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NFC playoff picture: Most likely Detroit Lions first-round opponents

An updated look at the NFC playoff picture, where the Detroit Lions stand, and their most likely first-round opponents.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

With a win over the Minnesota Vikings—and a loss by the Dallas Cowboys—the Detroit Lions have temporarily moved into the NFC’s second overall seed in the conference. If the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants on Monday, Detroit will drop back down to the No. 3 seed.

But more importantly, the Lions have clinched the NFC North and will host their first playoff game in Ford Field history. They will finish no lower than the three seed and still have a shot at the conference’s top seed.

Let’s take a look at the overall NFC playoff picture through Week 16, with three games still left to be played on Monday.

Updated NFC playoff picture

x = clinched the division
y = clinched a playoff spot

  1. 49ers: 11-3 - x
  2. Lions: 11-4 - x
  3. Eagles: 10-4 - y
  4. Buccaneers: 8-7

Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Cowboys: 10-5 - y
  2. Rams: 8-7
  3. Seahawks: 8-7
  4. Vikings: 7-8
  5. Falcons: 7-8
  6. Packers: 7-8
  7. Saints: 7-8
  8. Bears: 6-9

If the Lions win out, they will finish with at least the second overall seed, as they’d hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles by record in common games. If the 49ers drop two of their final three games (vs. Ravens, @ Commanders, vs. Rams), Detroit would earn a first-round bye by winning out. Per the New York Times, Detroit only has a 2% chance of earning that top seed.

It’s far more likely the Lions earn the No. 2 or 3 seed in the NFC, which means a matchup up against the six or seven-seeded teams. In Week 16, two teams established themselves as the favorites for that spot: the Rams and the Seahawks. Los Angeles has now won five of their last six games, and have a 64 percent chance of making the playoffs. Seattle has barely won each of their last two games, but they have now worked their way back into a playoff post with a 71 percent chance of making the postseason.

Here are each team’s final two games:

Rams:

  • at Giants (5-9)
  • at 49ers (11-3)

Seahawks:

If the Rams and the Seahawks finish with the same record, Los Angeles will hold the higher seed, because they won both head-to-head matchups over Seattle.

Beyond those two, there is a pile of 7-8 teams. Here are each team’s playoff chances, according to the New York Times:

  • Packers: 30%
  • Vikings: 26%
  • Falcons: 11%
  • Saints: 10%

Of these four teams, only the Falcons looked playoff-worthy in Week 16, but those NFC South teams are in bad shape in terms of their probabilities. The Packers just barely beat the 2-13 Panthers, and the Vikings are dealing with a ton of injuries now.

So as of now, the Seahawks and Rams appear to be the most likely candidates for the Lions’ first-round matchup, but plenty can change in the final two weeks of the season.

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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.