BOSTON -- The idea of spending November -- weeks before Thanksgiving, no less -- staring at the standings and figuring out what needs to happen for the Patriots to land a top-three pick is not one we spent a lot of time entertaining in New England over the last 20 years. Yet here we are.
And in that regard, though the Patriots were idle, they "moved up" in the "race" for the top pick in the draft on Sunday.
That movement came thanks to the Giants, quarterbacked by Tommy DeVito, coming up with an unexpected victory over the Commanders in Washington on Sunday. The win improved the Giants to 3-8. Considering the G-Men had lost three straight games by a combined score of 92-33 and had lost seven of their last eight heading into the game, not many penciled the Giants in for a win over the more-or-less capable Commanders.
Nevertheless, it happened, "dropping" the Giants down behind New England in the draft order.
That position will be firmed up by the Patriots if they lose this weekend in New Jersey, where they'll face those same New York Giants. But as far as winnable and losable games remaining on the schedule go, this one figures to be a challenging one for New England to lose.
Yet if Saquon Barkley can come close to replicating his performance from Sunday (140 yards from scrimmage, two receiving touchdowns), and if DeVito can go interception-free as he did against the Commanders, then the Patriots could find themselves in a tough one on Sunday.
But it's also a matchup that features the 32nd-ranked scoring offense from New York against the 31st-ranked scoring offense from New England. It cannot be predicted.
In terms of moving farther up the board, it figures to be tough for the Patriots. The Panthers lost badly on Sunday, keeping them with the worst record in the league at 1-9. (The Bears own that pick.)
The Cardinals, who currently sit in the No. 2 pick spot, might actually win some games going forward, based on how they've looked since Kyler Murray returned. They won in Week 10 but lost a narrow one in Houston on Sunday. They'll next play the Rams and then head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, both of which are winnable games. A head-to-head with Chicago in Week 16 will further help sort things out. (The Bears currently sit fourth with their own pick, just behind the Patriots.)
In the event of ties, strength of schedule will determine where teams pick in the draft. It's not worth getting too caught up in that order just yet, as everyone's strength of schedule will change weekly until the end of the season. For what it's worth, though, the Patriots' strength of schedule is currently .569, which is higher than Chicago's (.473), Arizona's (.540), Carolina's (.559) and the Giants' (.513). In this case, higher is not ideal, as the team with the lower strength of schedule would be given the higher pick. But again, for now, that doesn't mean too much.
Of course ... this all isn't that fun. The days of mapping out the road to the Super Bowl provided a lot more juice for everyone. Now, the players and coaches have to know that their own fans might be rooting for the team to lose in order to benefit the franchise in the long term. And as everyone surely knows, no draft pick is a sure thing.
Alas, with the Patriots staring at the reality of a wasted season, this is about all there is left.
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