After what happened on Monday night, it sort of feels like the 2013 season has already come to an end for the Detroit Lions, especially considering the main story since then has been Jim Schwartz and his job status going forward. Even with two games remaining, it just feels like a lot of fans are ready to move on to 2014 and close the book on this season, but that's a bit premature. The sky may seem like it is falling for the Lions, but they are still actually alive in the playoff hunt.
The Week 16 Lions rooting guide is pretty simple. With the Lions now in third in the NFC North, you can forget about seeding and worrying about potential matchups. Right now we simply need to focus on how the Lions can get into the playoffs. Here are three important things to keep in mind going into Week 16:
1. The Lions' only path to the playoffs at this point is winning the NFC North title.
Let's consider a few different scenarios for Week 16 that all have the baseline of a Lions win over the Giants. If the Lions lose, nothing else matters, because they will be officially eliminated from the playoff race.
Best-case scenario: Packers and Bears lose
If the Packers fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home and the Bears go on the road and lose to the Philadelphia Eagles, a Lions win would mean that they once again control their own destiny in the NFC North. Yes, despite all of the doom and gloom in the last few days, it's entirely possible that the Lions could end up back in the same situation they were in before losing to Baltimore on Monday. Quite simply, a Lions win + a Packers loss + a Bears loss = a chance for the Lions to clinch the NFC North simply with a win at the Vikings in Week 17.
In-between scenario: Packers or Bears lose
If the Lions win, they simply need one of Green Bay and Chicago to lose to remain alive in the playoff race going into Week 17. If this scenario plays out and the Lions win in Week 17 against the Vikings, they will need the Week 16 loser to beat the Week 16 winner to cancel things out. If the Packers win and the Bears lose this week, for example, the Lions would need the Bears to beat the Packers next week. Conversely, the Lions would need a Packers win over the Bears next week if Green Bay loses and Chicago wins this week. Basically, this scenario would keep the Lions alive, but they would need some help in Week 17.
Worst-case scenario: Packers and Bears win
If both Green Bay and Chicago win on Sunday, it won't matter what the Lions do in their final two games. Because the Packers and Bears play in Week 17, at least one of those two teams has to lose this week to keep the Lions in the mix for the NFC North title and a playoff spot. If both teams win this week, there's no way the Lions can reach the top of the division and make the playoffs.
With all of this in mind, here are the only three games that are truly relevant to the Lions and their playoff hopes in Week 16:
New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit Lions (7-7) | 4:05 p.m., FOX
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) at Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) | 4:25 p.m., CBS
Chicago Bears (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) | 8:30 p.m., NBC
Go Lions, Steelers and Eagles. Enough said.