Week 14’s action provided plenty of intriguing developments in each conference’s playoff races, with the Panthers jumping back into the hunt for the NFC South, the Ravens and Steelers separating themselves from the pack of 7-5 AFC teams, and the Cardinals halting their two-game losing streak and hanging onto the top spot in the NFC.
On the other end of the spectrum, another interesting race is shaping up, with the Raiders’ 24-13 upset over the 49ers playing a key role. Oakland’s second victory of the season means that five teams are now tied at 2-11, in contention for the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Because the tiebreaker for draft order is strength of schedule – teams that faced weaker schedules get the higher picks – the Raiders’ projected draft spot slipped from first to fifth after their win against San Francisco.
Per Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, here’s how the top five picks for 2015 currently project, with the team’s strength of schedule percentage and remaining schedule both noted:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.480); @ CAR, vs. GB, vs. NO
- Tennessee Titans (.488); vs. NYJ, @ JAX, vs. IND
- Jacksonville Jaguars (.519); @ BAL, vs. TEN, @ HOU
- New York Jets (.549); @ TEN, vs. NE, @ MIA
- Oakland Raiders (.590); @ KC, vs. BUF, @ DEN
While those strength-of-schedule percentages will fluctuate a little as the final three weeks of games play out, the wide disparity between the Raiders’ SOS and that of the Bucs and Titans means that even if Oakland loses its final three games, the team will likely need the other four clubs on this list to win a game in order to have a shot at the No. 1 pick.
Meanwhile, although the Bucs are certainly in the driver’s seat for the first overall pick, with the current lead and a schedule that features three teams vying for playoff spots, a pair of games could go a long way toward determining the order at the top — the Titans play both the Jets and the Jaguars over the next two weeks. Barring a tie, that means that at least one two-win club will pick up a victory in Week 15 and Week 16. The Titans could either solidify a top-three pick or fall out of the race for the No. 1 choice entirely, depending on the outcomes of those contests.
The jockeying for postseason positioning at the top of the standings will receive most of the attention over the final three weeks of the season, and rightly so, but the jockeying for 2015 draft position shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly when multiple teams currently in the mix for a top pick will be looking for a long-term answer at the quarterback position.