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Detroit Lions Week 13 rooting guide: Best outcomes for playoff odds

A look at the NFC Playoff picture, and the best possible Week 13 outcomes for the Detroit Lions’ playoff odds.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions enter Week 13 in a pretty darn favorable position. Not only do they hold a 2.5-game lead in the division with six games remaining, but their playoff odds are hovering around 99 percent. Yes, the team is struggling a little bit as of late, but the benefit of a phenomenal start to the season is that you’ve built in a bit of wiggle room for adversity.

Things could look even rosier for the Lions by Sunday night if everything falls their way, and—of course—they beat the New Orleans Saints.

Here’s a look at the best possible outcomes for Sunday’s slate of games, and what the NFC Playoff picture would look like after those games.

The important games

Browns (7-4) at Rams (5-6) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Browns

Don’t look now, but Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams have entered the playoff conversation as one of four NFC teams with a 5-6 record. Los Angeles has won two in a row, and aside from contests with the Ravens and 49ers, their schedule doesn’t look too daunting.

AFC over NFC here, because the more these 5-6 teams start losing, the more wiggle room the Lions have to drop a game or two or three.

49ers (8-3) at Eagles (10-1) — 4:25 p.m. ET — FOX

This is the biggest game of the week, and in truth, the Lions benefit from either outcome. If you’re still hoping for the Lions to capture the No. 1 seed, obviously root for the 49ers. An Eagles loss would not only give Detroit an opportunity to gain one game of ground this week, but it would also hand Philly their first conference loss of the season. Conference record would be the primary theoretical tiebreaker between Detroit and Philly, but the Eagles currently have a strong lead there (6-0 vs. 5-2).

But if you think the No. 2 seed is more of a realistic goal, root for the Eagles. Currently, the 49ers hold the tiebreaker over the Lions with a 6-1 conference record to the Lions’ 5-2. A Lions win combined with a 49ers loss would have Detroit jump the 49ers in standings and even up the conference records.

Chiefs (8-3) at Packers (5-6) — 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC

Root for: Chiefs

This game likely has the biggest impact on the Lions’ playoff chances. A Packers loss not only gives Detroit some breathing room in the NFC North, but Green Bay is also a contender for a Wild Card spot. If Detroit collapses, they may need some Wild Card streams to struggle.

This is also an important one because the rest of Green Bay’s schedule is very favorable to them (fourth easiest per DVOA):

  • @ Giants (4-8)
  • vs. Buccaneers (4-7)
  • @ Panthers (1-10)
  • @ Vikings (6-6)
  • vs. Bears (4-8)

The ones that could improve the Lions’ playoff chances by fractions of a percentage

Falcons (5-6) at Jets (4-7) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Jets

AFC over NFC. The Falcons don’t seem like much of a threat, though, as they have lost three of their last four, and Detroit holds the tiebreaker.

Dolphins (8-3) at Commanders (4-8) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Dolphins

AFC over NFC. The Commanders are in free fall and 4.5 games behind the Lions. They aren’t going to catch Detroit by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m thorough.

Panthers (1-10) at Buccaneers (4-7) — 4:05 p.m. ET — CBS

Root for: Panthers

A Buccaneers loss not only adds another loss to a team with only a hope and prayer to make the playoffs, but it gives the Panthers a win, which could hurt the Chicago Bears—who own Carolina’s first-round draft pick.

Potential NFC North standings

If these outcomes happen, and the Lions win, here’s what the NFC North would look like.

  1. Lions: 9-3
  2. Vikings: 6-6
  3. Packers: 5-7
  4. Bears: 4-8

The Lions’ lead would extend to three games over the Vikings and four over the Packers, with just five games left to be played. Detroit’s magic number to clinch the division would be down to three (combined Lions wins and Vikings losses).

Potential NFC Playoff Picture

With the above results and a Lions win, here’s what the NFC Playoff Picture would look like.

Note: I am going with a 49ers win over the Eagles to keep those No. 1 seed hopes alive.

  1. Eagles: 10-2
  2. 49ers: 9-3
  3. Lions: 9-3
  4. Falcons: 5-7

Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Cowboys: 9-3
  2. Vikings: 6-6
  3. Seahawks: 6-6
  4. Packers: 5-7
  5. Rams: 5-7
  6. Saints: 5-7
  7. Giants: 4-8
  8. Buccaneers: 4-8
  9. Bears: 4-8

The Lions wouldn’t move up a seed, but they would inch closer to the Eagles. It’s still unlikely they reach that top spot, but this keeps hope alive for another week.

As for the rest of the picture, Detroit would hold a four-game lead over the NFC’s No. 8 seed with only five games left. That wouldn’t clinch a playoff spot obviously, but it would essentially mean Detroit would have to lose out and one of the 5-7 teams would have to win out.

Here’s a look at how Detroit’s playoff odds per NYT if all these outcomes happen:

Odds to make the playoffs: >99%
Odds to win the division: 98%
Odds to be the No. 1 seed: 6%

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