Records:Texans: 7-7; Titans: 3-11
Where they stand:Tennessee's chances of closing the season on a four-game slide, and securing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, went up with the news that rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota will miss this week's game against Houston and perhaps the club's finale at Indianapolis, as well. Tennessee is turning to Zach Mettenberger (0-8 as a starter) at quarterback vs. Houston. The Titans' strength-of-schedule (.490) currently gives them a tiebreaker edge over Cleveland for the top pick.
Looking ahead: The Titans certainly won't face a team that's unbeatable in the final two weeks. Someone will have to win the Titans' last game against the Colts, but neither of them are playing like they can. During a three-game losing streak, Indianapolis has been beaten by an average score of 37-12. This is shaping up to be the game most likely to cost Tennessee the top pick, particularly if Mariota returns.
Records:Browns: 3-11; Chiefs: 9-5
Where they stand:Nothing about this game suggests Cleveland won't keep the pressure on Tennessee for the top pick with another loss. Kansas City is on an eight-game winning streak, hasn't lost at home since Oct. 11, and has everything to play for. As the weeks go by, it becomes increasingly hard for the Browns to close the strength-of-schedule gap on Tennessee. Cleveland opponents have a .520 winning percentage, and its last two opponents will impact that in the wrong way for Cleveland. It's looking more likely that the Browns will need the league's worst record outright in order to pick No. 1.
Looking ahead:Cleveland hosts Pittsburgh to finish the season, another playoff contender that won't be caught flat if the game has any impact on postseason seeding. Based strictly on competition, a 3-13 finish is more likely for Cleveland than Tennessee.
Records:Steelers: 9-5; Ravens: 4-10
Where they stand:Baltimore is currently knotted in a four-way tiebreaker for the No. 3 overall pick among 4-10 teams separated only by strength of schedule. Assuming the Ravens lose to a far superior Steelers team on Sunday, they could have a chance to break from the pack. Baltimore's .490 strength of schedule, at least for now, puts GM Ozzie Newsome in the tiebreaker driver's seat in that group.
Looking ahead:The Ravens finish on the road with another playoff team in Cincinnati that is 5-2 at home this season. Baltimore has the toughest two-week finish among all teams listed here and, like Cleveland, would have to pull off a significant upset to lose draft standing. Of course, if the Bengals are resting their starters in Week 17, perhaps the season finale become much more winnable for the Ravens.
Records:49ers: 4-10; Lions: 5-9
Where they stand:There are four NFL clubs entering this week with a 4-10 record, and this game figures to have a big impact on how the top 10 picks shake out. In order to position themselves for the highest pick possible, the 49ers need their tiebreaker competition -- Dallas, San Diego and Baltimore -- to join the five-win club. Why? Because entering this week, San Francisco's strength-of-schedule (.571) is not only the highest among the four-win teams, but the highest in the entire NFL as well.
Looking ahead:San Francisco closes with a 6-8 Rams team that is showing a late-season pulse. Detroit finishes at Chicago, also 5-9. If both enter the final week with identical records, that game will determine which of them ends up in the NFC North cellar and, by extension, which gets to turn in a draft card before the other.