Updated: February 2, 2012 5:20PM
The Lions and Falcons are in; the Eagles and Bears are out. The Bengals are closing in on a playoff berth, while the Jets and Raiders need some help.
All part of a wild closing act to the NFL season.
With one game left before teams hunker down for their finales next week (Falcons at Saints on Monday night), the most notable news was made by Detroit.
The last time the Lions were a force, Barry Sanders was in their backfield. Sanders retired after the 1998 season, and Detroit made the postseason the next year then plummeted to the bottom of the league. In 2008, the Lions posted the only 0-16 record in NFL history.
Now, they’re in the chase for the championship. Their 38-10 rout of the Chargers secured an NFC wild card.
“Once you get to the playoffs, it’s anybody’s ballgame,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “The city of Detroit needs it. They’ve been waiting on us to win for a while. It’s such a football town and we haven’t been winning, so it’s huge.”
At 10-5, the Lions join the North-champion Packers, West winner 49ers, South leader Saints, and the Falcons in the postseason parade. Either the Cowboys or the Giants also will get there — they meet next Sunday night at the Meadowlands in a winner-take-all matchup for the NFC East title.
The Falcons secured a playoff spot on Sunday night when the Packers beat their rivals 35-21, eliminating the Bears in the process.
So if the Cowboys and Giants, both 8-7, are battling for the NFC East crown, where does that leave the Eagles, the most disappointing team in the league?
Dreaming of the playoffs.