Patriots fans find themselves in an unusual place this December.
After losing to the Dolphins last week, the Patriots were knocked out from playoff contention. Not only does it mark the first time since 2008 that New England won’t play in the postseason, but it also marks the first time since 2000 that the Patriots will play regular-season games with their playoff hopes dashed.
With the Patriots only looking to win for their pride, it’s reasonable to think that their fans are rooting for the opposite. The Patriots sit at 6-8 and have an unclear situation at quarterback going into next season. If they lose their last two games, the Patriots’ draft slot will improve and conceivably give them a better chance at getting the next franchise quarterback or another potential star.
Obviously, the best way for the Patriots’ draft pick to improve is by losing to the Bills on Monday night. As of Saturday evening, the Patriots hold the 15th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Patriots have received some help in terms of bettering their draft pick in Week 16. The 49ers’ upset win of the Cardinals moved San Francisco a game closer to New England in the standings, and if the Patriots lose Monday both teams will hold a 6-9 record. If the Patriots do lose, they would pass the 49ers for a higher draft pick because the team with the lower strength of schedule gets the higher draft pick.
While they received help from the 49ers, the Patriots have already been hurt by another pair of results. The Vikings fell to 6-9 on Friday after a loss to the Saints. With the Vikings’ lower strength of schedule, the Patriots can’t move past the Vikings this week. In addition to that, the Patriots will likely be unable to pass the Lions in the draft order at all. The Lions fell to 5-10 following Saturday’s blowout loss to the Buccaneers and with their lower strength of schedule, they currently hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots.
Entering Sunday’s slate of games, there are four other teams (Cowboys, Chargers, Giants, and Broncos) that are 5-9. The Cowboys have a winnable matchup, hosting the 4-9-1 Eagles on Sunday, while the Giants have a tougher matchup, facing the Ravens on the road. The Chargers and Broncos face off in Denver, meaning one of those teams will likely have an equal record with the Patriots if New England loses Monday night.
The only one of those four teams the Patriots can pass in the draft order if the record is equal is the Broncos. Denver has a better strength of schedule than New England. It’s unlikely the Patriots can match the Cowboys and Giants in terms of a weaker strength of schedule due to the NFC East’s poor season.
So, the only improvement the Patriots can see this weekend is if they lose and the Broncos win. If that did happen, the Patriots would hold the 13th pick going into the final week of the regular season. Wins by the Cowboys and Giants would put the Patriots in a good spot to pass either of them by season’s end because the two teams play each other in Week 17. Of course, the Patriots would have to lose to the Jets in order for that to happen.
The other teams the Patriots could pass in the draft order if they lose out and the other teams win out are the Panthers, Falcons, Texans (who traded their pick to the Dolphins), and Eagles. The Texans (facing the Bengals) and Eagles are favorites to win Sunday while the Panthers (facing the Washington Football Team) and Falcons (facing the Chiefs) are underdogs.
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