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NFL playoff picture: The Lions can still earn the NFC 1-seed with 13 simple steps

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Don’t give up, y’all!

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions playoff chances continue to plummet further and further to a point where they only have an eight percent chance at the postseason. Things are looking gloomy, and fans and writers alike are starting to warm up their mock drafting fingers.

But I’m here to tell you to stop. Stop what you’re doing right now. Because not only are the playoffs still possible for the Detroit Lions, but they can actually still win the No. 1 seed in the entire conference. That’s right, mathematically speaking, the Lions can not only get into the postseason, not only earn themselves a home playoff game, but they could finish the 2017 season as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

And thanks to some help from commenter “anhonestmess” it only takes these easy 13 steps.

In order to win the No. 1 seed, you have to win your division. There’s only one way the Lions can do that, and it’s the first two steps of this path to supremacy:

1. Lions win out
2. Vikings lose out

Wow, that was easy. Lions win the NFC North. Now they’re going to have to somehow clear the other three division winners. First, we’ll have to knock down some of the teams at the top of the conference right now.

3. Eagles lose out

Cool, now Philly and Minnesota are capped at 10 wins. The Lions top Minnesota thanks to division record, and the Lions would top the Eagles thanks to record in common games.

Okay, we’re making some real progress here. NFC North and NFC East taken care of. But now let’s get to that pesky NFC South. The Lions are pretty much screwed here, right? They’ve lost games to the Falcons, Saints and Panthers already. How are they going to top all three of those teams? The key is having a bunch of teams tied at 10-6. Head-to-head wins only matter if a team has swept everyone in the tiebreaker. In this scenario, the Lions and Eagles are already tied at 10-6, and there will be no team that has defeated both Philly and Detroit.

So it’s okay if an NFC South team has a 10-6 record, provided that the Lions have an equal or better conference record. The Falcons currently have the best conference record, so let’s take care of them.

4. Falcons lose to Buccaneers (Week 15)
5. Falcons lose to Panthers (Week 17)

Easy, the Falcons are 9-7 and toast.

Now the Saints. New Orleans can finish 10-6 and still be below the Lions, but only if their one remaining win comes against the Jets, as to not improve their conference record. So...

5. Saints lose to Falcons (Week 16)
6. Saints lose to Buccaneers (Week 17)

Lastly, there’s the Panthers. They’re the easiest to deal with, because the Lions actually already have a better conference record than Carolina. So they just need to lose two remaining games. But since we already have Carolina beating the Vikings and Falcons, the only possible way that happens is if...

7. Panthers lose to Packers (Week 15)
8. Panthers lose to Buccaneers (Week 16)

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

So now the three division winners are the Saints, Lions and Eagles. Lions have a better common games record against the Eagles and a better conference record over the Saints.

Lastly, there’s the NFC West and those pesky Rams and Seahawks. We already have the Rams beating the Eagles this week, so to get them to 10-6, we need:

9. Rams lose to Seahawks (Week 15)
10. Rams lose to Titans (Week 16)
11. Rams lose to 49ers (Week 17)

That’s obviously all going to happen. So lastly, let’s take out those Seahawks. We’ve already given them a Week 15 win over the Rams, so they’re at nine wins. This week against the Jaguars doesn’t really matter since it’s out of conference. So let’s just finish them off with two losses to finish the season:

12. Seahawks lose to Cowboys (Week 16)
13. Seahawks lose to Cardinals (Week 17)

And there you have it. Here are the final NFC standings:

  1. Lions: 10-6
  2. Eagles: 10-6
  3. Seahawks: 10-6
  4. Saints: 10-6
  5. Vikings: 10-6
  6. Rams: 10-6

7. Panthers: 10-6

Don’t believe me? Check our work on the ESPN Playoff Machine.