Friday, December 19, 2008

Rooting for the draft pick

by Chris Cox

I'm going to present something a little outside the box. Upon occasion a season is so dismal, that you start looking for any good that can come of it. You've been out of the playoff races for weeks. You are bored of looking for improvement in individual players – they've already had 15 weeks to show you their goods. Even a late-season victory against a playoff team won't cut it, since they are probably resting their starters. Is a 3-13 record really that much better than 2-12? So you start looking at what draft pick your team might get. If you are pragmatic enough, and heartless enough, you might even start rooting for your team to lose in order to secure the best possible draft pick. Regrettably, I'm that fan. Of the Kansas City Chiefs variety.

There are 6 teams that are head and shoulders below the rest of the league and will likely slug it out for the top five spots: the Lions, Rams, Chiefs, Bengals, Seahawks, and Raiders. For the coldly analytical anti-fans of those teams, this is your rooting guide to week 16.

The Lions
The Lions are the envy of anti-fans everywhere. They control their own destiny. A loss by the Lions in any of the next two weeks would clinch the overall first pick in the NFL draft. A complete collapse resulting in wins their last two games, would likely waste a whole season of ineptitude and push them into the 2nd or even 3rd pick of the draft. But their march to the first pick looks inevitable.

The Bengals
Although both the Rams and Chiefs are ahead of the Benglas (currently 4th) in the race to the top of the draft, I going to cover them next because the rooting guide for the Bengals anti-fan is pretty simple. Due to their tie against the Eagles earlier this year, you can pay attention to the win-loss-tie record and not worry about any tiebreakers. You want to lose your last two and hope the Rams win one of their last two; that would give you one the second overall pick. If both you and the Rams lose out, you get the 3rd pick. The Bengals control their own destiny for a top 3 pick, and that is worth something at this stage of your dismal season.

The Rams, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Raiders
I'll take these teams together since 1) tiebreakers come into play and 2) most of the games this weekend affect the tiebreakers in similar ways. Right now, the Rams and Chiefs are perfectly tied for the 2nd and 3rd pick of the draft. Both teams only have two blemishes on what would otherwise match the perfection achieved by the Lions. Only one loss behind at 3 - 11 are the Seahawks and Raiders. It is good to see the West division rivalries in both the AFC and NFC are alive and well. It looks to be almost a certainty that we will have to settle this race using tiebreakers.

The key tiebreaker for draft order is strength of schedule (SOS). The worst strength of schedule drafts first among tied teams. The Rams and the Chiefs have exactly the same SOS at present: 0.525. The Seahawks are dangerous because they have the lowest SOS at 0.502. The Raiders SOS is 0.522. If all of these teams keep losing, odd games such as Carolina – Dallas will determine the draft order among these 4 teams. Don't fear though, I have sorted all of this week's games out for you anti-fans out there.

Kansas City – Miami: A loss by the Chiefs helps them and hurts every one else. A victory by the Chiefs would help the Raiders less than the Rams and Seahawks because it would improve the Raiders SOS by two games relative to the other three teams. All four teams played Miami once, so a Miami loss or victory has no effect on the net SOS between the four teams.

St. Louis – San Fran: A loss by the Rams helps them with their WLT percentage (most important) but would worsen their SOS by 2 games relative to the other teams, since the Rams play San Francisco twice. It would have no effect on the Seahawks net SOS since they play both teams twice. Everyone except Rams anit-fans should root for the Rams.

Seattle – NYJ: A loss by the Seahawks helps them with their WLT percentage. As long as the Rams lose out, it helps them too by weakening their strength of schedule by 2 games. Chiefs and Raiders anti-fans are really hoping for a Seattle upset here.

Oakland – Houston: The Raiders are essentially in a must lose situation here. The various scenarios do not look good for their tiebreaker situation, so they probably need to lose out to contend for a top 5 spot. Rams and Seahawks anti-fans are rooting for a Raider win as it would also improve the Chiefs SOS. As a Chiefs fan, I'm thinking that the net 2 game improvement to my SOS that would come with a Raider loss is probably more valuable than the hit to their WLT percentage that would come with a win. It looks like the Chiefs will draft in front of the Raiders unless the Chiefs win out and the Raiders lose out. Go Texans!

New Orleans – Detroit: Chiefs and Rams anti-fans still eyeing the number one overall pick have to hope for a Detroit victory. Miracles do happen. No effect on any tiebreakers.

Arizona – NE: NFC West anti-fans should pull for the Pats; AFC West anti-fans should pull for the Cards. 2 games toward the net SOS are riding on this one.

NYG – Carolina: NFC West anti-fans should pull for Carolina; AFC West anti-fans should pull for the Giants. Another game in which 2 games toward the net SOS will be determined.

Buffalo – Denver: NFC West anti-fans should pull for Denver; AFC West anti-fans should pull for the Buffalo (that won't be too difficult). Again this one is worth two games toward SOS.

Tampa Bay – San Diego: AFC West fans should pull for the Bucs as it helps their SOS by two games. Seahawk fans are clear supporters of Tampa. The situation is a little muddier for Rams fans. If they end up tied with KC or Oakand, they want the Bucs to win. However, if they end up tied with Seattle, a San Diego win would be better. Life and NFL tiebreakers are complicated.

Pittsburgh – Tennessee: Chiefs anti-fans want Pittsburgh to win. The other teams anti-fans will be pulling for the Titans for help against the Chiefs SOS.

Minnesota – Atlanta: Seattle is pulling for Minnesota to help its SOS. If the other teams end up tied with Seattle, they'll benefit from an Atlanta victory.

Chicago – Green Bay: Rams anti-fans should pull for Green Bay. Seattle anti-fans should pull for the Bears. Chiefs and Raiders anti-fans have to decide which NFC team they are most likely to be tied with.

Jacksonville – Indy had no effect on any tiebreakers, nor will Philly – Washington.

A clear benefit of being an anti-fan means you care passionately about almost every NFL game this week. It gives new meaning to the season. Those poor fans whose teams are trying to secure a wild-card slot probably only care about 3 or 4 games. The anti-fan has a much richer NFL experience in the closing weeks of the season.

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