other injuries around the league, including the reported torn ACLs that have knocked out the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford and the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne for the season. And the Bradford injury could have implications on and off the field in St. Louis.