With three weeks left in the NFL's 2016 regular season, here's a look at which teams are in contention to make the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, and the picks that immediately follow.
First and goal: Cleveland Browns
Remaining opponents:Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers.
The skinny: Cleveland's grip on the No. 1 overall pick tightened with its loss 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers (1-12) are a game behind the Browns for the top pick and can't get higher than the No. 2 pick without a Browns win. However, the gap between Cleveland's strength-of-schedule rating (.569) and San Francisco's (.497) widened quite a bit over the weekend. With just three weeks to go, it's likely that the 49ers will finish with the lower rating, which would knock the Browns into the No. 2 pick if the two clubs finish with identical records (the team with the lower SOS picks first if there's a tied record). The Browns can't clinch the No. 1 pick next week, even if they lose and the 49ers win, because San Francisco has the edge in SOS. Cleveland's offense is showing no signs of helping this team crack the win column. Robert Griffin III's return from injured reserve Sunday provided no spark, and the Browns have averaged fewer than 10 points per game over the last five weeks.
Still in the game: San Francisco 49ers
Remaining opponents:Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks.
The skinny:With an overtime loss on Sunday to the New York Jets, which was arguably the 49ers' best remaining chance for a win, the club stayed on the Browns' heels for the top pick. San Francisco travels to Atlanta (8-5) with a 29th-ranked offense that will try to keep pace with the Falcons' No. 3-ranked unit. It's not impossible for a team other than Cleveland or San Francisco to land the No. 1 pick, but it's looking very much like a two-club race.
Jaguars (2-11):On an eight-game losing skid, and with two of three games remaining on the road, the Jaguars look like a near certainty for yet another top-five draft pick. With three AFC South games left, Jacksonville could play spoiler role in a tightly contested division with one more win, and still be assured of picking in the top four selections with a 3-13 season.
Bears (3-10):The Bears dropped a close game to the Detroit Lions and were competitive with the NFC North leader. Games against three teams with winning records remain (Packers, Redskins, Vikings), but RB Jordan Howard is closing out his rookie season in impressive form and the Bears have the NFL's 7th-ranked defense. With the No. 4 pick of the draft as of this week, consider Chicago more likely to move down than up from here.
Jets (4-9):Beating the 49ers in overtime put the Jets in a tie with the Rams for the NFL's fifth-worst record (the Titans hold the Rams' pick). Like the Jaguars, the Jets have nothing but divisional opponents remaining. The Jets, however, have a tougher challenge in the AFC East with 8-5 Miami and 10-2 New England upcoming in the next two weeks.
Titans (7-6):As Tennessee tries to make its way into the playoffs, the club will also be pulling for the Rams to lose. The worse the Rams finish, the higher Tennessee will pick in their place, thanks to the trade last spring that gave the Rams the chance to draft Jared Goff. Los Angeles (4-9) looked listless in a 42-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the final game of Jeff Fisher's tenure, and is tied with the Jets for the NFL's fifth-worst record. The Rams' strength-of-schedule rating (.518) is significantly higher than the Jets' (.476), which doesn't bode well for Tennessee's tiebreaker outcome if the Rams and Jets finish the year with the same record.