The Detroit Lions are both in the middle of a playoff push and a race to land a top-three pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Lions—one of the most unfortunate and unlucky franchises in NFL history—somehow find themselves in a position to win at both ends of the league.
Week 16 will be pivotal in that pursuit. Obviously, the Lions need to keep winning to make their postseason dreams realistic, but there is also a ton of help they can get around the league if other games fall the right way. When it comes to their draft pick—which they have from the Los Angeles Rams via the Matthew Stafford trade—the biggest game of the season will take place on Sunday and likely determine whether that Rams pick will land in or out of the top five.
If everything goes the right way for the Lions, by the end of the weekend they could find themselves in a playoff spot while also holding onto a top-two pick in the NFL Draft.
Here’s what needs to happen. It’s our Week 16 Detroit Lions rooting guide:
Rooting guide for playoff position
Before we get into it, here’s what the NFC playoff picture looks like as of Saturday morning:
- Eagles: 13-1 — clinched playoff spot
- Vikings: 11-3 — clinched division
- 49ers: 10-4 — clinched division
- Buccaneers: 6-8
Wild Card race (top three advance)
- Cowboys: 10-4 — clinched playoff spot
- Giants: 8-5-1
- Commanders: 7-6-1
- Seahawks: 7-7
- Lions: 7-7
- Packers: 6-8
The Lions need to jump two teams this week to find themselves in a playoff spot and in control of their own destiny. That could very well happen. Let’s look into that and more in our playoff portion of the rooting guide.
Seahawks at Chiefs — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Chiefs
The Seahawks have lost four of their last five, and with games against the Chiefs and Jets upcoming, they could further spiral. That’s great news for the Lions, because if Detroit finishes with a better record than Seattle in this three-game stretch, then they will be above them in the standings at the end of the year.
Giants at Vikings — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Vikings
With the NFC North out of reach, Detroit should keep its eyes on Wild Card contenders. The Giants picked up a big win last week and remain 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. That makes Detroit catching them difficult with just three games remaining, but New York’s schedule isn’t exactly easy with the Vikings, Colts, and Eagles left to play. A Vikings win also potentially keeps the No. 1 seed in the NFC undecided, which is important for reasons we’ll get into in a moment.
Commanders at 49ers — Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: 49ers
This is a big one. The Lions can leap the Commanders with a Washington loss and a Lions victory. The 49ers are 6.5-point favorites in this game, so things look promising right now.
Eagles at Cowboys — Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Cowboys
The Lions cannot catch either of these teams, but you should root for the Cowboys to keep the No. 1 seed and NFC East champions still in play. An Eagles win would clinch both, which would mean Philly and Dallas would have nothing left to play for in the final two weeks of the season. That’s bad news because both teams play a Wild Card contender in Week 18 (Dallas vs. Washington; Philadelphia vs. New York), and Detroit needs them motivated to beat those teams.
Packers at Dolphins — Sunday, 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Dolphins
A Packers loss would drop their playoff odds below 1 percent, as it would set their ceiling at 8-9 for the year. However, if the Packers pull off an upset this week and next week against the Vikings, they’d be in line to host the Detroit Lions with a playoff position very likely on the line in Week 18. While it would be nice to crush Green Bay in Lambeau to end their playoff run, it would be best to not leave anything up to chance.
Not very important games, but still technically matter
- Root Browns over Saints
- Root Ravens over Falcons
- Root Cardinals over Buccaneers
The chances of an NFC South team—all of which are 6-8 or worse right now—contending for a Wild card spot are extremely long, but may as well make sure this week.
If everything falls the Lions’ way, here’s what the playoff picture would look like going into Week 17:
- Eagles: 13-2 — clinched playoff spot
- Vikings: 12-3 — clinched division
- 49ers: 11-4 — clinched division
- Buccaneers: 6-9
Wild Card race (top three advance)
- Cowboys: 11-4 — clinched playoff spot
- Giants: 8-6-1
- Lions: 8-7
- Commanders: 7-7-1
- Seahawks: 7-8
- Packers: 6-9
The Lions would jump into a playoff spot, with the opportunity to kick the Packers out of the playoff for good with a win next week over the Bears. If the Commanders and Seahawks then lose in Week 17 (against the Browns and Jets, respectively), the Lions would clinch a spot in the postseason before they even step on the field in Lambeau to close out the regular season.
Rooting guide for Lions draft position
- Root Texans (1-12-1) over Titans (7-7)
- Root Bears (3-11) over Bills (11-3)
- Root Saints (5-9) over Browns (6-8)
- Root Falcons (5-9) over Ravens (9-5)
- Root Raiders (6-8) over Steelers (6-8)
- Root Broncos (4-10) over Rams (4-10)
- Root Cardinals (4-10) over Buccaneers (6-8)
- Root Colts (4-9-1) over Chargers (8-6)
Most of these are self-explanatory. Root for the teams with bad records to win, so that the Lions’ pick from the Rams climbs. For Raiders/Steelers, you want to root for the Raiders, because their strength of schedule (the primary tiebreaker) is much easier than the Steelers, therefore they’re a bigger threat if they finish with the same record as the Rams.
The big game, though, is Broncos vs. Rams, which is conveniently being nationally televised on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET. If the Broncos win that game, the Rams could very well finish 0-3 down the stretch (at Chargers next week, at Seahawks in Week 18), which would all but guarantee a top-three pick for Detroit.
If all of these outcomes fall Detroit’s way, here’s what the top-10 draft pick order would look like after Week 16:
Note: Strength of schedule is taken from Tankathon and is subject to change based on other Week 16 results. We’re also going to assume the Lions beat the Panthers, because no one should be rooting for Carolina.
- Texans: 2-12-1 (.508 strength of schedule)
- Rams (owned by Lions): 4-11 (.500)
- Bears: 4-11 (.571)
- Panthers: 5-10 (.452)
- Broncos (owned by Seahawks): 5-10 (.483)
- Cardinals: 5-10 (.517)
- Colts: 5-9-1 (.512)
- Falcons: 6-9 (.447)
- Saints (owned by Eagles): 6-9 (.496)
- Browns (owned by Texans): 6-9 (.506)
That Rams pick would spectacularly jump into the top two. And although it would certainly be possible for the pick to drop at the bottom of the top 10, it’s far more likely that pick would stay in the top five.