Not only did the Detroit Lions win in Week 14, but they finally got some help in the NFC playoff race from some other teams. One very unlikely outcome on Sunday involving a Wild Card contender losing at home helped keep things tight.
The Lions are now a respectable 6-7 on the season, which seemed nearly impossible when the team was 1-6 less than two months ago. It will still take a successful—maybe flawless—run from the Lions to make it to the postseason, but Week 14 was a rousing success for boosting the chances of their first playoff berth since 2016.
Let’s take a closer look at the Lions’ situation with an updated look at the NFC playoff picture:
- Eagles: 12-1
- Vikings: 10-3
- 49ers: 9-4
- Buccaneers: 6-7
Wild Card race (top three advance)
- Cowboys: 10-3
- Commanders: 7-5-1
- Giants: 7-5-1
- Seahawks: 7-6
- Lions: 6-7
- Packers, Falcons, Panthers all 5-8
Thanks to losses from the Seahawks and Giants, the Lions pulled an extra game closer to both teams. This gives the Lions a realistic shot at catching those teams down the stretch.
Let’s make this very simple to understand. The Cowboys are going to win a Wild Card spot. The Vikings, Eagles and 49ers probably win their divisions, and who cares about the winner of the NFC South?
Unless something crazy happens, the NFC Wild Card race is down to four teams fighting for two spots: The Commanders, Giants, Seahawks and Lions are all in contention for the final two seeds of the postseason.
The Lions are at the bottom of those four teams. They’re 1.5 games behind both the Commanders and Giants. While the Lions are only one game behind the Seahawks, the head-to-head tiebreaker goes to the Seahawks. So in the simplest of terms, in order for the Lions to make the playoffs, they need to win two more games than at least two of the following teams: Giants, Seahawks, Commanders.
If the Lions go 4-0 down the stretch, they need two of those three teams to go 2-2. If the Lions go 3-1, they need two of those teams to go 1-3. Let’s look at the remaining schedules for all four teams:
- at Jets (7-6)
- at Panthers (5-8)
- vs. Bears (3-10)
- at Packers (5-8)
The easiest schedule of the bunch (by far), but three games are on the road, and those two divisional foes will not be cupcakes.
- at Giants (7-5-1)
- at 49ers (9-4)
- vs. Browns (5-8)
- vs. Cowboys (10-3)
That’s a tough-looking schedule and 2-2 certainly seems possible, if not likely. I would say 1-3 is certainly in the conversation.
- vs. Commanders (7-5-1)
- at Vikings (10-3)
- vs. Colts (4-8-1)
- at Eagles (11-1)
Still two road games against teams with the best NFC record, not to mention another tough division game against the Commanders. We have to really hope the Eagles are playing for something in Week 18, though.
- vs. 49ers (9-4)
- at Chiefs (10-3)
- vs. Jets (7-6)
- vs. Rams (4-9)
Like the Giants and Commanders, the Seahawks do not have a weak schedule remaining. It’s easy to see at least two possible losses here.
Looking at these four schedules, it should give you confidence that if the Lions win out, they’re likely in the postseason. Even if they go 3-1, Detroit has a fighting chance to get into the playoffs.
Remember, these teams the Lions are trying to catch aren’t just staring down tough schedules, they’re also playing pretty poorly right now. The Giants are 1-4-1 in their last six games. The Seahawks are 1-3 in their last four. The Commanders are the only team playing pretty well right now, but their current 3-0-1 stretch includes wins over the Texans and Falcons.
So things are trending in the right direction for the Lions in a lot of different ways.