by Scott Benson

Last week we debuted “If The AFC Playoffs Began Today“, which will track the American conference pennant race over the next eight weeks (counting today).

Afterwards, our friend Ozzy suggested we also flip things upside down to see how to the Race to the Bottom is going.

This is of particular interest to Oz and others because during last April’s NFL Draft, the Patriots traded one of their first round picks (#28, which became lineman Joe Staley) for San Francisco’s fourth round pick (#110, which became Randy Moss) and the Niners first round pick in the 2008 draft.

At this point, it’s an understatement to say you’d be plenty happy with Staley for Moss even up, considering that Moss could end up getting MVP votes later this year. Naturally, at the time of the deal, the real plum was the Niners ’08 first rounder.

Opinion was split on where that pick would land. Some noted the Niners’ strong finish in ’06 and wondered whether, in the relatively weak NFC, the Pats would get much of an upgrade at all. Others were more skeptical, thinking San Francisco would wind up in the middle of the NFL pack at worst case scenario, and the Pats would easily move up into the Top 20.

Then Spygate happened, and the Pats lost their own ’08 first round pick in the melee. The Niners pick became even more significant to Pats fans, who thought it might be kind of funny if the punished Pats ended up with a top pick anyway. This was tempered a bit by San Francisco’s 2-0 start, but the Niners have gone on to drop six straight, and it looks like there’s at least a chance that Pats fans could end up livin’ the dream after all.

So we’ll follow it week to week, with our handy spreadsheet:

First, I should explain what we have here. This is a listing of the thirteen teams with the worst records in the NFL to date. They’re listed in order of how they would select if the NFL draft was held today.

The first few columns should be self explanatory. Games played, win and loss record, and winning percentage. The first draft tiebreaker and W/L percentage is SOS, or strength of schedule. Here you see the combined winning percentage of the team’s opponents to date. If teams are still tied there, we move on to winning percentage in division, and then in conference. The current percentages are listed.

The next one is a coin flip. I’m working on a column for that. Maybe winning percentage of coin flips to date?

The final column is the combined winning percentages of each team’s remaining opponents. This might help us see which teams have the hardest schedules the rest of the way, and as a result, the inside track on the top pick in next year’s draft.

So what does the spreadsheet tell us this week?

It’s looking pretty good for the Pats, as they would pick fourth if the draft was held this week. The Niners are one of four teams tied at 2-6, but they get the fourth slot because they sucked against an easier schedule.

Since we’re discussing sucking, I would be remiss were I not to mention the New York Jets, proud owners of a 1-8 record, and presently, the pick just ahead of the Patriots. A big part of living the dream here is the Patriots picking ahead of the Jets, for myriad reasons we have detailed here previously. So we need a little help at this point, and I wonder how much we’re going to get, since the Jets are still to face seven teams (including Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cleveland, Tennessee and the Patriots) with a combined winning percentage of .649. The Jets could live the dream of losing 15 friggin’ games, though they have a major test against the even shittier Dolphins coming up.

The Niners, on the other hand, have eight games against teams that are a combined .400. They still have games with the 0-8 Rams, the 2-6 Bengals, and two against the 3-5 Cardinals. When you’re in a Race to the Bottom, even one win might push you right out of the top (bottom) ten. This pick might look sort of mediocre before we’re finished, unless the Niners can dig down deep and find a way to quit on Mike Nolan. One thing that would help is divisional losses; the Niners are going nowhere fast with that smart .667 clip. Something has to give tomorrow night when San Francisco faces Seattle. How bad is the NFC West when the fourth worse team in football is winning two out of three against it?

Looking at the rest of the chart, the Raiders are a real threat to slide ahead of the Niners as they play out the string against a combined .563. Only the Jets and 3-5 Eagles have a harder schedule ahead of them.

We’ll take a look at this again once this week’s results have been recorded, so be sure to tune in.