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NFL playoff scenarios: Every way the Detroit Lions can clinch postseason in Week 16

The Detroit Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 2017 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, plus two other ways.

Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As the Detroit Lions enter Week 16, the postseason is on the horizon and there are three different scenarios in which they could clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2014:

Scenario 1: Lions beat the Vikings on Sunday

Scenario 2: Rams lose or tie the Saints on Thursday

Scenario 3: Seahawks lose or tie the Titans on Sunday

If the Lions simply handle their business and beat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, they will not only secure a spot in the postseason, but they will win the NFC North and host a playoff game at Ford Field—something they have never done. In fact, the last time the Lions won their division was 30 years ago when it was called the NFC Central division. There is a chance to make history this weekend.

Additionally, there are five teams that are 7-7 right now, meaning they could technically tie with the Lions record. But, the Lions have already beaten the Falcons and Saints meaning the Lions hold the tiebreaker over them, and they can not catch Detroit.

However, the Lions lost to the Seahawks in Week 2, and could potentially run into a tiebreaker issue with the Rams, meaning the Lions still have to worry about them for now.

That being said if either the Rams or Seahawks tie or lose in Week 16, the Lions will clinch a spot—regardless of what happens in the Lions game this Sunday. That means, there is the potential for the Lions to clinch a playoff berth on Thursday and then clinch the division on Sunday.

Here’s a reminder of what the current NFC playoff picture looks like through 15 weeks of the 2023 season.
z = clinched division
x = clinched a spot in the playoffs

NFC Playoff Picture

Division leaders

  1. 49ers: 11-3, z
  2. Cowboys: 10-4, x
  3. Lions: 10-4
  4. Buccaneers: 7-7

Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Eagles: 10-4, x
  2. Vikings: 7-7
  3. Rams: 7-7
  4. Seahawks: 7-7
  5. Saints: 7-7
  6. Falcons: 6-8
  7. Packers: 6-8
  8. Giants 5-9
  9. Bears 5-9

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.