by Scott Benson

San Francisco’s loss to Carolina on Sunday means that if the 2008 NFL Draft was held today, the New England Patriots would hold the second pick.

Everything went the Pats way this week as the Jets beat the Dolphins and the Rams beat the Falcons, a sequence of events that left the Niners, Atlanta, St. Louis and New York all tied in the Race to the Bottom with three victories apiece.

Once again, San Francisco’s lowly .484 strength of schedule (SOS) gives the Niners the edge, meaning at the moment they trail only the 0-12 Miami Dolphins as worst team in the league. They’re followed by the Falcons (fast risers, or droppers I guess, as losers of three straight), the Rams (in danger with three wins out of the last four) and the Jets, who dropped to number five from number two last week with their trashing of Miami.

Lurking right behind the three-win pack are the Bengals, Chiefs, Raiders and Ravens, all 4-8. The Bengals have the sixth pick by SOS, and the tie between Kansas City and Oakland is broken only by Kansas City’s .333 average against the rest of the AFC. The Ravens lose out as the 4-8 team with the toughest schedule.

Here’s this week’s chart:

They’re not on the chart, but there are another seven teams trailing this pack, all of them with 5-7 records. But clearly the nine teams shown are the current frontrunners for the first picks in the 2008 Draft.

Now, let’s take a quick look ahead to next weekend:


Minnesota at San Francisco – The Niners have been right in their last few games, so it was good to see them take a step back in Carolina, where any visiting team should have a reasonable chance to win. Now they return home to meet surging Minnesota, who all of a sudden could be the best team in the NFC North. But its the Vikings. I can’t help but feel like they’ll screw it up, but that might be just post Mike Tice-syndrome. Good news: San Francisco is 26th against the run.

St. Louis at Cincinnati – The Rams have been playing pretty well after spending half the season without a win, but I think we’d like to see them take the pipe this weekend. Cincinnati, just one loss behind the Niners, have a .479 strength of schedule, the easiest of all the teams on our chart this week.

Cleveland at NY Jets – The Jets are like the Rams – the Niners have the clear advantage in the SOS tiebreaker, and as long as they stay tied, its all good. So a Jets loss here only hurts the Patriots if the Niners somehow manage to beat Minnesota.

New Orleans at Atlanta – The Falcons are making a serious run at the Niners here, though they would still have to overcome that strength of schedule tiebreaker. New Orleans is a game and a tiebreaker (SOS) behind San Francisco, so we’d rather see the Saints falter.