How the Lions can make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, explained

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Yes, the Detroit Lions could actually make the playoffs this season. Here’s how they can qualify for the first time since 2016.

The Detroit Lions last qualified for the extended portion of the NFL season in 2016. They haven’t won a postseason game since 1996. It’s been an abysmal 20+ years for football fans in Detroit, but things could be looking up.

Even within this season, there has been a drastic turnaround from where they were. It truly looked as though Dan Campbell was going to be on the hot seat, but the turnaround he has led has made it clear he is the coach of the future in Detroit.

After starting the year 1-6, the Lions took a huge win against their division rival Green Bay Packers in Week 9. Including that game, they are 6-1 in their most recent 7 games, a complete inversion of the way they started the year.

In a shocking twist of fate, the Lions now stand in the way of the Packers’ path to the playoffs.

If the season were to end today the Lions would not qualify for the postseason, but it would be close.

Here’s how the Lions could qualify for the postseason

Here’s a look at the current NFC playoff picture. The Lions at 7-7 sit just outside the final spot along with the Seattle Seahawks. Just ahead of them are the Washington Commanders at 7-6-1. Ahead of Washington are the New York Giants at 8-5-1.

The best bet for Detroit is to take that last spot rather than hoping to jump all the way ahead of the Giants. Winning out is the best way to control their destiny, but they’ll also need some losses to happen for other teams so they can leap-frog. Specifically, the Commanders (one fewer loss than Detroit) and the Seahawks (same record as Detroit).

Presently, the Lions’ playoff probability is at 40% per FiveThirtyEight. A win in their next game would bump them up to 58%. Two straight wins, all else equal, gets them up to 71%. If they win out, their chances increase to 96%.

Detroit has the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers left. Two divisional games in a string of three where you’d like to win out is tough. The Green Bay game may be a must-win to ward off any hope the Packers might have left, too.

If you want to see the Lions in the postseason, root against the Commanders and hard against the Seahawks. The Lions do not own a tiebreaker against the Seahawks since Seattle beat Detroit on October 2nd, 48-45. They do own a tiebreaker against the Commanders, but since Washington will finish the season with a tie game on their record, that’s unlikely to come into play unless the Lions tie at some point in their final three games.

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