Lions vs. Rams in NFL playoffs? Here’s what needs to happen for dream 2023 wild-card matchup

The Lions have clinched a playoff berth. The Rams have not. Yet, the likelihood of a playoff matchup between the Lions and Rams is already something fans are beginning to prepare for.

Detroit clinched its first division title in three decades in Week 16, ensuring that Ford Field will host a playoff game for the first time since it opened in 2002.

Whichever team goes into Ford Field on wild-card weekend — if that’s where the Lions end up — will be met with a raucous crowd that has been waiting endlessly for the chance to cheer on their team in a playoff atmosphere. There is one other quarterback in the NFC who knows those fans all too well, and he just might happen to be playing for the Lions’ opponent when the day arrives. 

A Lions-Rams matchup would feature two quarterbacks who were traded for each other three years earlier. Matthew Stafford spent 12 years in Detroit before landing with the Rams and winning a Super Bowl, while Jared Goff was drafted first overall by Los Angeles in 2016 and took the Rams to a Super Bowl before falling out of favor and getting tossed into the deal for Stafford. Since then, all he’s done is prove he’s more than just a bridge quarterback. Beating the Rams in the playoffs would serve as the ultimate revenge.

MORE: Why Lions winning NFC North is historic achievement

Here’s what you need to know about the chances of a Lions vs. Rams playoff matchup in January.

Can the Lions play the Rams in the playoffs?

Through the first 16 weeks of the season, the Lions are the NFC’s No. 3 seed while the Rams are the NFC’s No. 6 seed. That means Detroit and Los Angeles are in line to play each other in the wild-card round.

Plenty could change over the final two weeks of the season, however. The Lions can’t be seeded any lower than third in the NFC, but they still have a chance to jump one or both of the 49ers and Eagles atop the conference and slide to No. 2 or even to No. 1. The Lions have a chance to jump the Eagles even if both teams win out, thanks to the common games tiebreaker.

The Rams can’t jump to the NFC’s No. 5 seed unless they win out, the Cowboys lose out and the Seahawks also win out. That scenario is highly unlikely. Los Angeles will be either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed if it reaches the playoffs, which still isn’t a certainty even with a one-game lead.

Interestingly, the Rams have a chance directly affect the Lions’ position when they play the 49ers in Week 18. That will be a pivotal game for both teams, with a first-round bye on the line for San Francisco and potentially a playoff berth on the line for Los Angeles.

MORE: Lions react after clinching first division title in 30 years

In short, the Lions and Rams are slated to meet in the playoffs as the standings sit right now, and there is still a chance they could meet as either the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds or as the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds. Whether this matchup happens still relies on several results from the season’s final two weeks, starting with Detroit’s battle against the Cowboys on Saturday.

Lions playoff picture

The Lions clinched the NFC North in Week 16 and will be a top-three seed in the NFC. They currently hold the No. 3 seed, but they have a path to the No. 1 seed with some help from the 49ers and Eagles.

Detroit can also gain the head-to-head advantage over the Eagles simply by winning out and earning the common games advantage with wins over the Cowboys and Vikings.

Whether the Lions are able to jump all the way to No. 1 will be determined partly by the 49ers, who have what certainly seems like a favorable matchup against the Commanders in Week 17 before taking on the red-hot Rams to close out their season.

Rest assured, Lions fans. Ford Field will host a playoff game regardless, bringing playoff football back to Detroit for the first time in the 21st century.

MORE: Revisiting Dan Campbell’s playing career

Rams playoff picture

The Rams can clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 with a win over the Giants and a Seahawks loss to the Steelers. Aside from a Packers-Vikings tie, there is no other scenario for the Rams to clinch in Week 17 if Seattle wins.

That, of course, is extremely significant, given the 49ers will likely have to play their starters in Week 18 when they meet the Rams. If Los Angeles clinches in Week 17, the Week 18 matchup would simply determine the difference between the No. 6 seed and the No. 7 seed. 

Unless the Rams land the No. 5 seed, which is highly unlikely, their wild-card opponent would either be the Lions, Eagles or 49ers.

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