With the Detroit Lions acquiring their sixth win of the season, what needs to happen if they want to make it to the playoffs?
Detroit Lions Win the Division
This scenario is highly unlikely, but not an impossibility.
The Minnesota Vikings sit atop the NFC North with 10 wins and three losses. With four games remaining, the Vikings would have to lose out and the Lions would have to win out.
Detroit’s schedule consists of the New York Jets (away), Carolina Panthers (away), Chicago Bears (home) and the Green Bay Packers (away). They would have to win every single one of those games.
On the flip, Minnesota would have to lose to the Indianapolis Colts (home), New York Giants (home), Green Bay Packers (away) and the Chicago Bears (away).
Besides a good Vikings team losing five straight and a trending Lions team winning six straight, three out of the four teams Minnesota will have to play have losing records.
It’s statically not impossible, but pandemonium within the division would have to occur for the scenario to play out.
Detroit Lions Get in the Wild Card
Before this gets too deep, what teams are ahead of Detroit in the wildcard race after week 14? Just one spot ahead of the Lions are the Seattle Seahawks (7-6), ahead of them are the New York Giants (7-5-1) and the Washington Commanders (7-5-1). The top wildcard spot belongs to the Dallas Cowboys (10-3).
The Cowboys beat the Lions this year so, they wouldn’t be able to beat them out, even if they lost the remaining four games.
First let’s look at the schedules of the four teams ahead of and including the Lions, odds against their opponents (week 15 and 16 only according to FanDuel) and ESPN’s matchup predictor for the following matchups.
- Week 15 – Away vs. New York (J) (-1)
- Week 16 – Away vs. Carolina (-2.5)
- Week 17 – Home vs. Chicago (64.3% chance to win)
- Week 18 – Away vs. Green Bay (34.5% chance to win)
- Week 15 – Home vs. San Francisco 49ers (+3.5)
- Week 16 – Away vs. Kansas City Chiefs (+9.5)
- Week 17 – Home vs. New York (J) (61.2% chance to win)
- Week 18 – Home vs. Los Angeles Rams (63.1% chance to win)
New York (G)
- Week 15 – Away vs. Washington (+4.5)
- Week 16 – Away vs. Minnesota (+4)
- Week 17 – Home vs. Indianapolis Colts (62.9% chance to win)
- Week 18 – Away vs. Philadelphia Eagles (14.2% chance to win)
- Week 15 – Home vs. New York (G) (-4.5)
- Week 16 – Away vs. San Francisco (+6.5)
- Week 17 – Home vs. Cleveland Browns (53% chance to win)
- Week 18 – Home vs. Dallas (20.7% chance to win)
- Week 15 – Away vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5)
- Week 16 – Home vs. Philadelphia (-1)
- Week 17 – Away vs. Tennessee Titans (74.9% chance to win)
- Week 18 – Away vs. Washington (79.1% chance to win)
If all of these outcomes come true this would be what the wildcard picture would look like at the end of the regular season.
- First team in – Dallas (14-3)
- Second team in – Washington (9-7-1)
- Third team in – Seattle (9-8)
- First team out – Detroit (9-8)
- Second team out – New York (G) (8-8-1)
Two Detroit Lions Wins
At an absolute minimum, the Detroit Lions need two more wins to make the a wild card spot. This only happens if a if a combination of two teams between, Seattle, New York and Washington lose the rest of their games.
Ultimately it’s a tall order, but the Giants have not looked good as of late (0-3-1 in their last four) and the Seahawks went 1-3 in their last four games. There is a shot that one of these teams won’t win another game in the regular season, but to have two is very unlikely.
Three Detroit Lions Wins
Three wins for the Detroit Lions gives them a little more leeway. A combination of two teams, between Washington, New York and Seattle would have to lose three games. In the odds above the Giants are projected to lose three games, so it’d be between the Commanders and Seahawks to lose three as well.
Washington arguably has the harder schedule than Seattle, but they’ve been playing much better football as of late (3-0-1 in their last four). The Seahawks are projected to lose two games, but their matchup versus the Jets in week 17 could go either way. Detroit is projected to win three more games, so this statistically is the most probable scenario.
Four Detroit Lions Wins
The best possible outcome for the Lions is if they can win out. Detroit’s offense has been playing exceptional and their defense has vastly improved. The only game their projected to lose is against Green Bay, who they’ve already beat this season. Thankfully for the Lions, they play Green Bay in week 18. If they’re knocked out of playoff contention by then there’s a real chance Aaron Rodgers sits.
In this scenario a combination of two teams, between Washington, New York and Seattle would have to lose two games. All three of those teams are projected to lose two games.
If the Detroit Lions keep their momentum and win out, they should be able to sneak into the wildcard as the second team in.
Photo Credit: Duane Burleson – Associated Press
Photo Edit: Noah Wulbrecht – Woodward Sports