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NFC playoff picture: How Rams’ win impacts Detroit Lions

A look at how the Los Angeles Rams’ win on Thursday Night Football impacts the NFC playoff picture and the Detroit Lions.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Rams continues their hot streak, decisively beating the New Orleans Saints 30-22 in a pivotal NFC matchup. The Saints and Rams were both on the edge of the NFC playoff picture, so that result had huge implications for both teams. The Rams are now in an extremely favorable position—72% chance to make the postseason, per the New York Times—while the Saints are in desperation mode (15% chance).

As for the Detroit Lions, Thursday’s result delayed their clinching of a playoff spot yet again. There is little reason for concern in that department, however, as the New York Times still lists Detroit’s odds at the postseason at “>99%.”

In fact, let’s run down the things that still have to happen for the Lions to miss out on the playoffs.

Lions would have to:

  • Lose @ Vikings
  • Lose @ Cowboys
  • Lose vs. Vikings

Vikings would have to

  • Win vs. Packers

Rams would have to:

  • Win @ Giants
  • Win @ 49ers

Seahawks would have to:

  • Win @ Titans
  • Win vs. Steelers
  • Win @ Cardinals

While all of those individual outcomes are certainly possible and don’t require too big of upsets, we’re essentially talking about a nine-game parlay here. NFL outcomes are just not that easy to predict, and for all of those nine games to break the exact wrong way for Detroit would be highly improbable, even for the luck we’re accustomed to here.

Let’s move on.

The Lions can still clinch a playoff spot this week with two different outcomes:

  • Lions beat Vikings (clinches NFC North title, as well)


  • Titans beat Seahawks (clinches playoff berth only)

Now let’s take a look at how the Rams’ win impacts the overall playoff picture:

NFC playoff picture through Week 15 + TNF

Division leaders

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

Wild Card race (top three advance)

5. Eagles: 10-4
6. Rams: 8-7
7. Vikings: 7-7
8. Seahawks: 7-7
9. Saints: 7-8
10. Falcons: 6-8
11. Packers: 6-8
12. Giants: 5-9
13. Bears: 5-9

The Rams jump into the six seed, which temporarily pits them against the three-seeded Lions in what would be a matchup with infinite storylines—particularly surrounding Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford facing off against their former teams three years after that blockbuster trade.

That could be a pretty tough matchup for the Lions, as the Rams are currently one of the hottest NFC teams. They have won five of their last six games, and their lone loss was in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Stafford, in particular, has been playing some of his best football. Here’s his statline over those last six games:

136-of-209 for 1578 yards, 7.55 Y/A, 15 TDs, 2 INTs, 107.7 passer rating

That would leave the other first-round matchups to be Cowboys vs. Vikings and Buccaneers vs. Eagles.

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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.