We’re rapidly approaching the end of the 2013 season. Just weeks ago, we wondered if Jacksonville and Tampa Bay would ever win again. They were 0-8 and seemingly a lock for 1-2 in the draft.
Since then, and maybe it’s just how schedules work, both teams have won three times and there’s significant consolidation around the bottom of the standings.
Houston is 2-10, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Washington and Atlanta are 3-9, Minnesota is 3-8-1 and Cleveland, Buffalo and Oakland are 4-8. There’s a lot of serious quarterback need in that bunch, and Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger are potential franchise guys. And you can’t count out Johnny Manziel.
I ran the end of the season through my application that bases predicted results off of expected point spreads. Obviously, this weekend’s trip to Jacksonville is huge for Houston, as the Texans will have a tough time finding a win afterward. The top pick is Houston’s to lose. Literally.
Here’s where I think we are, moving forward:
1. Houston 2-14.
2. Washington 3-13.
3. Minnesota 3-12-1.
4. Cleveland 4-12.
5. Oakland 4-12.
6. Buffalo 4-12.
7. Atlanta 4-12.
8. Tampa Bay 4-12.
9. Jacksonville 5-11.
10. Pittsburgh 6-10.
Of course, this won’t play out exactly. More than one in four games is an upset in the NFL, and things get particularly weird in week 17 when you can get away with playing your third-string quarterback and a vanilla defense.
Schedule strength is the tie-breaker in determining draft order, so here are the expected final schedule strengths for each team in this bottom 10. Remember that the team with the worse schedule comes out ahead in draft-order ties.
1. Pittsburgh 119-135-2 (the Steelers probably will win any strength-of-schedule tie)
2. Jacksonville 126-130
3. Cleveland 129-125-2
4. Washington 135-119-2
4. Minnesota 135-119-2 (note that because Minnesota has a tie, strength-of-schedule is unlikely to matter at all)
6. Oakland 136-120
7. Buffalo 137-119
8. Atlanta 139-116-1
9. Houston 144-112
10. Tampa Bay 150-106
Since these are based on expected results, if a team does a little bit worse than expected, their strength-of-schedule will increase over the above list. So what I’m saying here is that Washington is in great shape to win tie-breakers, but the rest of the teams are extremely close right now. Except Tampa Bay.
As a side-note, I expect Detroit, Kansas City and Cincinnati to come in with the three worst strengths-of-schedule this season. Keep that in mind when considering the playoffs. Last year, the three worst were Atlanta, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and they all under-performed in the playoffs. The year before, it was New England, San Francisco, New Orleans and Houston. And in 2010, it was Kansas City all alone among playoff teams with the lowest strength-of-schedule (106-150) in the NFL in the last six years. Detroit may challenge that.