The Detroit Lions are in a rare position right now where they can make a playoff run while vicariously tanking via the Los Angeles Rams. Detroit’s playoff odds remain long, but with a favorable schedule, a healthy roster, and a team that is starting to play well together, it doesn’t feel impossible.
Meanwhile, the Lions have the Rams’ first-round pick in 2023, and everything is headed in the opposite direction for Los Angeles. Their roster is depleted by injury, with Matthew Stafford, Allen Robinson, and Cooper Kupp recently placed on IR—along with an ankle sprain for All-Pro Aaron Donald—all expected to miss the next few weeks, if not the rest of the season. They’re already considered the third-worst team by record (3-9), and it may only get worse for them down the stretch.
To make sure the Lions both optimize their playoff odds and their draft capital, we are going to put together weekly rooting guides. Because there will be games that conflict with both goals, I will separate the guide by outcomes that will help playoff odds and outcomes that will help draft position.
Let’s start with the...
Rooting Guide for playoffs
Packers (4-8) vs. Bears (3-9) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Bears
I don’t need to convince you to root against the Packers, do I? Bury their playoff chances for good (and help Detroit’s draft position, too).
Steelers (4-7) vs. Falcons (5-7)— 1 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Steelers
Always AFC over NFC. Currently, the Falcons are above Detroit in the standings, but they don’t seem like a true threat if the Lions go on a streak. Let’s make sure with a loss against the sad Steelers.
Commanders (7-5) vs. Giants (7-4) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Giants
Aaron Schatz did a little diving on playoff odds as it pertains to the two Commanders vs. Giants games remaining on the schedule. Here’s what he found: The best possible outcome for Detroit is a split between the two. The next best result is a Giants sweep. The worst result is a Washington sweep. But... the overall difference between the best and worst outcome in this scenario is the difference between two percent in playoff odds. Check it out:
Going a little further into FO's playoff odds on the #Commanders-#NYGiants matchups.— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) December 1, 2022
WAS wins both: WAS 96%, SEA 73%, NYG 16%, DET 10%
NYG wins both: NYG 97%, SEA 75%, DET 11%, WAS 11%
Split: SEA 71%, NYG 59%, WAS 55%, DET 12%#TogetherBlue #HTTC #Seahawks #OnePride
In my opinion, root for the Giants here, because Detroit likely needs to jump both teams. New York seems more likely to nosedive on their own (lost three of the last four), while Washington is trending upward (won six of the last seven).
Seahawks (6-5) vs. Rams (3-8) — 4:05 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Rams
I know you have been programmed to root against the Rams because of the whole first-round pick situation. And maybe that should take priority—especially since the Seahawks are going to be hard to jump with them holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Detroit. But if your current focus is on maximizing the Lions’ playoff chances, the more losses for the Seahawks the better.
Who to root for: Dolphins
Seems unlikely the Lions catch the 49ers, but no harm in rooting for it. As always when it comes to rooting for playoff odds: AFC over NFC every time.
Colts (4-7-1) vs. Cowboys (8-3) — 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC
Who to root for: Colts
Seems unlikely the Lions catch the Cowboys, but no harm in rooting for it. As always when it comes to rooting for playoff odds: AFC over NFC every time.
Saints (4-8) vs. Buccaneers (5-6) — 8:15 p.m. ET Monday — ESPN
Who to root for: Saints
This game isn’t likely going to matter much. The NFC South isn’t very good, so it seems highly unlikely a team from that division competes for a Wild Card spot. But the Bucs are probably the best team and the Saints don’t seem like a serious threat.
- Jets (7-4) at Vikings (9-2) — Root against the Vikings, but the Lions aren’t catching them in the NFC North battle. In fact, if Minnesota wins and Detroit loses, the Vikings clinch the division.
Here’s what the NFC Playoff standings would look like if all of these games played out as wanted, and—of course—the Lions beat the Jaguars.
- Eagles: 11-1
- Vikings: 9-3
- 49ers: 7-5
- Buccaneers: 5-7
Wild card (top three advance)
- Cowboys: 8-4
- Giants: 8-4
- Commanders: 7-6
- Seahawks: 6-6
- Lions: 5-7
- Saints: 5-8
- Falcons: 5-8
Suddenly, a path to the postseason would look far more realistic. Detroit would be just a 1.5 games out of a playoff spot with only two teams (Seahawks, Commanders) between them and a spot in the postseason.
Rooting Guide for draft picks
- Bears (3-9) over Packers (4-8)
- Jaguars (4-7) over Lions (4-7)
- Broncos (3-8) over Ravens (7-4)
- Texans (1-9-1) over Browns (4-7)
- Seahawks (6-5) over Rams (3-8)
- Raiders (4-7) over Chargers (6-5)
- Colts (4-7-1) over Cowboys (8-3)
- Saints (4-8) over Buccaneers (5-6)
If all of these results end up in Detroit’s favor, here’s what the top-10 draft pick situation would look like (assuming strength of schedule doesn’t change enough to alter current tiebreakers):
- Texans: 2-9-1
- Rams (to Lions): 3-9
- Bears: 4-9
- Packers: 4-9
- Broncos (to Seahawks): 4-8
- Lions: 4-8
- Saints: 5-8
- Raiders: 5-7
- Jaguars: 5-7
- Colts: 5-7-1
So by the end of Week 13, the Lions could be just a game-and-a-half out of playoff spot, or they could have two picks in the top six slots for the 2023 NFL Draft. Seems like they’re really in a win-win situation.