Each week for the last month or so, the NFL has been sending out scenarios for how teams can clinch playoff spots. This week, for the first time, the Detroit Lions have scenarios for clinching a playoff berth included in the release. Although we have already discussed what needs to happen in general terms for the Lions to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16, this outlines specifically what scenarios will give them their first playoff appearance since 1999.
Win or lose, the Lions can clinch a playoff spot this week. There are two different paths to clinching a spot:
Beat or tie the Chargers and the Lions are in
This is self-explanatory. If the Lions are victorious or tie San Diego on Christmas Eve, they will clinch one of the wild-card spots.
Lose to the Chargers and the Lions are in with some help
There are three different scenarios that will get the Lions in the playoffs with a loss to the Chargers, all of which include a loss or tie by the Bears, Cardinals and Seahawks. The variation is what happens with a fourth team in each scenario:
*CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + DAL loss or tie
*CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + NYG loss or tie
*CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + ATL win or tie
If the Bears, Cardinals and Seahawks lose or tie, the Lions need the Cowboys to be taken out of the wild-card race for a playoff spot to be clinched. This can happen if the Cowboys lose or tie this week, if the Giants lose or tie to give the Cowboys the NFC East title or if the Falcons win or tie to prevent the possibility of there being a three-way tie between Detroit, Dallas and Atlanta (the Lions would be on the outside looking in of a three-way tie with these teams).
Obviously, the hope is that the Lions will win and fans won't need to worry about the other scenarios. If Detroit does lose, though, the good news is that they could still be a playoff team by the end of Week 16.