While we’d all love for the Detroit Lions to be playing for a postseason berth this week or the NFC North crown, Week 16 remains extremely important for the franchise. The Lions currently hold the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft with a 3-10-1 record, but with three teams above them holding a 3-11 record, the second pick remains well within grasp.
This week is especially important, because all four teams above the Lions in draft order are playing each other. The 1-13 Bengals are playing the 3-11 Dolphins. The 3-11 Giants are playing the 3-11 Washington team.
That all but guarantees the Lions will move up at least one spot this week if they drop their eighth straight game in Denver this afternoon. And with Detroit playing at 4:05 p.m. ET today, we can watch it all unfold before the Lions even take the field.
So here’s who to root for in Week 16 (in order of importance):
Giants (3-11) vs. Washington (3-11) — 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Who to root for: Washington
The Lions benefit equally on whoever wins this game, so no outcome is bad. However, the Lions need both these teams to lose if they want a shot at the No. 2 pick. So, in my opinion, you should root for the team less likely to win next week.
Bengals (1-13) vs. Dolphins (3-11) — 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Who to root for: Dolphins
No question here. The Lions can’t catch the Bengals for the first overall pick, and they jump Miami if the Dolphins win and the Lions lose.
Cowboys (7-7) vs. Eagles (7-7) — 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)
Who to root for: Cowboys
You may be wondering why I’m including two teams that the Lions have no chance of catching. The reasoning is simple. If Dallas wins this game, they clinch the NFC East and the Eagles are eliminated from playoff contention. In that scenario, both teams will have nothing to play for in Week 17. Both Dallas and Philly are playing teams in the top five of draft order in Week 17, so the less motivation they have to win, the more likely the Giants and Washington pick up one more win.
Who to root for: Cardinals
Of all the teams below the Lions in draft order, the Cardinals are the only one that can realistically catch Detroit. This isn’t a good week for the Lions to distance themselves from Arizona, but you never know with these divisional games.
Who to root for: Vikings
This is nitpicky, but if the Vikings win on Monday night, the Packers will be playing for division in Week 17 against the Lions. They could ill-afford to slip up, as it could be the difference between home-field advantage (and possibly a bye) and the six-seed.
Of course, if the Packers win on Monday night, they’ll still have plenty to play for in the final game of the season. The 49ers (12-3), Saints (11-3) and Seahawks (11-3) are all fighting for a first-round bye, and that won’t change after Week 16, no matter the results.
Either way, a motivated Packers team means it’ll be tough for Detroit to pick up a win in the finale... which is a “good” thing.
Games that barely matter
The following games only matter if the Lions win out, as the 5-9 teams below Detroit in draft order can only catch them if they lose out and the Lions win out.
Who to root for: Jets
Who to root for: Dealer’s choice
The Jaguars (vs. Colts) and the Falcons (@ Bucs) seem about as likely to win in Week 17. So it doesn’t really matter.
Who to root for: Chargers
Panthers (5-9) at Colts (6-8)
Who to root for: Panthers
If everything falls the Lions’ way...
Here’s what the top five would look like if everything played out the Lions’ way on Sunday
- Bengals: 1-14
- Giants: 3-12
- Lions: 3-11-1
- Dolphins: 4-11
- Washington: 4-11
The Lions would shoot up into the top three, and the outlook for Week 17 would be very clear. Lose to the Packers in the season finale and the Giants beat the Eagles at home, and Detroit will have the second overall pick.