Following the Minnesota Vikings’ 23-20 overtime win over the Chicago Bears (6-6) on Sunday, the Lions’ path to the playoffs is clear.
If the Lions (7-5) win three of their last four games they will clinch their first division title since 1993.
If Detroit wins three it doesn’t matter if the Bears win out because Detroit holds the first tie-breaker after beating the Bears twice this season. Three wins would also guarantee the first playoff game at Ford Field.
If Detroit wins two and Chicago loses one, the Lions will also clinch.
Next Sunday the Lions play at the Philadelphia Eagles (7-5), who beat Arizona 24-21 on Sunday for their fourth straight win. It’s the toughest remaining game on the Lions’ schedule.
Then the Lions are home for a Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens (6-6) on Dec. 16, home on Dec. 22 against the N.Y. Giants (4-7 prior to Sunday night game) and then at Vikings (3-8-1) on Dec. 29.
Chicago’s upcoming schedule starts with a Monday night game against Dallas (7-5) at Soldier Field on Dec. 9, then at Cleveland on Dec. 15, at Philadelphia on Dec. 22 and home to Packers on Dec. 29.
While the Packers (5-6-1) aren’t mathematically out of it, they would need to win out and depend on losses from the Lions or Bears.
The Lions last won a division title in 1993 when they played in the NFC Central.
They have made five playoff appearances since then (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2011).
Their last playoff win was in 1991 when they beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 to advance to the NFC Championship game where they lost 41-10 at the Washington Redskins.
Detroit’s last playoff appearance was in 2011 when the lost to the Saints 45-28 at New Orleans (see photo). Matthew Stafford set the franchise postseason record in that game with 380 passing yards.