Given we’ve slipped into November, it’s time to start looking at the rest of the league with a rooting interest. We’re just two months away from being football-less, and I promise it will sneak up on you quicker than you think.
Normally, we kick off our Rooting Guide series with at least some long-shot hope at the playoffs for the Detroit Lions, but this year we will hold no such delusions. With the Lions at 0-8, it’s sadly time for Tanking Season and a focused look at what other teams can do to ensure that the Lions stick at the pole position with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Lions did not get any help on Thursday night, with the 2-5 New York Jets falling to the 3-5 Indianapolis Colts. Worse yet, Jets quarterback Mike White—who had become an overnight sensation after leading New York to an unbelievable win over the Bengals last week—suffered an injury. It doesn’t appear to be long-term, but his status for Week 10 is still uncertain.
Anyway, let’s look forward to the rest of Week 9 and see which results would be favorable to the Lions’ draft position.
Note: We’re going to split these Rooting Guides by what benefits the Lions, and what harms the Rams because the Lions have Los Angeles’ first-round pick. Also, for the Lions’ portion, I’m just going to ignore every matchup between teams with four or more wins, as the Lions aren’t likely to reach that total of wins.
Good for the Lions
- Texans (1-7) vs. Dolphins (1-7) — We kick things off with this marquee matchup for draft order. This is a tough one to choose because both teams have winnable games in their remaining schedule. The Texans—in crappy AFC South—still have games against the Jets, Colts, Jaguars after this. The Dolphins: winnable contests vs. the Jets (x2) and Giants. Personally, I think the Dolphins are the better team, so I think they can pick up a few wins without needing this one. Root Texans.
- Falcons (3-4) vs. Saints (5-2) — Easy one. Root Falcons.
- Raiders (5-2) vs. Giants (2-6) —With all of the injuries New York is dealing with, they could be a legitimate threat to the Lions. The Raiders are talented, but the definition of dysfunctional. Root Giants.
- Bills (5-2) vs. Jaguars (1-6) — No one said these rooting guides have to be realistic. Root for the sad, hapless Jaguars.
- Vikings (3-4) vs. Ravens (5-2) — Ah, the two teams who beat the Lions on last-second field goals. Why did I bring that up, when I could have just written Root Vikings? Because it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this and misery loves company.
- Chargers (4-3) vs. Eagles (3-5) — Remember when the Eagles were a hapless, flailing team with a potential one-and-done head coach? Good times. Root Eagles.
- Cardinals (7-1) vs. 49ers (3-4) — Now is a good time to remind you that head-to-head does not matter in draft order. So the fact that the 49ers beat the Lions plays no part in this. The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule. The easier schedule picks first, which means it’s going to be tough for the Lions to win a tiebreaker, seeing as they have one of the toughest schedules in football. Root 49ers.
- Bears (3-5) vs. Steelers (4-3) — Pretend I didn’t type this. Root Bears.
Bad for the Rams
The one where we root for the Rams to lose
- Titans (6-2) vs. Rams (7-1) — Root Titans.
The ones where we root for the rest of the NFC West to gain ground on the Rams
- Cardinals (7-1) vs. 49ers (3-4) — The Cardinals could take over first place this week, and if they hold onto it for the rest of the season, they would force Matthew Stafford and the Rams to play on the road in Wild Card weekend against a division winner in a top-heavy NFC. That would make a first-round exit very realistic for LA and would result in the Lions’ pick being between 19-24. Root Cardinals for the rest of the season.
(Seattle has a bye week)
- Broncos (4-4) vs. Cowboys (6-1) — Sorry, y’all. You’re Cowboys fans now, as they are real contenders for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Root Cowboys.
Packers (7-1) vs. Chiefs (4-4) — If only there was an
immunizationvaccination to tolerate Aaron Rodgers. Sorry, y’all. You’re Packers fans now, as they are real contenders for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Root Packers.
- Falcons (3-4) vs. Saints (5-2) — Hard to know if Saints are true contenders with their QB issues, but we can hope. Root Saints.
If everything goes as planned, here’s what the top of the 2022 NFL Draft order would look like after Week 9.
- Lions: 0-8
- Dolphins (traded to PHI): 1-8
- Texans: 2-7
- Jets: 2-6
- Jaguars: 2-6
- WFT: 2-6
And for the Rams section, here’s what the top of the NFC standings would look like. (Note: It’s impossible to determine draft pick slot because it’s based on postseason performance.)
- Packers: 8-1
- Cardinals: 8-1
- Cowboys: 7-1
- Buccaneers: 6-2
- Rams: 7-2
- Saints: 6-2
In this scenario, the Rams would travel to Tampa Bay in the first round for an amazing Stafford vs. Tom Brady matchup in the Wild Card.