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Can the Colts lose the top pick?

12/19/2011

Can the Colts lose the top pick in the April draft if they wind up winning a second time and tie with Minnesota, St. Louis or both for the NFL's worst record?

The draft-order tiebreaker is strength of schedule. The team that faced a weaker schedule based on the season’s results gets the higher pick.

Jason Vida of ESPN Stats and Info looked it over and gave me this:

The Colts still have the inside track based on worst strength of schedule, but it's close enough that the other two could catch them if enough of their past opponents lose and the Colts' past opponents win (especially since the Rams last two games are against 10-win teams).

So the Colts currently have one fewer win and have played the "easiest schedule."

Strength of Schedule of Games Already Played

Colts (1-13) -- .544 (106-89)

Rams (2-12) -- .564 (110-85)

Vikings (2-12) -- .587 (115-81)

But the Rams' strength of schedule is guaranteed to get harder over the last two weeks, decreasing their chances of "winning" any tiebreakers in the draft order.

Full Season Strength of Schedule

Colts (1-13) -- .538 (120-103)

Vikings (2-12) -- .567 (127-97)

Rams (2-12) -- .588 (130-91)

The easiest route to the No. 1 pick is to stay a game worse than the Vikings and Rams.

Let's say the Colts win another game, Thursday night against the Texans or Jan. 1 at Jacksonville, and the Vikings finish with two losses.

Then Indianapolis would "benefit" from teams the Vikings play this season winning, to make their schedule tougher, and from teams the Colts play this season losing, to make their schedule easier.

Both Indianapolis and Minnesota played the four teams of the NFC South and Kansas City, so those will cancel out.

Beyond those opponents then, here are teams Minnesota has played or will play. Wins by these teams will help the Colts in a draft-position tie-breaker:

  • Chicago

  • Detroit

  • Green Bay

  • Arizona

  • Washington

  • Denver

  • Oakland

  • San Diego

Beyond common opponents here are Indianapolis’ 2011 opponents. Losses by these teams will help the Colts in a draft-position tie-breaker:

  • Houston

  • Jacksonville

  • Tennessee

  • Baltimore

  • Cincinnati

  • Cleveland

  • Pittsburgh

  • New England