Making the playoffs as an 8-8 team is no easy task. The last time an 8-8 team managed to qualify for the postseason was ten years ago; the Chargers won their division. Although the Bears have already clinched the NFC North Division and the Seahawks have virtually claimed the first wild card spot, the second wild card is up for grabs with 8 teams vying for the lone spot. In order for the Lions to make the playoffs, they realistically have to win out (there is a scenario where the Lions could qualify as a 7-9 team but we’re not going to talk about that…), which means defeating the Bills in Buffalo, Vikings at home, and the Packers in Green Bay. Winning these 3 games is going to be extremely difficult with the injuries (Da’Shawn Hand, Ezekiel Ansah, Marvin Jones, etc.) piling up. But for now, let’s assume the Lions win out, finishing the record with a .500 record. The Lions will qualify for the playoffs if the following occurs over the next 3 weeks:
Vikings lose at least 1x (in addition to losing to the Lions)
- They need to lose to either the Bears or Dolphins (the Vikings are hosting both of them)
The Dolphins are coming off their best win of their season (winning on last second play against the Patriots) and are fighting desperately to stay alive in the jam-packed AFC wildcard race. The Ravens, Colts, Titans, and Dolphins are all 7-6 (Baltimore has tiebreaker right now). The Vikings on the other hand are trending downhill, having fired their OC the other day. You can anticipate the Dolphins giving the Vikings a run for their money.
The Bears are also coming off a statement win against the all-mighty Los Angeles Rams; however, they may rest some off their players considering they would have presumably clinched the division by then (week 17/last week of season).
Panthers lose at least 1x
- Panthers lose once to either the Saints in New Orleans, or the Saints or Falcons at home
The Saints are in a bit of a scuffle but demonstrated exceptional resilience in completing a comeback against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. The chance of the Panthers overcoming them twice is minimal to none. The Falcons have had a let-down season and, the Panther could come out on top against them. Preferably, the Panthers would lose at least two of these games because the Panthers would make it over the Lions if the Lions, Panthers, and one other team find themselves in a 3-way-tie (all 3 teams finishing the season 8-8).
Eagles lose at least 2x
- Eagles lose twice in their final 3 games of the season (Rams in Los Angeles, Texans in Philly, and Redskins in Washington)
The 11-2 Rams are fighting for home field advantage with the Chiefs and Chargers, and they are looking to respond after falling to the Bears. The Eagles are certainly going to have a hard time defeating the Rams. Since starting the season 0-3, the Texans have been on a tear and that should also be a tough matchup in its own right. They will likely be favored to win their final game of the season against the short-handed Redskins. Poor Alex Smith.
Redskins lose at least 2x
- Redskins need to lose 2 of the following games:
- Titans in Tennesse – They are coming off a blowout win against the Jaguars and have played well of late, slotting themselves right in the thick of the race for the playoffs.
- Jaguars in Jacksonville – The Jaguars have been one of the NFL’s major disappointed this year, but their defense has remained strong nonethless, conceding the 6th fewest yards of offense. Expect 32-year-old Josh Johnson (thrown for 1 TD in his career) to struggle mightily.
- Eagles at home (in Washington) – The Eagles are presumably going to be favorites to win this game.
Giants lose at least 1x
- Lose to either the Cowboys at home (in New York), Titans at home, or the Colts in Indianapolis
The Cowboys have played exceptionally well and have one of the top defenses in the NFL, in addition to one of the best RBs in Ezekiel Elliot. This should be a close game. The aforementioned Titans are going to be a tough matchup as well. The Colts are fighting for a wildcard spot and will likely give the Giants a run for their money.
Buccaneers lose at least 2x (to avoid dealing w/ tiebreakers)
- The Bucs need to lose 2 of the following games:
- Cowboys in Dallas
- Ravens in Baltimore – the Ravens have given up the 2nd fewest yards of offense in the NFL and are fighting for a wildcard spot.
- Falcons at home (in Tampa Bay) – should be a favorable matchup for the Buccaneers
While their odds are not in their favor, the Lions are still alive, and that’s what counts. Go Lions!