Detroit Lions need help to make playoffs after blowout loss to Carolina Panthers

Detroit Free Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Detroit Lions blew a chance to take command of a wild-card spot in the NFC playoff race with Saturday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers; they’ll need help the next two weeks if they’re going to reach the postseason for the first time in six years.

The Lions entered Sunday’s games with a 25% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Even if they win their remaining regular season games against the Chicago Bears next week and at the Green Bay Packers in Week 18, they will need at least one loss by two of the New York Giants, Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks to qualify for the postseason.

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“I’ve been saying it all along while we were wining games, none of it matters if we don’t go out there and perform again for the next one,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “And we were kind of in a position to control our own destiny and we kind of fumbled it away. So all we can do now is go and play these next two games. We got two divisional opponents coming up and whatever happens, happens.”

The Giants (8-6-1) hold the sixth seed in the NFC and need one win in their final two games to clinch a wild-card berth. They host the Indianapolis Colts next week and visit a Philadelphia Eagles team that could be resting its starters in Week 18.

The Eagles can wrap up homefield advantage throughout the postseason with a Week 17 win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Lions (7-8) can only pass the Giants in the standings if the Giants lose out.

The Commanders (7-7-1) have home games left against the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys and can clinch a wild-card berth with two wins, or one win and one loss each by the Lions and Seahawks.

The Seahawks (7-8) are a half-game out of the final wild-card berth, like the Lions, but hold the tie-breaker over Detroit based on head-to-head results. Seattle, losers of five of its past six games, closes the season with home games against the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Seahawks (38%) have the best chance of earning the seventh seed in the NFC, followed by the Commanders (33%), Lions and Green Bay Packers (11%). The Giants have a better than 90% chance to make the playoffs.

The Packers (6-8) could grab a wild-card spot by winning today against the Miami Dolphins, next week against the Minnesota Vikings and at home against the Lions to end the regular season. They would win a head-to-head tie-breaker with the Lions based on conference record.

Had the Lions beat the Panthers, they would control the seventh seed in the NFC.

“I don’t know how all of that works right now,” defensive tackle Alim McNeill said. “I just want to win out, that’s all I’m trying to worry about.”

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‘Like cement’

Lions quarterback Jared Goff was critical of the field conditions Saturday at Bank of America Stadium, in what was the coldest NFL game in the venue’s history.

“I thought the field conditions were below NFL-level standard, specifically pregame,” Goff said. “I know it warmed up a little bit as the game went on. I don’t know what the deal is here, but they need to figure out a way to make the turf not feel like cement. I don’t know why that is, or you said it was the coldest game, so maybe there’s something to that. It got better as the game went on, certainly, but pregame, it was in no condition to be played on. Happy guys came out of this one relatively injury-free.”

The temperature at kickoff Saturday was 20 degrees, with a wind chill of 9.

The Panthers had never played a home game in temperatures below 30 degrees before Saturday, and Bank of America Stadium does not have warming coils to thaw the turf like some stadiums in northern climates.

Lions receiver DJ Chark said the field was “very hard and the footing was tough to make cuts.”

“I don’t want to make any excuses, but the playing surface was — something should be done about that,” Chark said. “Maybe it’s because it’s cold and it doesn’t really get cold here. I’ll chalk it up to that, but at this late in the season it’s really hard playing on a surface like that.”

Briefly

Running back Jamaal Williams left late in Saturday’s game with a leg injury. Campbell said he did not have an update on Williams’ status after the game, and Williams downplayed the extent of his injury in the locker room, telling the Free Press, “If you don’t see me (in the locker room after a game), that means something bad” happened. “I’m Gucci,” he said.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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