Wednesday, December 27, 2006Lions lead race for No. 1
A number of scenarios must play out for Detroit to hold off Oakland for top pick in NFL Draft.
Mike O'Hara / The Detroit News
ALLEN PARK -- There is one foolproof way for the Lions to get the first pick in the 2007 NFL draft -- lose to the Cowboys Sunday and have Oakland beat the Jets.
If the Lions lose and the Raiders win, the Lions will have a 2-14 record and lock up the first pick on April 28. The Raiders would be 3-13.
It is more likely the Lions and Raiders will end their season with losses and finish with 2-14 records. Both teams are 12 1/2 -point underdogs.
If the Lions and Raiders are tied, the draft order will be decided by the tiebreaker formula -- and the odds swing heavily in favor of the Lions drafting first.
Strength of schedule is the first tiebreaker in the draft order for teams with the same record. A team that played a weaker schedule drafts first, based on the theory that the record was achieved against weaker teams.
If the tie isn't broken by strength of schedule, the next step is a coin flip.
In practical terms, the Lions go into the last week with a four-game lead over the Raiders in the tiebreaker. Including the Jets and Cowboys, the Lions' opponents have a 127-113 won-lost record. The Raiders' opponents are 131-109.
In the final week, there are 10 games involving teams the Lions played and eight involving Raiders opponents, not counting their own games with Dallas and Oakland.
In two games, the Lions played both teams -- Green Bay at Chicago and St. Louis at Minnesota. In four games, Oakland played both teams -- Arizona-San Diego, Cleveland-Houston, San Francisco-Denver and Pittsburgh-Cincinnati.
The last week features five common opponents for the Raiders and Lions -- Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and the Jets.
Some serious hair-splitting is required to find a way for the Lions to pick up five losses and drop into the second pick. Here are some factors that will decide the order:
The Green Bay-Chicago outcome means nothing because the Lions played both NFC North rivals twice. They'll add two games to the win column and two to the loss column.
Seattle-Tampa Bay is another game that means nothing. Both teams played Seattle but did not play Tampa Bay.
In Minnesota-St. Louis, a victory for Minnesota -- another NFC North team -- helps the Lions get the first pick. It would add two games to the opponents win column and one to the loss column because the Lions played Minnesota twice. A Minnesota loss adds a game to the Raiders' opponents loss column.
Buffalo-Baltimore represents a two-game swing. The Lions played Buffalo. The Raiders played Baltimore.
Atlanta (at Philadelphia) and New England (at Tennessee) played the Lions but not the Raiders.
Denver, San Diego and Kansas City, the Raiders' AFC West rivals, do not play each other. However, two games involve Lions' opponents -- Arizona at San Diego and San Francisco at Denver.
Arizona and San Francisco are heavy underdogs. If they lose, as expected, it will widen the gap between the Lions and Raiders. Jacksonville is at Kansas City.
Forget ties. Ties are for Christmas. There hasn't been a tie since the Atlanta-Pittsburgh game in 2002.
You can reach Mike O'Hara at (313) 982-3810 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org