The Lions don’t necessarily need to beat the Packers this Sunday night to qualify for the NFL playoffs for the first time in six years.
The Detroit Lions have an opportunity to qualify for the NFL playoffs for first time since the 2016 season this Sunday night, when they are scheduled to travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET).
Both Detroit and Green Bay are 8-8, with neither currently in a playoff position. The Seattle Seahawks, who are also 8-8, currently sit in the No. 7 seed.
Seattle owns the tiebreaker over Detroit, having beaten them head-to-head earlier in the season. The division tiebreaker was initially used to eliminate Green Bay, as Detroit beat their NFC North rival head-to-head earlier in the season.
The most obvious way for Detroit to qualify for the playoffs is by beating Green Bay and having Seattle lose to the Los Angeles Rams. If Seattle gets to 9-8, a 9-8 Detroit team can’t vault themselves into the No. 7 seed.
However, there are interestingly not one but two ways by which Dan Campbell’s team can get themselves into postseason play without actually completing a sweep of Matt LaFleur’s Packers this Sunday night.
Should the Lions and Packers tie and the Seahawks lose, the Lions would get in as the seventh and final NFC team. At 8-8-1, they would retain their tiebreaker over the Packers, having gone 1-0-1 against them, and they would pass the 8-9 Seahawks by half a game.
The other way doesn’t involve the Lions winning or the Seahawks losing.
If Seattle and Los Angeles tie, that makes the Seahawks 8-8-1. If Detroit and Green Bay tie, all three teams would be 8-8-1, and the tiebreaker would still go to Seattle.
However, if a certain fourth team becomes involved in that tiebreaker, the No. 7 seed would go to the Lions.
The Washington Commanders are eliminated from playoff contention, but at 7-8-1, they can get to 8-8-1 by beating the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. If the Commanders, Seahawks, Lions, and Packers all go 8-8-1, it is the Lions who are in position to get to the postseason.
The division tiebreaker is still used to eliminate the Packers, thus creating a three-way tie between the Commanders, Seahawks, and Lions. The Lions would own that tiebreaker with a 6-5-1 NFC record, ahead of both the Commanders and Seahawks at 5-6-1.
With the Seahawks and Commanders games both scheduled to take place earlier on Sunday afternoon, the Lions will know heading into the evening whether or not these two possibilities are even feasible (and whether or not a win will even be enough).