Looking at the Detroit Lions’ playoff position, their path to the playoff seems pretty simple. With a current three-way tie at 8-8 between the Lions, Seahawks, and Packers for the final spot, the Lions simply need to beat the Packers and have the Seahawks lose or tie to the Rams, that way they finish with a better record than the other two teams.
If you’re a smartypants, you could throw in a second scenario, in which the Lions and Packers tie and the Seahawks lose. That way, Detroit would finish ahead of Seattle and would hold the tiebreaker over the Packers due to their previous win over them.
But if you want to go all galaxy brain on Lions playoff scenarios, there is one more crazy route to the postseason for Detroit. It’s insane, it has almost a zero percent chance of actually happening, and it involves a team—the Washington Commanders—who has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Here’s what would need to happen:
- Lions tie the Packers
- Seahawks tie the Rams
- Commanders beat the Cowboys
If that happens, here’s what the Wild Card standings would look like for that final spot:
- Lions: 8-8-1
- Packers: 8-8-1
- Seahawks: 8-8-1
- Commanders: 8-8-1
Yes, a four-way tie for the final playoff spot. So who gets in? Let’s take a closer look at the NFL playoff tiebreaking rules.
Whenever there is a tie between more than two teams for a Wild Card spot, a tiebreaker must be conducted to make sure there is only one team represented per division. The Lions and Packers are the only two teams from the same division, and the Lions would have the head-to-head tiebreaker from their earlier win over them. Packers: out.
And then there were three: Lions, Seahawks, and Commanders.
Let’s use the exact tiebreaking procedure from the NFL website:
- Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
- The Seahawks have defeated the Lions, but they didn’t play the Commanders, so that is not applicable.
- The Lions played both the Commanders and Seahawks, but split that series, so that is not applicable.
- The Commanders lost to the Lions but did not play the Seahawks, so that is not applicable.
Onto the second tiebreaker:
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- If the Lions tie, they’re 6-5-1 in the conference
- If the Seahawks tie, they’re 5-6-1 in the conference
- If the Commanders win, they’re 5-6-1 in the conference
BOOM, Lions are in the playoffs.
Of course, this would all require two improbable ties, and a Commanders—who are currently 5.5-point underdogs and have nothing to play for—win over the Cowboys. But what’s wrong with a little dreaming?
Hat tip to Twitter user Ben Ingersoll for pointing out this scenario.