DETROIT – The Detroit Lions’ winning streak came to a screeching halt over the weekend, but they technically still have a chance to get into the playoffs.
After winning three games in a row and six of their last seven, the Lions went into Carolina on Christmas Eve and got thoroughly embarrassed. The Panthers rushed for 320 yards and brought back memories of the Lions defense that ranked worst in the NFL for the first half of the season.
But luckily for Detroit, losses by two other NFC wildcard contenders kept the team’s slim playoff hopes alive. Even though they have a losing record with two weeks to go, the Lions have a straightforward (albeit unlikely) path to the postseason.
Here’s what they need to happen.
Lions win out
In order for the Lions to have any chance, they need to win their final two games. They’ll host the Chicago Bears on New Year’s Day and then travel to Lambeau Field for a date with the Green Bay Packers.
With a pair of victories, the Lions would clinch a winning record for the first time since 2017 -- quite an accomplishment for a team that started 1-6.
It won’t be easy, though. Even though the Bears are the second-worst team in the NFL, the Lions needed a missed extra point to beat them in regulation last month. These matchups always seem to be dangerous.
The Packers game will be even more difficult. Aaron Rodgers and company managed to keep their own playoff hopes alive with a win at Miami on Christmas Day.
Suddenly, Green Bay has won three in a row to pull even with the Lions.
1 more loss for Commanders
Washington did its part to help the Lions this weekend, losing at San Francisco to fall to 7-7-1. Unfortunately, the Lions are going to need the Commanders to lose once more in the final two weeks.
Here’s one problem: The Cleveland Browns were eliminated from the playoff race with their loss over the weekend. That means nothing is at stake for them when they travel to Washington on Sunday.
One team will be fighting for its playoff life, while the other’s dreams were just snuffed out. Washington definitely has the edge.
The Commanders’ fate will likely be decided Week 18, when they host the Dallas Cowboys. There’s certainly a chance the Cowboys could win, but they’ll probably be locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC by then, so, again, motivation will be a question.
If the Lions and Commanders both finish with nine wins, the Commanders will get the nod because of their tie.
1 more loss for Seahawks
Seattle lost its fifth game in six tries over the weekend, so the Lions would have officially jumped into the No. 7 spot with the win at Carolina.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. Now the Lions need the Seahawks to lose one of their final two games: at home against the New York Jets or Los Angeles Rams.
Even though the Seahawks are spiraling, they’ll be favorites to win their final two games. The Jets have lost four games in a row and five of six overall, while the Rams are one of the worst teams in the NFL.
The outlook is bleak.
Detroit lost the head-to-head game against Seattle, which means the tiebreaker would go to the Seahawks if both teams finish with the same record. That could end up being a loss that haunts the Lions in January.
Saturday’s loss to the Panthers stung because the Lions would have taken possession of the final wildcard spot with a win, but they never even gave themselves a chance.
Now, with much easier schedules ahead for both Washington and Seattle, it looks like the Lions are probably going to come up short. Even if they get some help, it’s no guarantee the Lions can win their final two games.
It was an impressive achievement to make December games matter after starting the season 1-6, but still, the way Saturday’s game went down left a bad taste in the mouths of Lions fans.