With playoffs well out of the picture by now, the Detroit Lions rooting interests around the NFL become very, very clear. It’s draft position or bust. And while I still believe in rooting for the Lions to win on Sunday, I have no problem hoping everything else that happens in Week 17 falls to benefit the Lions finishing as low as possible in the final 2018 NFL standings.
Here’s who you should root for in Week 17:
Who to root for: Bills
This is going to be pretty easy to rationalize all these. Root for the team with the worse record. The Lions are currently slated to pick ahead (fifth) of the Bills (seventh). But with identical records, the Lions could drop below them. A Buffalo win cements their status below Detroit in draft order.
Who to root for: Jets
The Jets and Lions have nearly identical strengths of schedule, so a Jets win and a Lions loss could result in Detroit jumping them in draft order. However, the Patriots are still playing for a potential first-round bye, so don’t hold your breath.
Who to root for: Panthers
Carolina has lost seven straight, and, as a result, they’re still in play for a top-six pick, despite starting 6-2.
While this looks like an unlikely outcome, the Saints have actually already wrapped up the top NFC seed and are starting Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
Who to root for: Giants
The Lions are ahead of the Giants in draft order and a New York upset would make certain it stays that way, regardless of what the Lions do. Don’t sleep on an upset possibility here, as the Cowboys are already locked into the four seed in the playoffs and have nothing to play for.
Falcons (6-9) at Buccaneers (5-10) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Buccaneers
This one is actually a little tricky. A 6-10 Lions and Falcons team would probably result in Atlanta jumping Detroit in draft order, seeing as the Falcons’ current strength of schedule (.490) is easier than the Lions’ (.504). But a Bucs win would essentially guarantee they don’t lose a spot to Tampa. Take the guarantee here.
Who to root for: Jaguars
As long as the Lions and Jaguars finish with the same record, it’s almost guaranteed Detroit will be above them in draft order due to a drastic difference in strength of schedule.
Who to root for: Broncos
It’s unlikely the Broncos catch the Lions in the race to the bottom, but a Denver win seals their fate.
Who to root for: Raiders
After winning two of their last three, the Raiders are suddenly catchable by the Lions. Detroit’s SOS is much easier, so if they both finish 5-11, the Lions would likely slide into the top four. Unfortunately, after two straight losses, the Chiefs have a lot to play for in their season finale. They could finish anywhere between the No. 1 and No. 5 seed in the AFC depending on Sunday’s results.
Who to root for: 49ers
Like the Raiders, the 49ers are still potentially catchable by a theoretical 5-11 Lions. Unfortunately, the Rams are still fighting the Bears for a first-round bye, so they’ll have plenty of motivation to pay the 49ers hard.
Eagles (8-7) vs. Washington (7-8) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Washington
The Lions can’t catch either of these teams, but with a Philly loss, they are eliminated from playoff contention. Remember, the Lions have the Eagles’ third-round pick in 2019. If Philly misses the playoffs, that means that pick will be no lower than 20th in the round. If the Eagles make the postseason, that pick could be as low as 32nd in the round, depending on how far Philly goes in the playoffs. That’s a pretty big difference.