The Los Angeles Rams advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs after easily disposing of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. That matters to Detroit Lions fans, of course, because the Rams’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft is currently owned by Detroit. The further along they make it in the playoffs, the worse Detroit’s draft pick gets.
So let’s look ahead to this weekend’s games to see how we can optimize that pick with the best possible results from each playoff contest.
In order to figure out who to root for, let’s quickly break down how NFL Draft order is calculated in the playoffs. Basically, the NFL takes all the teams eliminated in a specific round (ie: Wild Card round, Divisional round, Conference Championships), and places them in order of regular season record. The teams with the worst record are placed above the others in draft order. If two eliminated teams finished with identical records, the tiebreaker is strength of regular season schedule, with the easier schedules placed higher in draft order.
Picks 1 through 24 have already been settled, so here’s a look at where the eight remaining teams land, as ranked by their regular season schedule, worst to first.
- Bengals: 10-7 (.472 strength of schedule)
- 49ers: 10-7 (.500)
- Bills: 11-6
- Titans: 12-5 (.472)
- Rams: 12-5 (.483)
- Chiefs: 12-5 (.538)
- Buccaneers: 13-4 (.467)
- Packers: 13-4 (.479)
So the best way to optimize the Rams’ pick here is to have as many of the teams currently above the Rams in this rankings advance to the next round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible for all four teams. For example, the Titans and Bengals play each other on Saturday, so there is no way the Rams can jump both of them in draft order. That means Pick 25 is out of the question for the Rams. However, Pick 26 is possible, so let’s get there.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sunday, 3 p.m. ET — NBC
Who to root for: Buccaneers
The first, obvious domino that has to fall is the Rams losing. Done.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers — Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET — FOX
Who to root for: 49ers
Like I need to give you another reason to root against the Packers. With a 49ers win and a Rams loss, Los Angeles will jump San Francisco in draft order.
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET — CBS
Who to root for: Bills
The only way for the Rams to jump the Bills in draft order is if LA drops out of the playoffs a round before the Bills do. Easy.
If these results happen as played out above, here’s how the draft order would look from Picks 25-28:
25. Loser of Bengals/Titans
And just for completion’s sake, here are the other possible draft scenarios, assuming the Rams lose.
Note: We’re just going to assume the Titans beat the Bengals to keep things simple. The result of that game will not impact the Rams’ position, but would change the picks above them.
If Packers win, but Chiefs still lose:
If Packers lose, but Chiefs win:
If Packers and Chiefs win:
Or, you could just root for Matthew Stafford knowing that the Lions should be able to get the same level of player regardless of whether they’re picking 26 or 32. Your choice.