Detroit Lions playoff route: Who to root for and against in NFL week 18

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 01: Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions on January 1, 2023 at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich

Lions fans, you're rooting for two things to happen: A Seahawks loss and a Lions win. That's it…right? Well…yes. But also, no. Let's explain.

A few weeks ago, the Lions had one goal: win every game and get Washington and Seattle to each lose. If they had done that they, essentially, would have been a lock for the playoffs. Unfortunately, Carolina punched Detroit in the mouth. Fortunately for the Lions, the Seahawks and the Commanders both lost that week as well, keeping hope alive.

Washington was eliminated last week but Seattle and Detroit both won - with the Seahawks (8-8) holding the tie-breaker over the Lions (8-8).

Now it comes down to this. Three teams are fighting for one spot: The Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions. Here's how the scenarios all play out.

How the Lions make the playoffs

Seattle, the 7 seed and final wild card team, plays in the afternoon game on FOX on Sunday as the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams come to town. Now, typically, a Super Bowl champion in town would be a threat - but the Rams are 5-11. The third-worst team in the NFC and the sixth-worst team in the NFL.

They could still play spoiler, true, but they'll be doing it without stars Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and former Lion QB Matthew Stafford. Wouldn't that have been amazing, though, to see Stafford help the Lions make the playoffs? Unfortunately, his spinal cord injury will prevent him from playing. 

So, let's say the Seahawks wind up losing at home against Los Angeles. The Lions, sitting at the 8 spot, will head into Sunday Night Football knowing they need a win to play another game next week. A loss ends the season.

Green Bay, currently the 9 seed, actually have the best chance of making the playoffs. Here's why. All three teams have an 8-8 record but the Packers have a better conference record. All they have to do is win. Even if the Seahawks win, if the Packers win, they're in.

What happens for the Lions if the Rams lose?

But not all is lost if the Rams lose. Yes, this season will be done which isn't great, but remember how the Lions traded Stafford? They got the Rams first round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

That's three months from now.

So, let's play out even more wild scenarios for the NFL Draft. As it stands today, the Rams are the sixth-worst team in the league, which is a great pick for the Lions to have. But it could get better.

Here are the bottom teams in the league:

32. Houston Texans (2-13-1)

31: Chicago Bears (3-13)

30: Arizona Cardinals (4-12)

29: Denver Broncos (4-12)

28: Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)

27: Los Angeles Rams (5-11)

The Colts play the Texans in week 18. If the Colts win and the Rams lose, that Los Angeles pick now is a top 5 pick in the draft. 

That may be as high as the pick can go. The Broncos play the Chargers, who are still fighting for the top Wild Card seed in the AFC, and the Cardinals play San Francisco, who is also fighting for a first-round bye.

Either way, missing out the playoffs isn't great - but being in the conversation at this stage of the season and a top 5 or 6 pick next year has the Lions set up for a run of success.