The Detroit Lions don’t have nothing left to play for but spoiler. We’ve already seen that it doesn’t take much to motivated this teams, so don’t expect the players to tank down the stretch—if that is even a thing in the NFL.
But despite this team’s tenacity, they only have a win and a tie to show for it. And if the Lions want a shot at the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they may want to keep it that way. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are arguably worse teams and inarguably more dysfunctional right now. Worst of all, they’re within striking distance of that first pick, and we could see huge changes in draft order in just a week if things fall a certain way.
I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen. Each week, I lay out the ideal scenarios for the Lions’ draft picks, and it’s on you to root for them as hard as you can until it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it’s your fault for not rooting hard enough. I did my part.
The good news this week is the Texans and Jaguars play each other. So unless the Lions pull off a double-digit upset or Houston and Jacksonville do the unthinkable and tie, Detroit is going to create some cushion atop the draft.
Here’s what you should be rooting for this week:
Jets (3-10) vs. Dolphins (6-7) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Root for: Jets
Nothing too complicated here. The Lions aren’t going to catch the Jets unless New York loses out and the Lions win two more games, which seems unlikely. You know what’s more unlikely? The Lions winning three games. So let’s get the Jets one more win.
Texans (2-11) vs. Jaguars (2-11) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Root for: ANYTHING BUT A TIE
You could make a case for either team here. I would give the slight edge to rooting for the Texans, because the Jaguars have a winnable game against the Jets next week. But one could make the argument that Jacksonville is the more dysfunctional team, even after disposing of Urban Meyer this week.
The truth is, either team winning is a good outcome for the Lions. The worst possible outcome is a tie, because both teams would have 2.5 wins compared to the Lions’ 1.5. If all three teams finish with 2.5 wins for the year, the Lions would finish behind both teams in draft order due to having a more difficult schedule.
If these games go the Lions’ way (and Detroit loses), here’s what the top four in the draft order would look like...
- Lions: 1-12-1 (.536 strength of schedule)
- Jaguars: 2-12 (.507)
- Texans: 3-11 (.504)
- Jets: 4-10 (.502)
If this is how it plays out, the only way the Lions don’t finish in the top two is if they win two of their last three games and the Jaguars and Texans lose out. The Lions’ remaining schedule includes the 6-7 Falcons, 5-8 Seahawks and the 10-3 Packers. It’s possible they pick up two wins but that seems unlikely.
Cardinals (10-3) vs. Lions (1-11-1) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Root for: Cardinals
A Lions loss improves both draft picks, as it helps the Cardinals hold their slim division lead over the Rams. Arizona cannot clinch the division this week, but this would get them significantly closer.
Cowboys (9-4) vs. Giants (4-9) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Root for: Cowboys
This probably won’t end up mattering much, but if the Rams end up winning the NFC West, we want them to be the lowest-seeded division winner. The Cowboys are going to win the East, so let’s load them with wins.
Falcons (6-7) vs. 49ers (7-6) — 4:05 p.m. ET — CBS
Root for: 49ers
If you’re holding onto delusions that the Rams won’t make the playoffs, you should root for the Falcons to go on a run. But I’m here in reality. The Rams are making the playoffs. But the lower the seed they have, the worst potential first-round matchup. If the 49ers go on a run, they could surpass Los Angeles, especially because the two teams face off against each other in Week 18.
Packers (10-3) vs. Ravens (8-5) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Root for: Packers
The good news here is that this likely won’t matter, so you don’t have to root too hard for Green Bay. But in case the Rams go on a streak and win their division, we want to make sure their seed is as low as possible.
Saints (6-7) vs. Buccaneers (10-3) — 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC
Root for: Buccaneers
Same as above. This isn’t likely to matter, but if the Rams win the NFC West, we want them to be as low as possible. So those other division winners need to keep winning.
Vikings (6-7) vs. Bears (4-9) — 8:15 p.m. ET (MONDAY) — ESPN
Root for: Vikings
Minnesota isn’t going to catch the Rams, but they surely have a better chance than the Bears.
Seahawks (5-8) vs. Rams (9-4) — 7 p.m. ET (TUESDAY) — FOX
Root for: Seahawks
The Rams were bailed out by the league, moving this game to Tuesday. Let’s hope the Seahawks play mad.
Football Team (6-7) vs. Eagles (6-7) — 7 p.m. ET (TUESDAY) — FOX
Root for: Washington?
There’s not really a strong rooting interest here. Root for whoever you think has the best chance to go on a run. I chose Washington because they have the better conference record, which could be the deciding tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as the Rams.
NFC playoff standings if these results happen:
- Packers: 11-3
- Buccaneers: 11-3
- Cardinals: 11-3
- Cowboys: 10-4
- Rams: 9-5
- 49ers: 8-6
- WFT: 7-7
- Vikings: 7-7
- Seahawks/Falcons/Saints/Eagles: 6-8
The Rams would still have a two-game cushion for a playoff spot with three games remaining, but the 49ers would be in striking distance to push them down one spot in the seeding. That would be the difference between going to Dallas on the road for the opening week of the playoffs versus heading to Arizona for a rematch with the Cardinals.