Detroit Lions Week 17 rooting guide: How Lions can gain control of own playoff destiny
The Detroit Lions are still in the hunt for the playoffs heading into NFL Week 17. After last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, they’re going to need some help along the way, but whatever needs to happen certainly seems within the realm of possibility. We’re not talking about microscopic post-season odds here, so it’s time to put our roots down.
If all goes well for the Lions on Sunday, they could actually find themselves in the playoffs before the last week of the season. But before we get into how each game should go down, here’s a look at the NFC playoff picture right now:
Eagles: 13-2 – clinched a playoff berth Vikings: 12-3 – clinched NFC North 49ers: 11-4 – clinched NFC West Buccaneers: 7-8
Wild Card race (advanced top 3)
Cowboys: 12-4 — playoff berth Giants: 8-6-1 Commanders: 7-7-1 Seahawks: 7-8 Lions: 7-8 Packers: 7-8 Panthers: 6-9 Saints: 6-9
Here are the teams the Lions are expected to support in Week 17.
Colts (4-10-1) vs. Giants (8-6-1) – 1 p.m. ET – CBS
Root for: Foals
This is a relatively low priority game, as the only way the Lions can catch the Giants is if New York loses and the Lions win. However, it’s best to keep all options on the table and have as many game-changing scenarios as possible. And if the Giants somehow lose this game — as 5.5-point favorites — losing next week to a potentially resting Eagles team is still on the table.
Saints (6-9) at Eagles (13-2) – 1 p.m. ET – FOX
Root for: Saints
It might seem counterintuitive to seek out a team that could theoretically nab Detroit for a Wild Card spot, but that’s only if the Lions lose one of their two remaining games. The thing is, if Detroit loses one more game, their playoff chances are so low that it’s not even worth considering those scenarios.
Instead, encourage the Eagles to lose, so that in Week 18, the NFC East — and the NFC’s No. 1 seed — could still be up for grabs. That would mean Philly has reason to play hard against the Giants and the Cowboys have reason to beat the Commanders in Week 18.
Panthers (6-9) vs. Buccaneers (7-8) – 1 p.m. ET – FOX
Root for: Buccaneers
Again, we’re dealing with tiny percentages here, as the Panthers only catch the Lions if Detroit loses another game. But both out of spite and because Carolina now has the tiebreaker, root for the Bucs.
Browns (6-9) at Commanders (7-7-1) – 1 p.m. ET – FOX
Root for: Browns
This is the second most important game of the day for the Lions. The Browns are knocked out of the playoffs, but they’re probably still playing for pride and to see what they can build with Deshaun Watson. However, with the Commanders potentially playing a meaningless game for the Cowboys next week, Detroit needs Washington to lose NOW. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lions’ playoff odds jump from 24% to 29% with just one loss to the Commanders this week. Add a Lions victory, and that rises to 37%.
Jets (7-8) at Seahawks (7-8) – 4:05 p.m. ET – FOX
Root for: Jets
This is the most important game of the day for Lions fans. A loss to the Seahawks alone boosts the Lions playoff odds from 24 to 33 percent. Fortunately, the Jets are still playing hard for a playoff spot, and they’ll have quarterback Mike White back this week. Playing in Seattle isn’t the challenge it used to be, as the Seahawks have lost four straight games at home.
Vikings (12-3) at Packers (7-8) – 4:25 p.m. ET – CBS
Root of: Vikings
While it won’t have a huge impact on the Lions’ playoff odds this week, a Vikings win would make things better for Detroit next week for a few reasons:
A Vikings win + a Lions win means the Packers are knocked out of the playoffs, which is both fun and would mean Green Bay has less motivation to try to beat the Lions in Week 18. Vikings + an Eagles loss would keep the No. 18. 1 seed in play and motivate Philly to beat the Commanders in Week 18.
If the Packers win, it’s not the end of the world, as the Lions could just beat them next week to stay above them in the standings. But that would be much easier said than done.
If all of these results fell Detroit’s way — and the Lions beat the Bears — here’s what the playoff picture would look like:
Eagles: 13-3 – clinched a playoff berth Vikings: 13-3 – clinched NFC North 49ers: 11-4 – clinched NFC West Buccaneers: 8-8 – clinched NFC South
Wild Card race (advanced top 3)
Cowboys: 12-4 — playoff spot Giants: 8-7-1 Lions: 8-8 Commanders: 7-8-1 Seahawks: 7-9 Saints: 7-9 Packers: 7-9 — eliminated Panthers: 6- 10 – eliminated
Not only would the Lions be in the playoffs, but according to FiveThirtyEight, their chances of making the playoffs would increase to 61%. They would be set up for a “win and you’re in” game at Lambeau, and would even have a few outs if they lost that game.
But it doesn’t have to be so perfect. For the Lions to simply be in a “win and you’re in” scenario in Week 18, they only need three results this week:
The Lions beat the Bears The Browns beat the Commanders The Jets beat the Seahawks
Focus your rooting mojo on these games.
Rooting for the draft position
The Lions fell a few spots after the Rams picked up another win over the Broncos, but there’s still hope for a top-five pick. Here’s what you should be looking for this week:
Cardinals (4-11) vs. Falcons (5-10)
Broncos (4-11) vs. Chiefs (12-3)
Colts (4-10-1) vs. Giants (8-6-1)
Saints (6-9) vs. Eagles (13-2)
Panthers (6-9) vs. Bucs (7-8)
Browns (6-9) vs. Commanders (7-7-1)
Raiders (6-9) over 49ers (11-4)
Chargers (9-6) on Rams (5-10)
If all of this happens, here’s what the new command project would look like:
Note: The strength of the schedule numbers – the main deciding factor – is taken from the Tankathon and is subject to change based on this week’s results. Also, I gave the Bears a loss and gave the Texans nothing, because the Rams/Lions can’t catch them.
Texans: 2-12-1 (.488 roster) Bears: 3-13 (.568) Falcons: 5-11 (.465) Broncos (owned by Seahawks): 5-11 (.488) Rams: 5-11 (.508) Cardinals: 5-11 (.522) Colts: 5-10-1 (.508) Raiders: 7-9 (.461) Buccaneers: 7-9 (.492) Saints (Eagles owned): 7-9 (. 502) Titans: 7-9 (.508) Browns (owned by Texans): 7-9 (.522)
Note: I didn’t care about other 7-8 teams because if the Rams lose to the Chargers, the 7-9 teams won’t be able to catch them. However, this could change the order at the bottom of the top 10.
If things go this way, the Rams’ pick would be guaranteed, at worst, seven. With any luck in Week 18, he could theoretically get back into the top three. Of course, many of these results are highly improbable, but it is still mathematically possible.