Lions in playoffs for first time in three years

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

For the first time since 2011, the Lions will be in the NFC playoffs.

With Washington's 27-24 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday, the Lions clinched a postseason berth before even playing their Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he wouldn't watch the Eagles game Saturday, but some players were well aware of the result.

Rookie tight end Eric Ebron sent a celebratory tweet near the end of the Eagles game, but quickly deleted it and said he's focused on the Bears, the constant message at Lions headquarters in Allen Park this week.

Caldwell becomes the first Lions coach to reach the postseason in his first season since Bobby Ross in 1997. If the Lions beat the Bears Sunday and the Green Bay Packers (10-4) lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12), they'll clinch their first division title since 1993 when it was the NFC Central.

The Lions play in Green Bay in Week 17, and that game will likely decide the NFC North.

The Lions seeding is still completely up in the air. If they finish with the same record as other NFC teams, they would lose a tiebreaker with the Arizona Cardinals (11-3) and Seattle Seahawks (10-4) but win one over the Dallas Cowboys (10-4), who are a win away from clinching the NFC East.

Caldwell said this week he had no plans to bench his starters even if the Eagles won, and there's no reason to consider that because the No. 1 or a first-week bye seed is still up from grabs.

Caldwell also said he wouldn't discuss the playoffs until the Lions clinched a spot, so perhaps, he'll talk about the achievement Sunday after the Bears game.

The Lions have won just one playoff game since 1957, and they'll have a shot to match the accomplishment from 1991 in January. Who and when they play, though, likely won't be determined until the conclusion of Week 17.