Just three short years ago, the Detroit Lions entered Week 16 with a 0-14 record and had hopes of simply winning a game. Now, as they enter Week 16 in 2011, the Lions are 9-5 and are hoping to win a game in order to clinch their first trip to the playoffs since 1999.
Based on what happened on Sunday, the Lions are in outstanding position in terms of making the playoffs as one of the wild card teams. Not only did the Lions beat the Raiders, but the Bears and Giants lost. The Cowboys did win on Saturday, but neither Dallas nor New York is now a threat in the race for a wild card spot. This is because the Cowboys will win their division if they win their next two games, and for the Giants to even get to nine wins, they would have to win their next two games, which would give them the division crown.
With the Lions holding a two-game lead in the wild card over the Seahawks, Bears and Cardinals, the path to the playoffs is quite simple. As outlined by Kevin Seifert, the Lions can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16 on their own or with some help.
To do it on their own, all the Lions need to do is beat or tie the Chargers on Christmas Eve in Detroit. That's it. If the Lions are victorious or tie next Saturday's game, they are headed to the playoffs, and fans will have quite the early Christmas present to enjoy.
Even if the Lions lose to San Diego, it's still possible for them to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16. They will need some help, though. The Bears, Seahawks and Cardinals would all have to lose their games in order for the Lions to clinch a trip to the postseason. Considering those teams play the Packers, 49ers and Bengals, respectively, it's certainly a possibility that the chips could fall in Detroit's favor even with a loss to the Chargers.
Of course, the Lions don't want to leave it up to other teams, nor do they want to let this thing stretch out to Week 17. The Lions would still be in pretty good shape to clinch a playoff spot next week if they are unsuccessful this week, but it's best to not leave it up to other teams or a game on New Year's Day at Lambeau Field. The Lions can put an end to their playoff drought on Saturday in front of their home crowd, and this is an opportunity they certainly do not want to let slip away.