With two regular season games remaining on the docket for the Detroit Lions, playoff scenarios are starting to take shape. While we of course don’t want to imagine that Detroit would have to back their way into the postseason on a three game losing streak, it’s not impossible. Detroit travels to take on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16 on Monday Night Football, and closes out the regular season at home against the Green Bay Packers. Two games against dangerous opponents. So, if Detroit were to lose both of those games, would there be a scenario out there that allows Detroit to qualify for the playoffs? Yes. In fact, they could clinch a playoff spot in Week 16 even if things don’t go as we’d hope in Dallas on Monday.
The easiest scenario of course is for Detroit to simply win in Dallas. Getting to 10 wins ensures that the Lions cannot be caught for (at the very least) the second wild card spot in the NFC. But should that not happen, the Lions can still clinch a playoff spot this week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (currently 8-6), and Washington Redskins (7-6-1) are the only other teams in the NFC who can currently catch up to compete for the second wild card spot. Should both Washington and Tampa Bay lose this week (paired with a Lions loss), Washington would be unable to catch up to Detroit’s nine wins, and although Tampa could still match Detroit’s nine wins, they would lose via tie breaker.
Although the two teams do not have a head-to-head matchup this season, the next step in the wild card tie breaking procedure involves conference records. In this scenario, Detroit’s conference record would drop to 7-4, and Tampa’s would drop to 6-5. The teams could still potentially end up with identical conference records depending on how Week 17 shakes out, so we move to the next step: Best win-loss-tie percentage in common games, minimum of four. The Lions and the Bucs both have Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Dallas on their schedules. If Tampa Bay were to lose their game with the New Orleans Saints this week, they would hold a 2-3 record against those opponents this season, with the worst possible outcome for Detroit being a 3-2 record. Therefore, Detroit would win the tie breaker against the Bucs.
The moral of the story is simple (or something like that). If Detroit wins in Dallas, they’re in the playoffs. However, if they lose, a Washington loss paired with a Tampa Bay loss also puts them in the playoffs. Simple, right?