After another successful week for the Detroit Lions both with what happened in their game and others around the league, they are in position to clinch a playoff spot without any additional help. Because they only need to beat the San Diego Chargers on Saturday to punch their ticket to the playoffs, the rooting guide may not even be all that relevant this week.
Of course, since the Lions don't play until 4:05 p.m. on Saturday, there will be some games earlier in the day worth keeping an eye on just in case they lose. And if the Lions do lose, there will be a game on Sunday night and a game on Monday night that could have an effect on their chances of making the playoffs. It all comes down to what happens at Ford Field on Saturday.
This goes without saying by now, but if the Lions beat the Chargers, the only rooting you will need to worry about is for seeding purposes. Since the Lions are in with a win, there will be no need to worry about other games as it relates to Detroit getting into the playoffs. Depending on your matchup preferences, there still could be some games worth keeping an eye on, but in terms of clinching a playoff spot, it will only be necessary to follow the rooting guide if the Lions lose.
This is one of the games that will be decided before the Lions play on Saturday. Again, if Detroit wins, what happens in this game will be irrelevant. However, since we won't know what the Lions did while this game is going on, you might as well cheer for Cincinnati. If the Lions were to lose, the Cardinals are a team that could be a threat to move into a tie in Week 17 if they win this week. A Bengals win (or a tie) would knock Arizona out of the wild-card picture, so that is the desired result for the Lions.
Root for: Bengals or a tie game
The only way the Giants could catch the Lions is to win out, and if that happens New York will make the playoffs by way of winning the NFC East. As a result, the Giants are not a threat in the wild-card race. However, should the Lions lose, the result of this game could help eliminate a scenario that sees Detroit miss the playoffs as a result of a three-way tie with the Cowboys and Falcons. If the Giants lose or tie, the Cowboys will no longer be a threat to the wild card. This is because the Cowboys would either clinch the NFC East with a win of their own or be eliminated from the wild-card race with a loss. (There would essentially be a play-in game for the NFC East title in Week 17 against the Giants.) So, although the Giants are not a direct threat to the Lions, a loss would prevent a possible tie with the Cowboys.
Root for: Jets or a tie game
Eagles at Cowboys (Saturday, 4:15 p.m., FOX)
If the Giants do lose or tie against the Jets, then the Cowboys' game is completely irrelevant to the Lions in terms of making the playoffs. Should the Giants win, then the Lions could use an Eagles win or tie to eliminate the Cowboys from the wild-card race. A loss would drop the Cowboys to 8-7. In Week 17, a win would give them the NFC East title and a loss would obviously keep them below the Lions and other teams in the standings, so if they lose or tie this week, they are out of the wild-card race.
Root for: Eagles or a tie game if the Giants win (if the Giants lose and/or the Lions win, then feel free to root for the Cowboys if you want to potentially see the Lions play them in the playoffs)
Because the Seahawks are 7-7, they are one of the teams that need to lose for the Lions to clinch a playoff spot this week without a victory over San Diego. A win over San Francisco would keep Seattle in the wild-card picture if the Lions lose, and the Seahawks would be a real threat to Detroit's chances of making the playoffs should the Packers win in Week 17. As a result, a Seahawks loss or tie is the desired outcome of this game if Detroit loses.
Root for: 49ers or tie game (if the Lions win, feel free to root for Seattle, as a 49ers loss would drop them to the third seed in the NFC if the Saints win on Monday night, thus creating the possibility of a Detroit/San Francisco rematch in the playoffs)
Bears at Packers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC)
Even if the Lions have a playoff spot wrapped up by the time this game rolls around a day later, a Packers win might be useful if the 49ers also win. I say that because the Packers would need a win to clinch homefield advantage if the 49ers beat the Seahawks. By clinching homefield, Green Bay might be less apt to play its starters in Week 17 against the Lions, although what exactly Mike McCarthy's strategy for that situation is remains to be seen. If the Lions do lose, then you especially want the Packers to win. If Detroit falls to San Diego, it will need a Bears loss or tie to clinch a playoff spot this week, so you will have to cheer for Green Bay.
Root for: Packers or tie game (if the Lions win, I won't blame you for not rooting for either of these teams)
Falcons at Saints (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
What your rooting interests are for the final game of Week 17 all depend on what happens beforehand. If the Lions win or lose and already have a playoff spot wrapped up, then you will want the Saints to win for seeding purposes. A Detroit win and Atlanta loss, for example, would move the Lions into the five seed going into Week 17. However, if the Lions lose, the Giants win and the Cowboys win, then you will actually want Atlanta to win. This is because a Falcons victory would eliminate the possibility of the Cowboys being involved in a three-way tie with the Lions for the wild card. (The Cowboys would need to beat New York in Week 17 in this scenario to get to 10-6, and if that happens then they are the NFC East champions and not a factor in the wild card hunt. If they lose to the Giants and are tied only with Detroit, then the Lions would win the tiebreaker.)
Root for: Saints if the Lions have already clinched a playoff spot | Falcons or tie game if the three-way tie with Dallas scenario is still on the table
Obviously, the simplest path to the playoffs is a Lions victory on Saturday. If that happens, then the only thing you will have to worry about is if they will be the fifth or sixth seed and which team they will play. That's a pretty good thing to be concerned with at this time of year.
If the Lions lose, it will be necessary to keep an eye on other games, but the good news is that because they currently have a two-game cushion, there are no scenarios that exist this week that would eliminate the Lions from playoff contention. In fact, even with a loss on Saturday, the Lions would still control their own destiny, so next week the rooting guide would only be relevant if they again lost.
This week, the Lions really only need to win for "everything" to go according to plan. As long as they lock up a playoff spot, what else happens is mainly dependent on your personal hopes for matchups in the playoffs. For me, this is what I hope the standings look like after Week 17:
1. Packers (14-1)
3. 49ers (11-4)
4. Cowboys (8-7)*
5. Lions (10-5)
6. Falcons (9-6)
*I would love to see a Cowboys/Giants game with a playoff spot on the line in Week 17.
Needless to say, as long as the Lions win and clinch a playoff spot, I will be happy. Whatever else happens, happens. Sure, in Week 17 we would be talking about seeding, but the main thing is that they get a victory on Saturday and clinch their first trip to the playoffs since 1999.