A Detroit Lions fans’ rooting guide for Week 16: Panthers edition

Detroit News

It’s not really accurate to say everything fell the Detroit Lions’ way last week, but the results were more favorable than not.

First and foremost, the Lions scored a third straight victory, as well as the team’s third consecutive road win, taking care of the Jets at their place. It remains possible for the Lions to get into the postseason without winning out, but running the table makes a playoff berth far more likely.

And while the Lions didn’t jump anyone in the standings last week, they gained ground on two teams ahead of them in the NFC, drawing even with the Seahawks and getting within a half-game of the Commanders. As a reminder, the Lions need to jump both, or one and the Giants, who remain 1½ games up in the chase.

This week, the Lions have a Christmas Eve date with the Carolina Panthers, a team that remains in the mix in the putrid NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with a 6-8 record, hold a one-game lead over the three other teams in that division.

Stumble in Charlotte and the Lions will need a whole lot more help down the stretch. Beyond that game, here’s what Detroit fans should be rooting for this week.

▶ Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Despite both teams holding 7-7 records, the Seahawks would win any tie-breaking scenarios with the Lions because of a head-to-head victory in Week 4. So it would be huge if the Chiefs can extend the Seahawks’ current skid from two games to three.

Kansas City hasn’t been playing particularly well, either. After allowing the Bengals to rally past them to start the month, the Chiefs have struggled to put away a pair of bottom-feeders in the Broncos and Texans the past two weeks.

With the top seed in the AFC — and the invaluable bye week that comes with it — still in play, Lions fans have to hope the Chiefs can snap out of their funk and get the job done.

▶ New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Vikings pulled off the largest rally in NFL history last Saturday, coming back from 33-0 down at the half to best the Colts in overtime. That victory locked up the NFC North crown and allowed the Vikings to maintain a hold on the No. 2 seed in the conference.

A victory for the Vikings this week has two benefits for the Lions. First, it could draw them a little closer to the Giants, providing an alternative path to a postseason spot if the Commanders and Seahawks somehow manage to both win out. Secondly, it keeps Minnesota on track to be Detroit’s opponent in the opening round of the playoffs.

That’s obviously a secondary concern, but the idea of playing the Vikings in the Wild-Card round should carry appeal, since the Lions have already proven they can beat the division rival. In fact, Detroit should have swept the season series, but they were undone in the early-season road matchup due to a late-game coaching blunder.

▶ Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, 4:05 p.m.

The only way the Lions can jump into a playoff spot this weekend is if both the Seahawks and Commanders lose (or tie).

The 49ers, despite losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending injury this month, have remained the league’s hottest team. With rookie Brock Purdy now steering the ship, they’ve run their winning streak to seven games and have lost just once at home this year.

▶ Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Saturday, 4:25 p.m.

The Lions can’t catch either team in the standings, but there’s more to be gained from a Cowboys’ victory this week. That’s because the Lions would rather neither NFC East team have good reason to rest their starters the final week of the season, when they have matchups with the Giants and Commanders.

▶ Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Left for dead weeks ago, the Packers have managed to stay in the playoff hunt and are nipping at the Lions’ heels if they stumble. That’s setting up the compelling possibility (for the league, at least) of a winner-take-all finale between the two teams at Lambeau Field.

A Packers loss doesn’t necessarily eliminate them, at least not without some other things happening, but it makes it far less likely they can leap over the Lions. And while they could still find a way to ruin Detroit’s season in Week 18, it would be a little less painful to see, knowing they’d be watching the playoffs from home, too.

▶ Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 4:30 p.m.

There are no playoff ramifications here, but a Broncos’ win strengthens the first-round pick the Lions are receiving from the Rams from last year’s Matthew Stafford trade. For the same reason, it would also be nice if the Bears or Cardinals could pull off an upset this weekend, but that’s far less likely.

NFC Playoff Standings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) (clinched playoff spot)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (11-3) (clinched Central Division)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4) (clinched West Division)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) (clinched playoff spot)
  6. New York Giants (8-5-1)
  7. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)
  8. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
  9. Detroit Lions (7-7)
  10. Green Bay Packers (6-8)


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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