The Detroit Lions will face the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. The game starts tonight at 8:30pm ET and it is an important one for the Lions. In contrast, the game means nothing for the Dallas Cowboys and that could put them into coast mode. However, most would say that Week 16 is too early for a team to slow down in preparation for the playoffs. If the Cowboys do go into coast mode then they would be a month removed from the conference semifinals still and may lose their form. Accordingly, most are expecting Dallas to do their best on Monday.

A win helps Detroit a lot

The Detroit Lions are not facing a do-or-die scenario against Dallas.

However, if Detroit win then they will be guaranteed a playoff spot, whether in the Wild Card race or by virtue of a possible divisional title. The other games that are most relevant to Detroit are their own game next week versus the Green Bay Packers and the game next week involving the Washington Redskins. Here's how a win or loss tonight changes Detroit's point of view on Week 17.

If Detroit beat Dallas

If Detroit win tonight and clinch a playoff spot then they still have to play for improved playoff seeding in Week 17. The Lions would need to beat Green Bay next week to clinch at least a three seed. But the Lions can still finish as a two seed, something that they may accomplish. In order to become a 2 seed in a straight forward manner Detroit need an 11-5 record and it would greatly help if Atlanta finished 10-6 with a loss to New Orleans next week.

However, if both Atlanta and Detroit finish 11-5 atop their divisions it creates complex tiebreakers involving the quality of each team's wins. Seemingly meaningless games would actually take some meaning next week and, if Detroit and Atlanta are each 11-5, then Detroit fans would want Minnesota to win next week, Tampa Bay to win next week, Los Angeles to win next week, Seattle to win next week, and Washington to win next week.

Those teams winning would improve Detroit's quality of wins or decrease Atlanta's for tiebreaker purposes.

Furthermore, if Detroit win on Monday night then they could still finish as low as sixth and get a Wild Card. The game versus Green Bay next week would be for the divisional title. If Detroit win on Monday and lose in Week 17 then they will be the 6th seed in the playoffs.

What if Detroit loses Monday?

Detroit's doomsday scenario involves three events. They need to lose to the Cowboys, lose to the Packers, and see the Washington Redskins win in Week 17. That would put Detroit out and Washington in for the final Wild Card. The Packers would claim the division title in that event. But if Detroit lose on Monday and win next week the Lions win the division. In that scenario they could be the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th seed. If Detroit lose both of their remaining games then they back into the playoffs as a six seed if and only if Washington lose in Week 17.

The situation where an 11-5 Detroit gets involved in tiebreakers with Atlanta is complex and confusing. However, Detroit fans would rather have that then anything else at this point.

What makes Detroit's doomsday scenario particularly worrisome is how strong their schedule is. They play the best team in the NFC in Dallas and the hottest in Green Bay. Washington are playing determined football right now so Detroit can't count on them to lose, even though the Redskins face the Giants next week.

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