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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Nick Selbe

NFC Playoff Picture Entering Week 16: Lions Stay Alive With Win

With the end of the regular season fast approaching, it was an eventful weekend in the NFC playoff picture, with overtime results altering the postseason landscape. But it was one regulation result from Sunday that perhaps had the biggest impact, as the Lions stayed hot with a 20–17 comeback win on the road against the Jets.

Detroit took the lead for good on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Brock Wright with 1:49 remaining. The Jets drove to the Lions’ 40-yard line to set up a potential game-tying, 58-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein, but New York’s kicker couldn’t connect.

It was the Lions’ sixth win in their past seven games, keeping them in the running to secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2016. Here’s where things stand after the Week 15 slate:

1. Eagles (13–1): Philadelphia got all it could handle on its trip to Chicago, overcoming two first-half interceptions from Jalen Hurts to notch a 25–20 win. Hurts made up for his early miscues, finishing the game with 315 passing yards to go along with 61 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. AJ Brown hauled in nine catches for 181 yards, while DeVonta Smith had five receptions for 126 yards. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East with a win at Dallas on Christmas Eve.

2. Vikings (11–3): Well that was something, wasn’t it? The Vikings have been on a roller-coaster ride all season long, and Saturday’s historic 33-point comeback over the Colts was the biggest twist yet. The win locked up the NFC North division title, and Minnesota will look to continue its push for the No. 2 seed with a home game on Christmas Eve against the Giants.

3. 49ers (10–4): The 49ers kept up their winning form with a 21–13 Thursday night road win at Seattle, giving them their seventh consecutive victory. Brock Purdy continued to impress and unlocked the previously slumping George Kittle for a two-touchdown performance. Christian McCaffrey also stayed hot, topping 130 yards from scrimmage for the third straight game. San Francisco plays host to Washington on Saturday.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6–8): It was another ugly day in the NFC South. Tampa Bay jumped out to a 17–0 lead on Cincinnati, but the Bengals ended the game on a 34–6 run. Tom Brady threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Buccaneers defense has allowed 69 points over the past two weeks. The rest of the division wasn’t able to take advantage, though—both Atlanta and Carolina could have moved into a tie for first with wins on Sunday, but fell to the Saints and Steelers, respectively. The Bucs play at Arizona next week before finishing the season against the Panthers and Falcons.

5. Dallas Cowboys (10–4): The Cowboys’ vaunted defense got carved up by Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, allowing their most points (40) since Week 12 of the 2020 season. Given last week’s near-loss to the hapless Texans, it might be time to start worrying in Dallas. Still, the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth when the Giants beat the Commanders on Sunday night. A Christmas Eve matchup at home against the Eagles looms next for Dallas.

6. New York Giants (8–5–1): The Giants jumped up one spot after taking down the Commanders, 20–12, on Sunday night. New York will need a win against the No. 2 seed Vikings on Saturday in order to keep their playoff chances alive.

7. Washington Commanders (7–6–1): The Commanders lost to the Giants on Sunday night to swap places with New York in the playoff picture. Every team in the NFC East remains in the playoff chase through Week 15. Washington has a tough road matchup on Saturday against the NFC West-champion 49ers.

In the Hunt:

8. Seahawks (7–7)

9.  Lions (7–7)

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