I’ve seen it already. Hell, I’ve felt it myself. After the Green Bay Packers thoroughly defeated the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night and kept their long-shot playoff odds alive, some Lions fans are already looking ahead to Week 18 in a panic. For many, the last thing they want is a hungry Packers team looking to prove all the doubters wrong to host a Detroit Lions team in a win-and-you’re-in situation at Lambeau Field. Even if the Packers have nothing to play for—a very likely scenario considering a loss to the Dolphins or Vikings in the next two weeks essentially eliminates them from any realistic playoff chances—it’s hard to feel 100 percent confident in the Lions considering their history on that field.
Well, I’m here to tell you that there is hope. Detroit could very realistically already have a playoff spot wrapped up before they even board the plane to Green Bay.
Before I get into it, here’s a reminder at what the playoff standings current look like in the NFC.
- Eagles: 13-1
- Vikings: 11-3
- 49ers: 10-4
- Buccaneers: 6-8
Wild Card race (top three advance)
- Cowboys: 10-4
- Giants: 8-5-1
- Commanders: 7-6-1
- Seahawks: 7-7
- Lions: 7-7
- Packers: 6-8
In order to clinch a playoff spot before Week 18, the Lions—quite simply—need to be in a playoff spot, and at least 1.5 games ahead of their competition. Considering they’re just 0.5 games behind the Commanders, and a tiebreaker (which we can define as a 0.5 game as well) behind the Seahawks. It’s clear what needs to happen between those three teams:
- Detroit needs to win the next two games (at Panthers, vs. Bears)
- The Seahawks need to lose the next two games, or lose and tie one (at Chiefs, vs. Jets)
- The Commanders need to lose the next two games, or lose and tie one (at 49ers, vs. Browns)
If that happens, here are the records of the three teams:
- Lions: 9-7
- Commanders: 7-8-1 (or 7-7-2)
- Seahawks: 7-9 (or 7-8-1)
Obviously, none of those teams could catch Detroit in that scenario with only one game remaining.
But there is one more piece to the puzzle: if the Packers won their next two games, they would be headed into Week 18 just a game behind the Lions at 8-8. A Packers win would draw them even with the Lions, and it would go to tiebreakers. They’d be tied in head-to-head, division record, record in common games, and conference record. So it would go to a fifth tiebreaker: strength of victory—or the combined record of the teams you beat. Right now, that tiebreak would slightly favor the Packers if they go on a run, but it’s close enough to change based on the outcomes of the next three weeks.
To avoid that mess, the Lions simply need one additional thing to happen: the Packers lose or tie one game before the finale.
So let’s put it all together. Here’s what needs to happen:
- Lose to the 11-3 Chiefs in KC (Seattle is 9.5-point underdogs)
- Lose to the 7-7 Jets at home
- Or a combination of a loss + tie
- Lose to the 10-4 49ers in SF (WAS is a 7-point underdog)
- Lose to the 6-8 Browns at home
- Or a combination of a loss + tie
- Lose or tie to the 8-6 Dolphins in MIA (GB is a 4-point underdog)
- OR lose or tie to the 11-3 Vikings at home
- Beat the 5-9 Panthers in CAR (DET is a 3-point favorite)
- Beat the 3-11 Bears at home
Or, more simply, by weeks:
- Chiefs beat Seahawks
- 49ers beat Commanders
- Dolphins beat/tie Packers
- Lions beat Panthers
- Jets beat Seahawks
- Browns beat Commanders
- Vikings beat/tie Packers (only necessary if Packers beat Dolphins)
- Lions beat Bears
All four necessary outcomes this week are currently favored by Vegas, and next week’s outcomes certainly don’t feel too unrealistic, either.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a playoff spot wrapped up so that game in Lambeau means nothing? Get your rooting on.