If Detroit Lions win out, here’s the roadmap to playoffs: Hope for a bunch of help

Detroit Free Press

The next time the Detroit Lions play will be in January. That’s 2023, if you’ve lost track of time, and the calendar, and perhaps your name and where you grew up. But this isn’t about the time-bending, multi-connectedness soup we reside in and wasn’t it just summer a couple of weeks ago anyway?

This is about the Lions. That they are playing a game in January — JANUARY. That Sunday’s game against Chicago at Ford Field means something.

Which also means that the Lions played games in December that meant something. Like the one in Charlotte last Saturday, when they gave up oodles of rushing yards and were never really in the game after a first-quarter fumble and why are we rehashing that putrid performance?

This isn’t the time for that, either.

It’s instructive to remember the emotional run-up to that game, though, and what it felt like before D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard each ran for 100 yards before halftime, and how different it felt to root for a team that was playing for something long after the leaves had fallen.

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The Lions are playing for something this weekend, too. Pride, sure — every player and coach want to prove Saturday’s effort in North Carolina was a one-off.

Also: the playoffs. This is still the focus. And the Lions still have a chance. Not the chance they had before the loss to the Panthers. But this isn’t a longshot.

So let’s go through it:

To get a wild card berth, the Lions must beat Chicago and Green Bay. That gets them to 9-8. Then they need help from other teams.

There are three wild card spots in the NFC. The Cowboys already have clinched one. They are 11-4. The Giants sit in the second spot. They are 8-6-1. They host the Colts on Sunday and finish at the Eagles the following Sunday.

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If the Giants win twice, they’re in. If they lose twice and the Lions win twice, they leapfrog the Giants, but won’t grab one of the two remaining spots unless:

  1. The Washington Commanders lose one of their remaining two games; they host Cleveland and Dallas.
  1. Seattle loses to the Jets or the Rams — they are at home for both games.

The Giants should beat the Colts. And if the Eagles rest their starters after clinching the best record in the NFC, New York should win that game, too. One loss by the Giants doesn’t help the Lions. That would them 9-7-1. This is where the tie helps as it would give the Giants a better winning percentage than the Lions if they finish at 9-8.

Sure, the Giants could lose both, but this is unlikely, so let’s assume they will grab the second wild card spot, leaving the Lions, the Seahawks and the Commanders to fight for the final spot.

The Commanders will be favored to beat the Browns. As for beating the Cowboys, Dallas could rest its starters if Philadelphia has locked up the NFC East with a win over the Saints; the Eagles will be at home.

Washington could stumble against Cleveland, certainly. Short of that, the Lions need to pray the Cowboys play their regulars.

Even if the Commanders lose a game, the Lions will still miss the playoffs if the Giants win both of their games, and the Seahawks win both of theirs.

Seattle is 7-8, like the Lions. If the Seahawks win both, they will take the final spot because they beat the Lions and head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker.

For what it’s worth, the Seahawks host the Jets and the Rams. The Jets, you may know, benched Zach Wilson because Mike White is back from injury. This should give the Jets a solid chance to win.

As for the Rams, well, Baker Mayfield just hung 51 on Denver in the win over the Broncos. Mayfield also led a comeback win over the Raiders two weeks ago. That win dropped the Rams out of the top five draft picks. That pick belongs to the Lions.

Could Mayfield make up for that ill-timed comeback by knocking off Seattle and taking them out of the playoff picture?


Also, it would be something if the Rams opened the door to the playoffs to the Lions, if Matthew Stafford could have a hand in that.

Before that can happen, though, the Lions must beat the Bears and the Packers, two teams that have crushed their spirit when the Lions have played meaningful games this late into the season.

If you believe in karma, then the Lions are due to win their last two games. If you believe in Same Old Lions, then the Giants and the Commanders and the Seahawks will win their last two games, too, sending the Lions home for the winter.

If it unfolds that way, then the Lions will look back on the number of close losses early this season and on their dreadful effort Saturday in North Carolina as the reason the fell just short. They’ll also be able to look at nine wins and say they got better this season.

Because they did.

They didn’t need help from anyone else to accomplish that.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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