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NFL playoff odds: Probabilities and scenarios for Detroit Lions seeding

A closer look at the Detroit Lions’ playoff odds for each seed and the scenarios to clinch those spots.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions took care of their own business and have now clinched a playoff spot, a divisional title, and a home playoff game. While that checks the first few boxes of the team’s goals this season, they are far from done this regular season. Detroit currently sits at the third overall seed in the NFC North, and with two games remaining, the goalposts can now move to their next objective.

“Now it’s to the next one and so at this point, now, we’re fighting for the two seed,” coach Dan Campbell said. “And look, if you’re able to get to the one, so be it. But right now, what we know we can achieve on our own is the two and that’s no easy task.”

Indeed, if the Lions win out, they will jump to at least the two seed, no matter what everyone else does. While the Eagles currently have the tiebreaker over the Lions (due to strength of victory), a Lions win over the Cowboys would give the tiebreaker edge back to Detroit, due to record in common games. I explained this back in our Week 16 playoff picture post:

If the Lions and the Eagles both win out, however, the Lions will hold the overall tiebreaker. With a tie in conference record, it would go to record in common games. Detroit would hold that edge, 5-1 to 4-2. (Common games are Chiefs, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Vikings and Cowboys).

If the Lions lose to the Cowboys, they would not have the tiebreaker over the 49ers (conference record), Eagles (strength of victory) or Cowboys (head-to-head). That means if Detroit loses this Saturday, their only shot at the No. 1 overall seed is if both the 49ers and Eagles lose out and the Cowboys lose their Week 18 matchup against the Commanders.

So what is the likelihood of the Lions finishing with the No. 1 seed? What about the two seed? Or, at worst, the three seed? Let’s look at some playoff odds models and see.

Lions No. 1 seed odds:

DVOA odds: 5.9%
NYT odds: 6% 14%
ESPN: 7%

Most probability models have the Lions below 10 percent at earning the No. 1 overall seed and a first-round bye. Those odds plummet to basically zero if the Lions don’t win out, so that has to happen first.

If Detroit manages to do that, though, there is a real possibility they could do it. All they would need is for the San Francisco 49ers to lose to either the Commanders this week on the road or in Week 18 to a Los Angeles Rams team likely desperate for a win to clinch a playoff spot of their own. That said, the Rams could clinch a playoff spot prior to that game with a win over the Giants this week plus a Seahawks loss to the Steelers.

The PlayoffStatus odds are interesting, though their model clearly favors the Lions way more than most. Per their calculations, the Lions a 40% chance to make the NFC conference championship game and have a 20% chance to make the Super Bowl(!!!).

Lions No. 2 seed odds:

DVOA odds: 22.6% 29%
ESPN: 17%

If both the Lions and the 49ers win out, the Lions would hold the two seed. There’s also a very small possibility if the Lions split the final two games, they can finish second overall. But if that loss came against the Cowboys, it would require a lot of help. In short, if the Lions lose to the Cowboys, the Eagles beat the Cardinals, and the 49ers beat the Commanders this week, Detroit will be locked into the three seed with nothing to play for in Week 18. Both the Eagles and 49ers are double-digit favorites this week.

Lions No. 3 seed odds:

DVOA odds: 71.5% 57%
ESPN: 76%

As noted above, if the Lions lose any of their remaining games, they’re nearly guaranteed to finish with the third overall seed. And given they’re six-point underdogs to the Cowboys this week, it’s no surprise to see the majority of outcomes have Detroit finishing third in the conference, where they would play the sixth overall seed in the Wild Card round at Ford Field.

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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.