As the Detroit Lions cling to any chance to make the playoffs, here is a Week 17 rooting guide for fans.
The Detroit Lions rose from the ashes of a 1-6 start to put themselves at .500 with a growing chance to make the playoffs. Then Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers happened, and their playoff odds took a significant hit heading toward Week 17.
A loss on Sunday to the Chicago Bears, surprising as it would (or should) be, won’t totally eliminate the Lions from the playoffs on its own. But pair that with the Washington Commanders beating the Cleveland Browns, and the Lions would be eliminated from the playoffs.
If the Lions had beaten the Panthers last week, they would still need help this week and in Week 18 to make the playoffs. But they need much more help now, with a cup vs. a gallon metaphor a perfect way to put it.
As the Lions try to maintain a chance to sneak into the playoffs, and leaving out the position of their extra first-round pick via the Rams, here is a rooting guide for Sunday’s Week 17 action.
Detroit Lions Week 17 rooting guide
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET
These two games are paired together, since at first glance you probably don’t think they matter all the much to the Lions. The Eagles are only battling for positioning at the top of the NFC playoff seeding, while the Giants need to lose out for the Lions to catch them. But I’ll refer you to Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit.
"This is a relatively low priority game, as the only way the Lions catch the Giants is if New York loses out and the Lions win out. Still, it’s best to keep all options on the table and have as many clinching scenarios as possible. And if the Giants somehow lose this game—as 5.5-point favorites—losing next week to an Eagles team potentially resting starters is still on the table."
"It may seem counterintuitive to root for a team who could theoretically catch Detroit for a Wild Card spot, but that’s only if the Lions lose one of their two remaining games. The fact of the matter is that if Detroit loses one more game, their playoff odds are so small that it’s not even worth considering those scenarios.Instead, root for the Eagles to lose, so that in Week 18 the NFC East—and the NFC’s No. 1 seed—may still be up for grabs. That would mean that Philly has a reason to play the Giants hard, and the Cowboys would have a reason to beat the Commanders in Week 18."
So under the umbrella of “keep all options open”…
Lions fans should root for: Colts and Saints
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET
If the Panthers and Lions each finish 8-9, which is in play if the Panthers win out and the Lions lose one of their last two, Carolina of course owns the tiebreaker.
Lions fans should root for: Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders, 1 p.m. ET
As previously mentioned, a Lions loss and a Commanders win eliminates Detroit from the playoffs. Week 18 might be meaningless for Washington’s Week 18 opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, so a loss Sunday sets up a boost in the Lions’ playoff odds.
Lions fans should root for (obviously): Browns
New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET
A Seahawks loss would be very helpful to the Lions’ playoff odds all by itself, and at 7-8 the Jets still have something to play for with an upgrade coming back under center (Mike White). Seattle has also lost four straight home games.
Lions fans should root for: Jets
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET
There’s a path to Lions-Packers in Week 18 being “win or go home.” But a Lions win and a Vikings win eliminates the Packers from playoff contention. If the Eagles lose and the Vikings win, Minnesota would have a chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC in Week 18 and Philadelphia would have something to play for against the Commanders.
Lions fans should root for: Vikings
If these results all happen, and of course they win, the Lions will be in the final Wild Card spot in the NFC at the close of business Sunday. And via FiveThirtyEight, their percentage chance to make the playoffs would move to north of 60 percent.