clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions rooting guide: Ranking the 3 potential second-round opponents

A look at the best possible Division Round outcomes for the Detroit Lions if they can advance past the Los Angeles Rams.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

I know, I know. It’s bad luck or whatever to look ahead to the second round when the Detroit Lions haven’t gotten out of the Wild Card round first. But I don’t believe in all that. Plus, the Lions are three-point favorites over the Los Angeles Rams, so it’s human nature to look a little forward to see what the future may look like if the Lions come out of Sunday night victorious.

Don’t take this post as an early declaration of victory. Sunday night’s game against the Rams is going to be a tough hill to climb for Detroit. But let’s dream a little bit. Let’s look forward to the Divisional Round, and rank the three possible opponents Detroit could face if they beat the Rams in primetime.

Before we get into it, a couple reminders. Here’s a look at the current NFC seeding and matchups:

Remember, too, that the NFL re-seeds after each round. So the 49ers will play the lowest seeding remaining. That cannot be the Lions in the second round, because their seed (three) is guaranteed to be higher than the winner of the Eagles/Buccaneers game. So the Lions won’t play the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs no matter what.

They also won’t play the Packers in the Divisional Round. That’s because if Green Bay wins, they are guaranteed to be the lowest seed remaining in the playoffs and they will play the 49ers.

That leaves just three possible opponents for the Lions’ potential second-round matchup: the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Eagles. Let’s rank them

Best case scenario: Buccaneers

How it would happen:

  • Packers beat Cowboys
  • Buccaneers beat Eagles

In this scenario, a Dallas loss would make the Lions the second-highest seed in the NFC, meaning they get another home game. Detroit already beat the Buccaneers handily in Tampa Bay, so welcoming them back to hyped-up Ford Field would put them in a pretty advantageous position to advance to the NFC Championship round.

The Bucs are arguably the worst team in the playoffs, finishing with just a 9-8 record, a +23 score differential (second-lowest among NFC playoff teams), and ranking just 18th in DVOA.

Second-best scenario: Eagles

How it would happen:

  • Packers beat Cowboys
  • Eagles beat Buccaneers

With a Cowboys loss, this game, too, would be at home. Some may prefer this to the Buccaneers, seeing as the Eagles are in free fall. Philly has lost five of their last six games, and their defense is a huge mess. They have the worst score differential of the NFC playoff teams (+5) and are pretty clearly down bad.

The only reason I have the Bucs ahead of them is because Jalen Hurts is the kind of quarterback who can give the Lions serious trouble, and I think their roster has no business playing as bad as they currently are. They have the personnel to turn things around, although I don’t know if they will.

Worst-case scenario: Cowboys

How it would happen:

  • Cowboys beat Packers

If the Lions and Cowboys win, the other game does not matter: it will be a rematch in Arlington.

For worst-case scenarios, this isn’t all that bad. While Dallas has been unbeatable* at home, the Lions sure came close just a couple weeks ago. The Lions would be coming down to Dallas with a ton of extra motivation to get revenge for a game that was stolen from them.

I’d rather have the extra home game against two clearly inferior opponents, but I’ll take a week of revenge talk, too.

Subscribe to PODD

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.