After a sluggish start to the season, the Detroit Lions found themselves in a 1-6 hole, looking towards the offseason and draft process. Since then, a historic turnaround led by Lions’ Head Coach, Dan Campbell, has the team knocking on the door of a playoff spot. After a gritty win in New York against the Jets, the Lions are quickly looking to move into the seventh and final NFC wildcard spot, as early as next week. For Detroit to make history, they need three things to happen.
Lions’ Roadmap to the NFC Wildcard:
With the Minnesota Vikings completing the largest comeback in NFL history against the Colts this past Saturday, the Lions were eliminated from a divisional crown. This means, as most already knew, they must clinch an NFC wildcard position to make the postseason. Competing with the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Commanders, and New York Giants, the Lions currently sit with a 45% chance to make the playoffs (per FiveThirtyEight). Recently, I covered the necessary outcomes for the Lions to clinch in the next few weeks, but let’s go over the streamlined process.
Keep the wins coming:
It’s easy to say for a team to make the playoffs they need to win out, but this is ever so important for Detroit. Sitting just 0.5 games behind Washington and New York, and tied with Seattle, the Lions can nab the seventh slot in the playoffs with a win in Carolina. Sure, winning in the NFL is very tough, as Lions fans know, and the Panthers are still competing for the NFC South crown (somehow), but beating the Panthers seems to be a likely outcome for this hot Lions team. With a victory in Charlotte, the Lions push their win streak to four and advance to 8-7 on the season.
A little help from our competitors:
Yes, relying on other teams’ outcomes is never fun, but with the matchups, their NFC wildcard competition faces, help looks to be on the way. For the Lions to launch themselves into the seventh slot, the Seattle Seahawks need to fall in their next matchup. Luckily for Lions fans, the Seahawks face the AFC West champions and all-around powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs. Although the Seahawks have an identical record to the Lions, their playoff tie-breaker would put them in over Detroit if they end tied. This loss would give Detroit the definitive edge in the standings.
The next loss must come from the Washington Commanders, who are spiraling from a loss against their divisional rivals the Giants. After a tough game against New York, the Commanders will look to bounce back on their road trip to San Francisco where they take on Brock Purdy and the 49ers. Again, the Lions are dealt a favorable hand as the 49ers have continued to dominate with their third-string QB and world-eating defense. The chunk-play-reliant Commanders don’t match up well here, and a defeat would drop them to 7-7-1. The 8-7 Lions would then be propelled into the seventh slot in the NFC wildcard race.
Would the Lions clinch?:
Unfortunately, no, this does not clinch a spot for the Lions, but it does boost their odds significantly, putting them above 60% for a chance to make the NFC wildcard. In fact, if the Lions win out fully, they will have a 96% chance of making the postseason. If they go 2-1, out of their next three, there are three alternative odds. Losing to the Bears or Panthers would sit the Lions at a 52% chance of making it, whereas losing to the Packers would sit the Lions at a 48% chance (per FiveThirtyEight).
Winning all three gives the Lions the best chance at clinching in week 18, but if Washington and Seattle lose, the Lions hold all the cards. Let destiny be in the hands of the Lions after next week, win out, and make it without relying on the outcomes of others in week 18. Of course, we won’t know how this plays out until Christmas Day, but Lions fans everywhere should tune in to the Seattle and Washington games with a little extra focus this upcoming weekend.
Lions playoff odds (per @FiveThirtyEight)
If they go 3-0: 96%
If they go 2-1 (loss to Panthers): 52%
If they go 2-1 (loss to Bears): 52%
If they go 2-1 (loss to Packers): 48%
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) December 19, 2022
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