Hands up who thought Atlanta and Houston were genuine contenders to own the first pick in 2014?
It’s suddenly a reality with five weeks to go in the season.
Few teams are playing tougher than Tampa Bay right now (and big props to Mike Glennon who really looks the part), while even Jacksonville have picked up a couple of wins.
The Falcons and Texans, meanwhile, appear doomed.
And while the players (and coaches) have a point to prove in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, there’s a definite feel of “what’s the point?” surrounding the two teams who expected to compete for a Super Bowl going into the season.
How do you get that motivation back? Is it possible?
If you own either of those teams, do you even want to get it back?
Both clubs have enough talent to rebound quickly in 2014. Throw in a top-five draft pick (or even the #1 overall pick) and that becomes an even greater possibility.
Imagine J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the same defense. It could happen.
Even if you badly need a quarterback — can you pass on that?
This is how the top ten would look if the season ended today:
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9
#2 Houston Texans 2-9
#3 Atlanta Falcons 2-9
#4 Minnesota Vikings 2-8-1
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-8
#6 St. Louis Rams (via Washington 3-7)
#7 Cleveland Browns 4-7
#8 Buffalo Bills 4-7
#9 Oakland Raiders 4-7
#10 New York Giants 4-7
If San Francisco beats Washington tonight, the Rams would leapfrog the Buccs and own the #5 pick. Washington’s strength of schedule (0.497) is weaker than Tampa Bay’s (0.571).
The funny thing about that list is Cleveland, Buffalo and Oakland are all one game off a wild card spot in the AFC. Had the Raiders beaten the Tennessee Titans yesterday, they would’ve had possession of the #6 seed.
Instead, they’re in possession of a top-ten pick.
I’m not planning on doing any full first round mock drafts for a while, but here’s an early look at what those teams might plan to do based on the limited information we have.
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
#2 Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
#3 Atlanta Falcons – Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
#4 Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#6 St. Louis Rams (via Washington) – Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#7 Cleveland Browns – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
#8 Buffalo Bills – Re’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
#9 Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#10 New York Giants – Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
But hey, it’s still early.