Both the Detroit Lions and their fans will be able to sit back on Sunday afternoon at watch the rest of the league come to an end in the regular season. While fans may be happy to watch all of the final regular season Sunday games, Lions players are likely only interested in the Seahawks vs. Rams game—which could be the difference between a postseason berth and an early elimination.
But there is a ton on the line for the rest of the league. From playoff clinching to postseason seeding to the 2023 NFL Draft order, there will be shifting parts all day.
So with the Lions off until 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday night, here’s a guide to the teams you should be rooting for during all of Sunday’s games.
Rooting for playoff berth
Rams (5-11) at Seahawks (8-8) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Rams
You likely already know the scenarios. If the Rams win or tie, the Lions’ Sunday night game suddenly becomes a win-and-you’re-in game for both Detroit and Green Bay. It’s that simple. Detroit simply needs to finish with a better record than the Seahawks and Packers.
Cowboys (12-4) at Commanders (7-8-1)
Who to root for: Commanders
This game isn’t really all that important, but there is one wild scenario in which the Lions can get in. In short: a Commanders win + Seahawks tie + Lions tie = a four-way tie at 8-8-1 between the Lions, Packers, Seahawks, and Commanders. I break down the details of why here, but this scenario is so unlikely that you can probably ignore this game.
Rooting for best first-round matchup
If the Lions make the playoffs, there are scenarios for the Lions to play the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, and Vikings. I think it’s fair to say that the Vikings present the most favorable matchup for the Lions, so here’s what to root for to make that happen.
In simplest terms, we need to get the Vikings to the No. 2 seed, because the Lions are either in the seven seed or out of the playoffs.
Vikings (12-4) at Bears (3-13) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Vikings
Minnesota is currently behind the 49ers due to conference record tiebreakers. So a Vikings win plus a 49ers loss is the only way for Minnesota to recapture the two-seed. So...
Cardinals (4-12) at 49ers (12-4) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: Cardinals
A 49ers loss plus a Vikings win would put San Francisco in the three seed.
If those games play out this way—and the Lions win a playoff spot—here’s what the first round of the NFC would look like:
- First round bye: Eagles/Cowboys
- Lions (7-seed) at Vikings (2)
- Giants (6) at 49ers (3)
- Eagles/Cowboys (5) at Buccaneers (4)
If you’d prefer a different seeding scenario or a different Round 1 opponent, you can see all of the NFC scenarios here:
Rooting for draft position
I broke down where the Lions’ draft pick via the Rams could end up here, but these are the games you’re rooting for on Sunday:
- Falcons (6-10) over Buccaneers (8-8)
- Colts (4-11-1) over Texans (2-13-1) — Note: The Rams can’t catch the Texans, so a Colts win is more important here, even though they have the better record
- Panthers (6-10) over Saints (7-9)
- Broncos (4-12) over Chargers (10-6)
- Cardinals (4-12) over 49ers (12-4)
If all of those games fall the right way, here’s what the 2023 NFL Draft order would look like:
Note: I am not including the Rams on purpose. Let me explain.
- Texans: 2-13-1 (.485 strength of schedule)
- Bears: 3-13 (.566)
- Broncos: 5-12 (.486)
- Cardinals: 5-12 (.526)
- Colts: 5-11-1 (.507)
- Raiders: 6-11 (.474)
- Falcons: 7-10 (.470)
- Panthers: 7-10 (.474)
- Saints: 7-10 (.500)
- Nothing else matters
So where would the Rams fit in?
- If the Rams lose, they would fall to 5-12 with a SOS around .516, meaning they would have the fourth overall pick
- If the Rams win, they would jump to 6-11 with a SOS around .516, meaning they would pick seventh overall.
So with these results: best case is fourth overall, worst case is seventh overall. Not too shabby.