As we start to look ahead to Week 16 of the regular season, the NFL playoff picture is becoming clearer and clearer, especially for the Detroit Lions. After beating the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in dramatic fashion, the Lions now have a 9-5 record and are one win away from clinching a trip to the playoffs. It would be their first trip to the playoffs since 1999, and a win or tie against the San Diego Chargers at home on Christmas Eve will punch their ticket to the postseason.
Should the Lions lose to San Diego on Saturday, all hope is not lost. In fact, the Lions could still clinch a playoff berth even with a loss. All they need is for the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals to lose their games against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. If those three teams suffer another loss in the next two weeks, they will fall out of contention for a wild card spot and send the Lions to the playoffs.
Although both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are also in the picture in terms of overall record, neither team is in the wild card hunt. Since the Cowboys have an 8-6 record and don't hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lions, they would have to win out and finish 10-6 to pass Detroit in the wild card picture. However, if that were to happen, the Cowboys would win the NFC East since the Giants only have seven wins right now. The Giants need to win out to match Detroit's nine wins, and since their final game is against Dallas, two wins would give them the NFC East title. What this all means is that neither team is a concern to Detroit in the wild card race.
With what is on the line next Saturday against San Diego, Ford Field should be rocking. Fans have been waiting for more than a decade for the Lions to return to the playoffs, and now the team has a chance to clinch a wild card bid at home on Christmas Eve. I can't think of too many early Christmas presents better than that.