The Detroit Lions lost a disappointing game to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, but their playoff fate is anything but decided at this point. The Lions will have to put this loss behind them quickly, because Week 17 is just five days away and it will end up deciding their postseason chances.
And the outlook still isn’t all that bad for the Lions. Detroit can actually still earn a first-round bye if everything goes their way. The other side of the coin is now there’s a scenario where the Lions miss the playoffs entirely.
To show you all of the possibilities, we created a flowchart with every possible scenario that affects the Lions’ playoff outcomes, including their first-round opponent on Wild Card weekend.
[Editor’s note: The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Lions could not pass the Falcons due to a tiebreaker. That was incorrect. Detroit can still place as high as second in the NFC]
If the Lions beat the Packers:
If the Detroit defeats Green Bay, they can claim anywhere between the second and four seeds. If both the Falcons and Seahawks lose, Detroit would unbelievably earn a first-round bye. However, it seems unlikely that the Seahawks lose to the 49ers, but the Lions can still jump to a three-seed if the Falcons lose, as Detroit will have the tiebreaker in common games.
If Detroit lands in that three seed, they will face either the Packers or Washington, depending on if the Giants eliminated Washington with a win on Sunday afternoon.
If the Packers beat the Lions:
If the Lions drop their third straight game, they will be in danger of losing their playoff spot. If Washington defeats the Giants, it will have completed the Lions’ collapse and they will be out of the postseason.
However, if Washington loses, the Lions will claim the six-seed and face the three-seed, which could be the Seahawks, Packers or Falcons. Atlanta is in the driver’s seat, and with a win, they’ll clinch a first-round bye. From there, a Seahawks win would make them the three-seed, but if they falter against the 49ers, the Packers would move all the way up and the Lions will get a chance at redemption at Lambeau Field as the three seed.
If Atlanta loses, they would remain above the Packers (they beat them in the head-to-head matchup earlier in the year), but the Seahawks could jump them for the two-seed with a win. That would set up a Lions-Falcons matchup in the first round. If the Seahawks manage to lose, too, the Falcons would get the bye, while the Packers would jump into the three-seed and set up another scenario where the Lions and Packers would play in back-to-back weeks.
While Detroit didn’t do themselves any favors on Monday night, they’re still very much alive and still in control of their own destiny. A win on Sunday, at the very least, guarantees a home playoff game. Even in a loss, the Lions could very well make the postseason. But everything has now come down to Week 17.