This is what a season that seemed to hold some promise of a return to the top of the AFC West with the possible regression of Denver, and Oakland team still one or two seasons away from relevance, and Kansas City being, well, the Chiefs, has come down to... Wondering how good of a draft choice the new coach will get to add to the team.
The Chargers stand at 2-7. Their remaining games are: Kansas City, @Jacksonville, Denver, @ Kansas City, Miami, @ Oakland, @ Denver. I see one more win on that schedule; perhaps 2, because you know, Chargers. That would get the team a 2015 record of 3-13, which ought to be good for a top 3 pick, if not the #1 pick.
So, can the team get the overall #1 pick next spring? Which other teams threaten to be even worse than the Chargers in 2015 and perhaps knock San Diego out of a top 3 pick? Here is the handicapping in order of threat:
Less of a Threat
Dallas Cowboys (2-7): While also at 2-7, this team has a great excuse for their 7 game losing streak; the loss of their franchise QB in Week 2 of the season. With Romo's return and the NFC Least still up for grabs (the Giants are 5-5), the ‘boys will be playing hard to win their division. 7-9 might just be good enough to do it. Remaining games: @Miami, Carolina, @Washington, @ Green Bay, NY Jets, @ Buffalo, Washington. Predicted Finish: 7-9 (Unless Romo gets hurt again.)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6): With 3 wins, this team is already one game back of the primary contenders for a top 5 draft choice. They are also only one game out in an AFC South race that also may produce a divisional "champion" with a 7-9 record. Bortles is playing for a contract and Bradley is coaching for a job. This team is probably good for 5 or 6 wins if the young talent on this squad stays interested. This Thursday's game against the Titans may determine how large of a threat they are to go into a funk for the rest of the season or put a few wins together and not be threat for 1st overall pick. Remaining games: Tennessee, CHARGERS, @ Tennessee, Indianapolis, Atlanta, @ New Orleans, @ Houston. Predicted Finish: 6-10 (With a strong caveat on losing to Tennessee Thursday. If that happens, and they lose to the Bolts the week after that, this team may not win a game the rest of the season, which would put them a top 5 draft position.)
More of a Threat
Baltimore Ravens (2-7): A team that had some bad injuries even before the season started and a depleted talent base across the board, they were still expected to fight the Bengals and Steelers for an AFC North title this year. While their record is the same as the Bolts, I think that a John Harbaugh coached team, with Joe Flacco at QB, is good enough for 2 or 3 more wins. Remaining games: St. Louis, @ Cleveland, @ Miami, Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, @ Cincinnati Bengals. Predicted Finish: 5-11
San Francisco 49ers (3-6): The ‘niners faithful may yet curse their flukey late night opening week win against the Vikings if they have their heart set on Goff. The team is now having issues pretty much in every aspect of its operations; a hole at QB, and talent drain at the skill positions and on defense, and coaching that seems to lack competence. Perhaps the team would still be in line for Goff with enough losses and Cleveland putting together a couple of good games. Remaining Games: @ Seattle, Arizona, @ Chicago, @ Cleveland, Cincinnati, @ Detroit, St. Louis Rams. Predicted Finish: 4-12
Detroit Lions (2-7): No, the Lions are not that good this year. Still, they are one season removed from an 11-5 record and they are playing against some really bad teams for the rest of the season. The Lions are nearly the NFC brother team of the Bolts in the Super Bowl era and it would fit in well with their franchise history to play themselves out of a top 3 pick. Remaining Games: Oakland, Philadelphia*, Green Bay, @ St. Louis, @ New Orleans, San Francisco, @ Chicago Bears. Predicted Finish: 5-11
* This is the morning game on Thanksgiving which the Lions always seem to do well in. Smart money will take the points, as the team seems to treat this game as its own personal Super Bowl.
Tennessee Titans (2-7) This team already cost Ken Whisenhunt his job. Their remaining schedule is brutal, except for two games against Jacksonville. Their end of season games against Houston and Indy will probably be against two teams fighting for their playoff lives. It is quite possible that the Titans will not win another game this season and complete the rarely achieved feat of finishing with back to back 2-14 records. Remaining Games: @ Jacksonville, Oakland, Jacksonville @ NY Jets, @ New England, Houston, @ Indianapolis. Predicted Finish: 3-13
Cleveland Browns (2-8): Already with the most losses in the NFL, the Browns have the hole shot at the #1 overall pick next spring. They have also declared that Johnny Manziel will be pushing the jalopy for the rest of 2015. This makes sense from a "figuring out what they have perspective". It also seems to indicate that Pettine has been given assurances that he will come back next year, no matter what or will be fired in January, no matter what. With only 6 games left to play and their remaining opponents, it could be that there is one more win for the Browns this season...or less. But perhaps the football gods may smile on the Bolts and Manziel plays some lights out football when they get back on the field in December. Remaining Games: Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Francisco, @ Seattle, @ Kansas City, Pittsburgh. Predicted Finish: 3-13
If I had to handicap it today, I would expect the top 5 picks next spring as:
- San Diego
- San Francisco
That might be interesting to see. San Francisco would probably make Cleveland a nice offer involving Kaepernick to keep Goff from getting drafted by the Browns. Detroit might do the same with Stafford.
Enjoy the end of the season, folks and start thinking about who you want coaching the team in 2016 and which awesome prospect Telesco will draft next year.