The New England Patriots are having one of their worst seasons in franchise history. They currently have a 2-10 record and are ranked last in the AFC East.
But despite being nearly eliminated from playoff contention, the Patriots still have something to play for — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Let’s look at how the Patriots can land the coveted top selection.
How the New England Patriots Can Land the No. 1 Pick
As of Dec. 7, 2023, the Patriots are one game behind the Carolina Panthers (1-11) for the worst record in the NFL. Even if both teams had the same record, the Panthers have the edge over the Patriots for the first overall pick, based on the strength of schedule tiebreaker.
Strength of schedule is calculated by adding the win percentage of each team’s opponents. The team with the lower percentage gets the higher pick. The Panthers have a .525 strength of schedule, while the Patriots have a .521 SOS.
The Patriots also have to contend with other teams that are close behind them in the standings, such as the Arizona Cardinals (3-10), Washington Commanders (4-9), and the Chicago Bears (4-8). Depending on their final records and the tiebreakers, these teams could potentially surpass the Patriots in the draft order.
New England’s remaining games are against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5), Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), Denver Broncos (6-6), Buffalo Bills (6-6), and the New York Jets (4-8). The Patriots rank dead last in scoring and are unlikely to win any of these games.
Still, New England needs help in order to land the top overall pick. Carolina has a one-game advantage, and their remaining strength of schedule is stronger than New England’s. The only way the Patriots can finish above the Panthers is to have Carolina win at least one game. Even then, strength of schedule still remains an issue.
Carolina is slated to play New Orleans (5-7), Atlanta (6-6), Green Bay (6-6), Jacksonville (8-4), and Tampa Bay (5-7). If each team wins more than New England’s remaining foes, then there’s a chance for the Patriots to get the schedule advantage. But Carolina still has to win one of their remaining games.
Carolina has no incentive to continue losing since their first-round pick belongs to the Bears. The Panthers already fired head coach Frank Reich and are desperate to make 2023 first-overall pick Bryce Young play better. However, the only benefit Carolina will see from continued losing comes after Round 1.
If Carolina and New England win multiple games and enter into a tie with Arizona or one of the five teams with four wins, then strength of schedule, head-to-head matchups, common game win rate, and strength of victory will all come into play.
All of these factors rarely get exhausted with the top overall pick. However, the 2024 NFL Draft doesn’t have the same motivated team with the worst record. Usually, a team in Carolina’s shoes would do whatever it takes to land Drake Maye or Caleb Williams.
Instead, New England might just luck into their choice of a premier playmaker by continuing to lose.
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