Ranking the games that matter to the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes this weekend by importance

Lions only a half-game out of final wildcard spot

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 18: Kalif Raymond #11 of the Detroit Lions returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier, 2022 Getty Images)

DETROIT – Christmas weekend is incredibly important for the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes as they look to officially jump into the final wildcard spot.

By winning six of their last seven games, the Lions have crawled within a half-game of the No. 7 seed in the NFC. But they still need some help to get into the postseason.

Here’s a ranking of the games that are most important to the Lions this weekend.

1. Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers

  • Game details: 1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 24)
  • What the Lions need: To win, duh

No game is more important to the Lions than their own, as even one loss in the final three weeks would make a postseason berth exponentially less likely.

The Lions are slight favorites heading into Carolina, but the Panthers also have plenty of play for, despite being just 5-9 on the season.

As it stands, the Panthers are only one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. That means they could also find themselves in a playoff spot by Sunday night.

The Lions desperately need to keep winning, and they have a chance to get over .500 after starting the season 1-6.

2. Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

  • Game details: 1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 24)
  • What the Lions need: The Chiefs to beat the Seahawks

Like the Lions, the Seahawks are currently on the outside looking in. Both teams are a half-game behind the Washington Commanders for the final NFC wildcard spot, but since the Lions lost the head-to-head matchup, the Seahawks own the tiebreaker.

Kansas City is one of the best teams in the NFL, so it would be disastrous if the Seahawks went on the road and won that game, especially since Seattle’s final two games -- at home against the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams -- are very, very winnable.

If the Seahawks lose Saturday, the Lions can pass them with a win. That would make the head-to-head loss irrelevant, at least for the time being.

3. Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers

  • Game details: 4:05 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 24)
  • What the Lions need: The 49ers to beat the Commanders

Due to a tie with the Giants, the Commanders still have a slight lead over the Lions in the playoff race, despite being tied in the win column.

A loss to the 49ers would give the Lions a chance to officially vault into that final wildcard spot for the first time since their 1-6 start.

Why is the Commanders game less important than the Seahawks game? I think the Seahawks will probably win their final two games, but even if the Commanders upset the 49ers, there’s a chance they could lose to the Browns or Cowboys in the coming weeks and open the door for the Lions again.

4. New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

  • Game details: 1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 24)
  • What the Lions need: The Vikings to beat the Giants

Minnesota has already clinched the NFC North, so the Lions can’t come back and win the division. The Giants, though, still aren’t mathematically out of Detroit’s reach.

At 8-5-1, New York is 1.5 games ahead of the Lions in the standings, with three games to go. The Lions might be able to make up that ground if they win out, though.

The Giants have to play the NFC North champion Vikings this week, and then they have to travel to Philadelphia to play the team with the best record in the NFL in Week 18. If they lose both (even with a win over the lowly Indianapolis Colts in between), the Lions could win out and pass the Giants. That would be a nice insurance policy in case the Seahawks or Commanders win out.

5. Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins

  • Game details: 1 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 25)
  • What the Lions need: The Dolphins to beat the Packers

Technically, the Packers are still alive in the playoff race. If they win the rest of their games, they’ll finish 9-8, including a Week 18 win over the Lions.

A loss to the Dolphins would squash that possibility and stop Aaron Rodgers from making a heroic late-season push, which, honestly, nobody in Detroit wants to watch.

If the Packers are statistically eliminated from the postseason, it could also take some of the fight out of them ahead of that Week 18 game in Lambeau. No matter the stakes, that’s been a house of horrors for the Lions, so every little advantage helps.

6. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

  • Game details: 4:25 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 24)
  • What the Lions need: The Cowboys to beat the Eagles

OK, this one’s a little convoluted, but hear me out.

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys, they clinch the East Division and the top overall seed in the NFC. That wouldn’t bode well for the Lions if they need the Eagles to beat the Giants in Week 18.

If, somehow, the Eagles lost to the Cowboys this week and the New Orleans Saints next week, it could make that final game against the Giants much more meaningful. But if the No. 1 seed is already clinched, there’s no reason for the Eagles to risk injury to stars like Jalen Hurts before the postseason.

Games that could affect Lions-Packers tiebreaker

Technically, the Lions could root for certain teams in case they end up with the same record as the Packers and need the strength of victory or strength of schedule tiebreaker (read much, much more about that possibility here).

If you want to get technical, here are the other results that would help the Lions in those regards:

  • Houston Texans over Tennessee Titans (hurts Packers’ SOS)
  • Cincinnati Bengals over New England Patriots (hurts Packers’ SOV)
  • Denver Broncos over Los Angeles Rams (hurts Packers’ SOV and SOS, and helps Lions’ draft pick)
  • Arizona Cardinals over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (hurts Packers’ SOV and SOS)

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.