American Football

NFC playoff picture update: Lions miss big opportunity, but get a lot of help


NFL: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions missed a perfect opportunity to jump into a playoff spot, but their postseason hopes aren’t dead yet.

The Detroit Lions didn’t do the one thing they needed to do: take care of their own business. Their 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers have stopped playoff talk in its tracks. It was not just a loss, but a complete dominance by the Panthers that has clearly shaken the confidence of a lot of Lions fans.

And while much of that is warranted after such a poor defensive effort and mistake-filled game, the Lions are not out of the playoff race in the NFC. Several teams failed to use this opportunity to gain—or extend—ground on the Lions, meaning Detroit’s playoff hopes are still very much alive going into the final two games of the season.

Division leaders:

  1. Eagles: 13-2 — Clinched playoff spot
  2. Vikings: 12-3 — Clinched NFC North
  3. 49ers: 10-4 — Clinched NFC West
  4. Buccaneers: 6-8

Wild Card race (top three advance)

  1. Cowboys: 11-5 — Clinched playoff spot
  2. Giants: 8-6-1
  3. Commanders: 7-7-1
  4. Seahawks: 7-8
  5. Lions: 7-8
  6. Packers: 6-8

As you can see, if the Lions had taken care of business against the Panthers, they would be 8-7 and currently residing in the last playoff spot in the NFC. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that they’re in the same position they were before Saturday’s games. They’re essentially just a half-game out of a playoff spot, needing to jump two teams for a spot in the playoffs. In other words, finish the season 2-0, and hope that both the Commanders and Seahawks lose one more game (or the Giants lose two more games).

Here’s a look at each team’s remaining schedules, and what the Lions need to happen to pass the other teams (if Detroit finishes 2-0).


  • vs. Bears (3-12)
  • at Packers (6-8)

Giants (Lions need two losses to jump):

  • vs. Colts (4-9-1)
  • at Eagles (13-2)

Seahawks (Lions need at least one loss)

  • vs. Jets (7-8)
  • vs. Rams (4-10)

Commanders: (Lions need at least one loss)

  • vs. Browns (6-9)
  • Cowboys (11-5)

None of these teams are playing particularly well, but it’s going to take another lucky week for the Lions to jump at least two of these three—and that’s IF the Lions win their final two games, which suddenly doesn’t feel too automatic after their dud of a game vs. the Panthers.

The Giants and Commanders play the Eagles and Cowboys in Week 18, respectively. And while Dallas’ win over Philly on Saturday keeps the NFC East in play, an Eagles win over the Saints next week would clinch the division and the No. 1 seed, leaving both Philly and Dallas with essentially nothing to play for in Week 18.

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