Unless the Packers lose both this game and next week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions won't be in a position to clinch the NFC North before their Week 17 trip to Lambeau Field. However, a Packers loss would give the Lions some room for error, as they could afford to lose one of their next two games and still have a chance to win the division in Week 17. In that sense, a Bills win would be quite nice, but a Packers loss will only be relevant if they lose again next week or if the Lions lose one of their next two games.
Root for: Bills
If the Lions win out, they will finish no worse than second in the NFC, giving them a first-round bye. If the Lions win out and the Cardinals lose two of their final three games, Detroit could actually have the top overall seed in the entire conference. That would also depend on Seattle not winning out, but the top overall seed is still in play at this point.
Root for: Rams
A lot would have to go right for the 49ers to make the playoffs, and for now, they don't look like a serious threat in the wild-card race. The Seahawks still are, though, and they continue to have the same record as the Lions. With Seattle owning the tiebreaker over Detroit, the Lions will continue to be a step behind them in the playoff picture as long as their records remain the same, so a 49ers win is the preferred outcome here.
Root for: 49ers
This is an extremely intriguing game for the Lions for a number of reasons. For starters, as long as this game doesn't finish in a tie, the Lions will be able to clinch a playoff berth with two more wins. The only scenario where the Lions could be left out with 11 wins is if the Cowboys and Eagles tie this week, so that's really the main rooting interest.
When it comes to which team you should root for, it's a little more complicated since the Lions own the tiebreaker over both the Cowboys and Eagles. More than anything, I suppose the way to look at this game is from the standpoint of, "What happens if the Lions finish 10-6?" Since a tie is unlikely and an 11-5 record will almost certainly get the Lions into the playoffs, let's consider a scenario where Detroit is upset by Minnesota or Chicago and falls at Lambeau Field. This would leave the Lions with a 10-6 record, but their playoff hopes would not be dead by any means thanks to the Cowboys and Eagles. Allow me to explain...
With the Cowboys and Eagles playing this week, one of these teams will be handed a fifth loss unless there's a tie. If the loser of the Cowboys/Eagles game simply loses one additional game in the final two weeks of the season, that team will have at least six losses. With the Lions owning the tiebreaker over both of these teams, this scenario would allow Detroit to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
(Note: This scenario assumes that the 49ers aren't able to win out. If that were to happen, San Francisco could theoretically make the playoffs over a 10-6 Lions team, but it would ultimately come down to either the common games or strength of victory tiebreaker depending on which games Detroit loses. A Lions win over the Bears, for example, would give Detroit the common games tiebreaker and keep San Francisco out of the playoffs. A loss to the Bears, on the other hand, would lead to the strength of victory tiebreaker coming into play.)
So, which team is more likely to lose again in the final two weeks of the season? The answer seems pretty clear to me when looking at each team's remaining schedule:
Each team still has a road game with the Redskins, so the only difference is that Philly has to play at the Giants instead of hosting the Colts. I think the chances of the Cowboys losing at home to the Colts are much greater than the Eagles losing on the road to the Giants, so, in theory, a Philadelphia win this week would be better for the Lions. That would give the Cowboys five losses, and they could very easily have six losses after Week 16, which would open up the door to the playoffs for a 10-6 Lions team.
Root for: Eagles
If the Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC playoff picture will look something like this going into Week 16:
- Arizona Cardinals (10-4) *NFC West champion*
- Detroit Lions (10-4) *NFC North champion*
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) *NFC East champion*
- Atlanta Falcons (5-9) *NFC South champion*
- Green Bay Packers (10-4) *Wild card*
- Dallas Cowboys (9-5) *Wild card*
- Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
- San Francisco 49ers (8-6)
Bye: Cardinals, Lions | Wild-card round: Eagles vs. Cowboys, Falcons vs. Packers
The Lions would jump up to the No. 2 seed, and they would still be on course to play the Packers in Week 17 with the division title and a first-round bye on the line. Also, they would move another step closer to potentially taking control of the No. 1 seed, but they would still need some additional help since the Cardinals own the head-to-head tiebreaker over them.