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NFL playoff picture: What does Lions-Panthers mean for NFC standings

The Lions face the Panthers in Charlotte on Saturday. We break down what the game means for the NFL playoff picture.

A general view during the third quarter of the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Saturday update: The Panthers defeated the Lions, which means Carolina has moved into first place in the NFC South temporarily. If the Bucs lose to the Cardinals, Carolina would have first place. The Panthers control their own destiny and will play the Bucs and Saints in the final two weeks of the season.

The Lions are still in the playoff hunt in the NFC but now need some help and will likely have to win out. They’ll need the 49ers to beat the Commanders and Dolphins to beat the Packers to maintain their position. The Chiefs defeated the Seahawks, so Seattle doesn’t gain a game on Detroit.


The Detroit Lions travel to face the Carolina Panthers in a Week 16 matchup in a must-win game for both teams if they want to have a chance at a playoff berth. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET and Detroit is a 2.5-point road favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Lions playoff picture

Detroit is 7-7 and sits four back of the recently crowned NFC North champion Vikings. The Lions are currently a a half game back of the Commanders for the final wild card berth. Detroit is tied with Seattle, but the Seahawks have the tiebreaker edge having beaten Detroit earlier this season.

If the Lions win, they could climb into the final playoff berth if the Commanders and Seahawks both lose. If the Lions lose, they would remain in ninth place.

Panthers playoff picture

Carolina is 5-9 and sits one game back of the Bucs for first place in the NFC South. They hold the tiebreaker edge with a head-to-head win, but still have to travel to Tampa in Week 17. The Panthers are tied with New Orleans and Atlanta and have the head-to-head tiebreaker over both. They still have one more game in New Orleans to close out the season.

If the Panthers win, they could climb into a tie for first if the Bucs lose in Arizona. If the Panthers lose, they could drop two games back, but still be mathematically alive in the NFC South race.

Tiebreaker implications

This could implicate conference record and common opponents tiebreakers.