The Detroit Lions can clinch a playoff berth in Week 16. Here’s who fans should be rooting for in order to maximize those odds.
The Detroit Lions could potentially clinch the division with a win (and help) but they also have scenarios to clinch (at least) a Wild Card berth with either a win or a loss.
Here are the results that Lions fans should root for in order for the team to maximize their playoff odds. This post doesn’t really address ties, but, for the most part, ties in any of these games can be seen as positive results for the Lions.
Thursday, December 22 – 8:25 p.m.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
This game doesn’t directly impact the Lions’ playoff odds — the Eagles can’t catch the Lions and the Lions can’t catch the Giants — but it does have the potential to impact the Dallas Cowboys (who the Lions play on Monday Night Football). The Cowboys would clinch the NFC East (and the number one overall seed in the NFC) with a Giants loss which would make Monday’s game meaningless from their perspective.
Saturday, December 24 – 1:00 p.m.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
If the Lions are to clinch the NFC North this week with a win on Monday night, they’ll need the Packers to have lost first. This game is ultimately meaningless if the Lions don’t beat the Cowboys, but a Vikings win on Christmas Eve would give the Lions something big to play for on the night of the 26th.
Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears
The Redskins are one of the teams that could knock the Lions out of the second Wild Card spot in the NFC (should the division go south), but one more Washington loss would prevent that from happening. If the Bears can take care of business this week, the Redskins would be eliminated as a threat to the Lions.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
This one seems counter-intuitive at first, since the Lions and Falcons are ostensibly fighting for seeding in the NFC, but the Lions will benefit more from a Falcons win than a loss. The Lions do not fare well against the Falcons in tiebreaker scenarios, so they wouldn’t win a wild card if they’re both tied at 9-5 or seeding advantages if they’re tied at 11-5. The Lions also would not win a 10-6 seeding tiebreaker if the Falcons lose this week but beat the Saints in Week 17. The only tiebreaker the Lions can win against Atlanta is at 10-6 if the Falcons win this week but lose to the Saints (a team the Lions beat) next week.
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The other reason that a Falcons win could help the Lions is because it could help eliminate the Buccaneers from the NFC South race. If the Buccaneers lose to the Saints this week and the Falcons win, there would be a chance that the three teams (Lions, Buccaneers, and Falcons) all finish 9-7. In that scenario the Lions would be the odd team out. If it comes down to the Wild Card, Detroit would rather see the Falcons finish 10-6 and take their chances head-to-head with the Buccaneers in tiebreaker scenarios.
The only way that a Falcons loss (in Week 16) would actively help the Lions is in seeding as division champions. And even then either the Lions would have to win both of their remaining games or the Falcons lose both of theirs.
If you’re confident the Lions will ultimately win the division, go ahead and root against the Falcons on Sunday. If you’re at all unsure, root for Atlanta to win and give the Lions a few percentage point bump in playoff odds.
Saturday, December 24 – 4:25 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
The Buccaneers are probably the team that most directly affect the Lions’ Wild Card odds should they be unable to win the North. If the Lions have any hope of clinching the Wild Card this week, they’ll need the Buccaneers to lose. That’s pretty simple.
But this game could also have dire consequences for the Lions. If the Buccaneers beat the Saints and the Lions lose to the Cowboys on Monday night, the Lions will be eliminated from the Wild Card hunt (they’ll still have a shot at the division in Week 17).
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
The Lions are still in a battle with the Seahawks for potential seeding as division winners. Seattle has clinched the West, but they could finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 see. They have a fairly easy schedule remaining (the Cardinals and 49ers) but they’re only a half game ahead of the Lions and Falcons (due to their tie against the Cardinals earlier in the year).
That half game eliminates the need for tiebreakers (unless we have more ties!) so the Lions will need to finish a game ahead in the win column (and, yeah, find a way to still win the division themselves) in order to pass the Seahawks.
Monday, December 26 – 8:30 p.m.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Lions fans should root for the Lions to win this one.
Should the Lions fail to clinch a playoff spot this week, they’ll have a chance to clinch the division in Week 17 when the Packers come to Ford Field in the season finale.