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Lions still can reach playoffs before playing Packers

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions' clearest path to the playoffs remains beating the Green Bay Packers in the season finale and claiming the NFC North, but the team might not need to wait that long to secure a postseason berth.

There are three ways Detroit could punch their ticket to the playoffs this week, including one where they wouldn’t need to beat Dallas, thanks to Washington losing Monday night.

First, the easy way.

With a lot of help, the Lions could end up in the playoffs before they even play the Cowboys on Monday night. They would need three games to fall their way during the weekend.

■ Atlanta would need to top (or tie) Carolina, winning the NFC South

■ New Orleans would need to beat Tampa Bay.

■ Chicago would need to upset (or tie) Washington.

That would give the Lions all the necessary tiebreakers for the final wild-card spot in the NFC, even if they finish the season on a three-game losing streak.

If that convoluted scenario doesn’t play out, beating the Cowboys would put the Lions in the postseason one of two ways.

The first would see New Orleans besting Tampa Bay, giving Detroit the wild card with 10 wins. Tampa Bay and Washington would be unable to match that mark.

Wojo: Lions have earned place in playoff limbo

The Lions could also clinch their division with a victory if the Packers were to stumble at home against the Vikings.

All told, none of these scenarios are likely. The Cowboys open as a touchdown favorite, having lost at home just once this season. And it’s difficult to imagine a string of weekend upsets pushing the Lions through the back door.

That leaves us looking to next week, in a winner-take-all game between the Lions and Packers at Ford Field.