There are only two weeks left in the season and the field of teams competing for playoff spots is getting narrower and narrower. Right now, the Lions are the first team out in the NFC playoff race, but a lot can change in just one week of football.
If all the stars align on Sunday, the Lions can nearly find themselves in a “win and your in” situation (but not quite). Of course, it requires a lot of help along the way. And that’s what we’re here for.
Here is your Week 16 Detroit Lions rooting guide:
Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee Titans (8-6) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
Who to root for: Titans
Because the Lions would lose a tiebreaker to the Falcons or the Panthers straight up, they need a “buffer” wild card team to finish 10-6 to ensure that the tiebreaker goes to conference record instead of head-to-head record.
The only way the Rams act as that buffer team is if they lose out and the Seahawks win out. Seattle would win the West and the Rams could potentially miss out on the playoff completely. It’s unlikely, but this column is about rooting for the good, not the probable.
Atlanta Falcons (9-5) at New Orleans Saints (10-4) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
Who to root for: Saints
This is the most important game of the week for the Lions. The simplest way for the Lions to get into the playoffs is to win out and for the Falcons to lose (or tie) out. With a game against Carolina looming next week, that could certainly happen.
While watching the Lions tomorrow, be sure you have a live score updater on this game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) at Carolina Panthers (10-4) — 1 p.m. ET FOX
Who to root for: Buccaneers
Remember: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are your favorite team, even if they let you down on Monday night. The Lions can still theoretically catch the Panthers if both teams finish 10-6 and another (non-NFC South) team creates a 3-way tie with them. The Lions would jump the Panthers based on conference record.
Seattle Seahawks (8-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6) — 4:25 p.m. ET - FOX
Who to root for: Seahawks
This is a tricky one. The Lions are actually in the best shape if one of these teams wins out, because they will be that “buffer” team that eliminates the head-to-head tie in the case of a three-way 10-6 tie for the final wild card. Each team is equally good for the Lions, so who should we root for?
The Lions should root for the team more likely to finish the season with a win. Looking forward to Week 17’s schedule, here’s who each team faces:
In my opinion, the Seahawks have the easier route, so they are the team to root for.
If these four games go in the Lions’ favor, here’s the playoff outlook after Week 16 (assuming win for Eagles).
- Eagles: 13-2 (10-1 in conference)
- Vikings: 12-3 (9-2)
- Saints: 11-4 (8-3)
- Rams: 10-5 (7-4)
- Panthers: 10-5 (6-5)
- Falcons: 9-6 (8-3)
- Lions: 9-6 (7-4)
- Seahawks: 9-6 (7-4)
- Cowboys: 8-7 (6-5)
This would create a very unique situation for the Lions. Because the Falcons and Panthers play in Week 17, the Lions could make it in regardless of who wins that game.
If the Lions and Panthers win, Detroit jumps the Falcons for the final spot. If the Lions and Falcons win, Detroit gets in as long as the Seahawks beat the Cardinals. Or to put more simply.
The Lions make the playoffs IF:
- Lions win AND the Falcons lose OR
- Lions win AND the Falcons WIN AND the Seahawks WIN
But if the Panthers beat the Buccaneers this week, you can kiss that second scenario goodbye. And if the Panthers AND Falcons win this week, then the only way Detroit can get in is if the Saints falter against Tampa in Week 17 and a buffer team like the Seahawks or Cowboys finish 10-6 as well.