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Week 14 games that will determine top of 2018 NFL Draft order

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As the best NFL clubs embark upon the December scramble for playoff position, the clubs outside of the postseason picture are sorting themselves out for the best picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Here's a look at five Week 14 games that will help determine the top of next year's draft order.

Packers at Browns

Records: Packers: 6-6; Browns: 0-12
Where they stand: Cleveland is on its way to clinching the No. 1 pick of the draft, holding a two-game lead for the NFL's worst record over the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers with four games to play. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will be out for at least one more week, which bodes well for the Browns' chances. It'll take at least two wins for the Browns to potentially fall out of the top spot in the draft order, though. As for the Packers' draft standing, they currently hold the No. 19 pick amid a logjam of half a dozen .500 clubs.
Looking ahead: Cleveland's last three opponents beyond Green Bay are a combined 20-16 (Ravens, Bears, Steelers). The Dec. 24 game against the 3-9 Bears will have the greatest impact on the early draft order.

Cowboys at Giants

Records: Cowboys: 6-6; Giants: 2-10
Where they stand: The Giants are currently in an ultra-tight position with San Francisco for the No. 2 pick, not only tied by record, but also with a very narrow margin in the tiebreaking strength-of-schedule rating (Giants .493, 49ers .500) -- the team with the lower SOS wins the tiebreaker. They'll take on the division rival Cowboys at an especially tumultuous juncture, having reinstalled Eli Manning as the starting quarterback after firing coach Ben McAdoo. The Cowboys are positioned squarely in the middle of the first round (tied for No. 15 pick).
Looking ahead: After the Cowboys, the Giants have a daunting task in facing the 10-2 Eagles, followed by games against two 5-7 teams, the Cardinals and Redskins. But if the Giants' 28th-ranked offense doesn't get a late-season revival under Manning's return and interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, every game will be an uphill climb.

49ers at Texans

Records: 49ers: 2-10; Texans: 4-8
Where they stand: The 49ers, coming off a win last week against the Bears, find themselves where they were a year ago at this time, trailing the Browns for the No. 1 pick. The 49ers are tied with the Giants for the NFL's second-worst record. This is by far San Francisco's most winnable remaining game, against a Texans team that has dropped four of its last five. The Texans are positioned in the No. 8 slot in the draft order, but the Browns hold the Texans' first-round pick (acquired via the trade for Deshaun Watson in the 2017 draft). San Francisco could do Cleveland a big favor by beating Houston.
Looking ahead: If San Francisco can't get a win this week against Houston, the possibility of a 2-14 season is a very real one. The 49ers finish the year against the Titans (8-4), Jaguars (8-4) and Rams (9-3).

Bears at Bengals

Records: Bears: 3-9; Bengals: 5-7
Where they stand: Chicago is tied with the Broncos and Colts with three wins, but with by far the strongest SOS rating of the three (.590), the Bears lose tiebreakers with both clubs and positioned sixth in the draft order. Barring a significant SOS shift over the last four weeks, the Bears will be on the wrong end of any potential tiebreakers. Chicago is on a five-game losing streak, and faces a Bengals team that is coming off a short week and injury-filled game against the Steelers. Cincinnati currently holds the ninth pick.
Looking ahead: The Bears' final three games come against the Lions, Browns and Vikings, with the Browns game potentially shaking up the top of the order.

Jets at Broncos

Records: Broncos: 3-9; Jets: 5-7
Where they stand: As losers of eight in a row, the NFL's longest losing streak other than winless Cleveland's, the Broncos' trajectory has continually driven them toward the top of the draft for two months. They now sit in a solid position for a top-five pick, while the Jets are currently tied for the 10th pick.
Looking ahead: Denver's remaining schedule is rather weak. None of its four remaining opponents has a winning record, and a key game for the top of the draft order looms ahead against the 3-9 Colts next week.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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