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Week 16 rooting guide: Best outcomes for Detroit Lions playoff picture

A look at the best possible Week 16 outcomes for the Detroit Lions’ playoff odds, seedings, and clinching scenarios.

Denver Broncos vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are on the verge of something amazing. For the first time since 1993, they could clinch their division, leading to the first home playoff game in Ford Field history. Even better, they don’t need any help to get there. Just win one of their remaining three games, and it’s over: the Lions would be NFC North Champions.

But that doesn’t mean the team won’t benefit from some other help across the league. If Detroit wants to set their goals higher than just a divisional crown, both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are there for the taking. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Lions will actually clinch at least the NFC’s No. 2 seed if they win their last three games. But to guarantee home-field advantage, they’ll need some help.

So let’s look at the best possible outcomes for Detroit this week in our Week 16 rooting guide, and how it’ll impact the NFC playoff picture.

Seahawks (7-7) at Titans (5-9) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS

Root for: Titans

If the Lions stumble against the Vikings, the Titans can still make it a positive day. Detroit has yet to clinch a playoff spot, but if the Seahawks or Rams lose another game, the Lions are in. Why not just get this out of the way so that we can rest a little easier for the final two weeks?

Unfortunately, the Titans have been eliminated from playoff contention, so they don’t have anything to play for. But let’s hope Titans coach Mike Vrabel has his fellas playing for pride.

Packers (6-8) at Panthers (2-12) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Packers (playoff related)

There is a pretty important benefit if the Packers do end up winning this game: it will keep them alive in the playoff race. Why is that important? Next week, the Packers play the Vikings in what would be another important matchup for both teams trying to make the playoffs. If Detroit doesn’t clinch this week, they would then clinch with a Packers win over the Vikings.

Root for: Panthers (not playoff related)

Okay, this is mostly just petty. The Packers can’t catch Detroit. In fact, Green Bay’s playoff odds current rest at about 22 percent, per the New York Times. A loss would nearly eliminate them from playoff contention, while also giving the Panthers an important win. Why is that important? Because the Chicago Bears have the Panthers’ first-round pick, and the better their record, the worse the pick. Let’s drop them out of that No. 1 overall pick spot.

So the Lions benefit with either result here, but if the focus is just playoffs, swallow your pride and root Green Bay.

Cardinals (3-11) at Bears (5-9) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Bears

Again, this has everything to do with Bears draft capital. The Cardinals are in the running for that top pick, so a loss here could tie them with the Panthers. Meanwhile, a Bears win would obviously hurt their own draft pick spot.

Cowboys (10-4) at Dolphins (10-4) — 4:25 p.m. ET — fOX

Root for: Dolphins

The Lions control their own destiny over the Cowboys with a Week 17 matchup between the two teams looming. But if the Lions want a little wiggle room with Dallas, a loss here could afford Detroit the chance to still finish above the Cowboys even if they lose one of the remaining Vikings games.

Giants (5-9) at Eagles (10-4) — MONDAY — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Giants

The Lions still control their destiny over the Eagles. If Detroit wins out, they’ll finish above them by the third tiebreaker—record in common games. But, again, if Detroit wants to build in a little wiggle room, an Eagles loss would be big. The Lions’ odds at a No. 2 overall seed drastically increase with each loss from the Cowboys and Eagles down the stretch.

Ravens (11-3) at 49ers (11-3) — MONDAY — 8:15 p.m. ET — ABC/ESPN

Root for: Ravens

If you want to set your goals even higher, the NFC’s No. 1 seed is still technically in play. San Francisco can clinch it with these outcomes:

  • 49ers win + Eagles loss + Cowboys loss + Lions loss

But if the 49ers lose and the Lions win, suddenly the two teams will be tied with an overall 11-4 record. San Francisco would still hold the tiebreaker—in fact, the Lions won’t be able to catch the 49ers’ tiebreaker (9-1 conference record). However, the Lions would have an opportunity to jump the 49ers in overall record with only two games remaining. If the 49ers lose this game and the Lions win out, Detroit would only need San Francisco to lose one of their remaining two games (@ Commanders, vs. Rams).

If all of these games played out as preferred—plus a Lions victory over the Vikings—here’s what the NFC playoff picture would look like:

(Note: I did not change the records for the Buccaneers or Falcons, as their games do not matter to Detroit’s playoff run)

x = clinched division
y = clinched playoff spot

Division leaders

  1. 49ers: 11-4 - x
  2. Lions: 11-4 -x
  3. Cowboys: 10-5 - y
  4. Buccaneers: 7-7

Wild card race (top three advance)

  1. Eagles: 10-5 -y
  2. Rams: 8-7
  3. Vikings: 7-8
  4. Seahawks: 7-8
  5. Packers: 7-8
  6. Saints: 7-8
  7. Falcons: 6-8

Not only would the Lions be in striking distance of the top seed in the conference, but this would also create a fascinating race for the final Wild Card spot. Four (potentially five) teams would share a 7-8 record for the seven seed with two weeks to go.

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