Sunday update: The Bucs beat the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football to improve to 7-8. With the win, Tampa Bay remains in first place with a one-game lead on Carolina. The Bucs and Panthers face off in Tampa in Week 17 with first place in the NFC South on the line. The Bucs would clinch the division with a win.
Results update: The Panthers ran over the Lions 37-23, allowing them a shot to win the NFC South and secure a playoff spot if they can beat the Buccaneers and Saints to end the year. What a crazy season for the Panthers!
The Carolina Panthers host the Detroit Lions on Saturday, December 24 in a must-win game for both teams. Neither can be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but both are running out of wiggle room to earn a playoff berth. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET and the Panthers are a 2.5-point home underdog at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Panthers playoff chances
Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700; NFC South +500
Remaining opponents: Week 16 vs. Lions, Week 17 @ Bucs, Week 18 @ Saints
The Panthers unloaded Christian McCaffrey, Robbie Anderson, and Baker Mayfield, while also firing head coach Matt Rhule, and have managed to improve. The NFC South is a disaster of a division and Carolina going 3-2 the past five weeks have moved them firmly into position to have a shot at the division.
Carolina does not need to win all three remaining games, but a win on Sunday keeps the door firmly open. If the Panthers beat the Lions, they will control their fate, taking over first place in the NFC South with a Week 17 win. If they lose, their fate depends in part on how the Bucs do on Sunday against the Cardinals.
Current playoff standings
1. Buccaneers, 6-8
2. Panthers, 5-9
3. Saints, 5-9
4. Falcons, 5-9
6. Giants, 8-5-1
7. Commanders, 7-6-1
8. Seahawks, 7-7
9. Lions, 7-7
10. Packers, 6-8
11. Panthers, 5-9
12. Saints, 5-9
13. Falcons, 5-9