PER Diem: Feb. 2, 2009

For most of the past month we've been operating under the assumption that seven playoff spots in the East were more or less a given, and that only the eighth spot was up for grabs.

Might be time to revise that point of view.

For one thing, the Philadelphia 76ers are hardly out of the woods yet at 23-23, and it wouldn't take much of a slump for them to dive right back into the sub.-.500 morass that envelops spots No. 8 through 14 in the East.

But let me throw another name out there: Detroit.

After yesterday's loss to Cleveland, the Pistons are 25-21 and tied with Miami for fifth in the East, which wouldn't seem to make them that vulnerable. However, the Playoff Odds project Detroit to go just 15-21 the rest of the way. A quick glance at the schedule shows why -- 11 of the next 14 games are against teams with winning records, and there isn't a single gimme. The worst team they'll face in this stretch is Chicago, which, believe it or not, is ahead of Detroit in the Power Rankings -- as are all 14 opponents in this stretch.

That takes us to another interesting fact about the Pistons -- their record isn't indicative of how poorly they've played. Detroit is 25-21, but has been outscored by its opponents despite a fairly soft schedule and despite playing more home games than road games. Plus, they've been especially weak in recent games, going 3-9 in their past 12 contests.

As a result, they're only 23rd in the Power Rankings, and only have a 59.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to this morning's Playoff Odds.

That may seem far too low for a team with names like Iverson, Hamilton, Prince and Wallace on the roster, but the facts say they've lost to Charlotte, Indiana and Oklahoma City in the past three weeks, and are at the start of 20-game stretch (including a brutal final six games against Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota, Dallas, Houston and Toronto) in which every team they'll face is above them in the Power Rankings.

The schedule eases up a bit after that, so this 14-game stretch will be the key in determining whether the unthinkable -- Detroit missing the playoffs -- is really as close to a 50-50 shot as today's Playoff Odds say.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.