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This week, FanPulse asked the nation which team would land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. The results were overwhelming, if unsurprising.
Fans picked the Cincinnati Bengals in a landslide.
A quick look at the overall standings shows the current situation.
The Bengals have a one-game “lead” over the Giants, and two games over the Redskins and Dolphins.
Cincinnati has three games left, against the Patriots, Dolphins and Browns. The key game there is the one with the Dolphins. If the Bengals pick up a win there, they could potentially end up tied with the Giants at 2-14.
With three games left in the season, the permutations and possibilities for draft order are too complicated to consider fully here.
The key idea is that a Bengals loss to the Dolphins or a Giants win over the Redskins would virtually guarantee the Bengals the first pick in the draft.
Also, a Giants win over Washington would likely move the Redskins and Giants into a tie for the 2nd pick in the draft.
On the other hand, for the Giants to end up at 2-14, the Redskins need to get at least their 4th win of the season, as the two division rivals meet in Week 16. A 2-win season would guarantee the Giants would be picking either first or second in the draft, and could potentially push the Redskins out of the top-5 — potentially very far out, depending on how the Redskins do against the Eagles and Cowboys.
So, the Giants and Redskins are looking at two high-possibility potential tie-breaking scenarios:
The Giants could easily end up tied at 2-14 with the Bengals, or 3-13 with the Redskins or Dolphins, while the ‘Skins could find themselves locked up at 3-13 with the Giants, Dolphins or both.
This brings up the issue of tie-breakers for draft position. At the top of the draft, the key tie-breaker isn’t head-to-head games, but overall strength of schedule.
Since SoS is based on the combined W-L record of a team’s 13 regular season opponents, it is a moving target right up until the Week 17 games are all finalized. The only reasonably easy thing to do is to consider the situation as it stands today, with 3 games remaining.
Tie breakers for picks at the top of the draft
- If ties exist, such ties shall be broken by strength-of-schedule.
- If any ties cannot be broken by strength-of-schedule, the divisional or conference tie-breakers, if applicable, shall be applied.
- Any ties that still exist shall be broken by a coin flip.
In breaking a tie to determine first-round draft position, the team with the lower strength of schedule picks first, based on the idea that they lost to weaker teams overall.
At the moment, the SoS for the relevant teams is:
- Giants 43%
- Redskins 46%
- Dolphins 47%
- Bengals 54%
In effect, based on the situation as it stands today, the Giants would “win” any tiebreaker, giving them the more valuable draft pick. Furthermore, with only three games left, the Bengals SoS is so much higher than the other three relevant teams, that they would almost surely “lose” any tie-breaking scenario.
- In a two-way tie at 2-14, the Giants would almost certainly get the top pick in the draft over the Bengals.
- In a tie-breaker of 3-13 teams, the order, based on current SoS would be Giants, Redskins, Dolphins.
We’ll need to see the results of the Week 15 & 16 games before there is a great deal of clarity on draft position at the top of the first round.
Redskins fan confidence rising
With three games remaining, Redskins fans are expressing more confidence in the direction of the team.
Despite a loss to the Packers in Week 14, the Redskins were competitive with the NFC North division leader, following back-to-back wins over the Lions and Panthers.
Offensively, Dwayne Haskins has been improving, and, despite playing much of the game on a sprained ankle, led the team on a 2-minute drill that resulted in a touchdown to make it a one-score game with less than a minute remaining. Young playmakers like Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon, Steven Sims and Derrius Guice have looked good, although Guice suffered a sprained left knee that has ended his injury plagued season after just 49 offensive touches.
Defensively, good play in recent weeks from Landon Collins, Montez Sweat, the interior defensive linemen and young cornerbacks has shown on the field as the Lions, Panthers and Packers have been held to an average of just 19 points per game — a big improvement over the start of the year when the Redskins surrendered 31 points or more to four of their first five opponents.
Other factors in the surge of confidence (up to 8% now, from 4% last week and 2% in Week 13) may include the increasingly high level of reports and rumors that Bruce Allen will soon be gone from the franchise, and that the team will have a new front office structure and new head coach in a matter of weeks.
Of course, 8% isn’t a terribly high level of confidence, but it compares favorably with the confidence of fans from our division rivals. The NFC East is the only division in football in which every team currently has a losing record.
The division-leading Cowboys sit at 6-7 and are on a three-game losing streak. Despite being in first place and able to clinch a playoff spot with two wins, as long as one of them comes against Philly in Week 16, Dallas fan confidence, as measured by the FanPulse survey has fallen to just 3% after having peaked at 96% in Week 3 (right after the Cowboys had gotten a road win against the Redskins).
The Eagles, who, like the Cowboys, are 6-7 but in second place due to tie breakers, played the Giants on Monday Night Football this week. The Giants dominated the first half, taking a 17-3 lead to the locker room, but the Eagles went up-tempo in the second half and roared back to send the game into overtime tied at 17. Philly finished off the Giants quickly in overtime, going 75 yards on the only drive of the extra period to score a game-winning touchdown. Their fan base responded with a surge in confidence from last week’s season low level of 4% to this week’s 16% level following the win.
Giants fans, perhaps encouraged by what they saw from their team in the first half against Philly, or perhaps feeling good about their draft position, showed a slight uptick in confidence from 11%, where it had been for the previous two weeks, to 13% following the loss on Monday night.
The challenge of the final three games for the Redskins
Washington will finish the year with games against its three division rivals, having lost to each of them at the start of the season.
The players on the 3-10 Redskins seem to be playing their best football of the season (over 60 minutes, at least) in recent weeks. The team has been led by the defense in the past three games, but the offense has shown signs of life and rookie Dwayne Haskins is showing signs of growing into his role as an NFL quarterback.
With the Eagles struggling against the Giants in Philly, and coming to Washington on a short week depleted by a number of significant injuries, Redskins fans have reason to believe that a victory, which would have seemed unlikely when the Redskins were 0-5 and Jay Gruden had just been fired, is very possible.
The Giants, of course, got their last “W” against the Redskins, but have gone 0-9 since, while the Redskins have won two of their last three games, losing only to division leading Green Bay at Lambeau Field last week. Washington seems poised to play well in New Jersey against the struggling Giants.
By Week 17, the Redskins could be the hottest team in the division, and all set to knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs, or they could be ice-cold and set to have a top-3 pick in the draft.
Some Redskins fans will be rooting for wins, while others will have their eyes more firmly fixed on draft position, meaning that at least some Redskins fans will be happy regardless of which outcome eventuates.
For his part, interim head coach Bill Callahan is looking for the Redskins to go out and play three entertaining games and get three wins. Asked what he wants to see from his team to close out the season, here’s what he had to say:
I want to see us compete in the divisional games. We haven’t been good. I think we’re 0-7 in our last divisional games and that hits hard. We’re 0-5 against Philly in the last five games. So, I’d like to see a competitive effort against the division.
This is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves in a lot of ways and really set the tone for next season. We have a lot of young players and players that are going to be here and they’ve got to realize that the divisional games are the most critical games just because of the fact that it does tie into your playoff factor initially and just you’re going to see these teams twice a year. Gives you a catalyst if you win those games.
We’ve got a challenge [with] these three divisional opponents; we didn’t do well at the beginning of the year. So, we have a chance to rectify that and make it right, and I think that the guys are all playing for something — pride.
Division games are always great battles. You never know how those are going to end, so they’re always tight, close games. So, those will be a lot of fun, we’re really looking forward to the challenge.
So, buckle up and get ready for three entertaining weeks of football to close out the season. Sooner or later, someone has to win the division championship. It’s in the rule book.