The race for a top draft pick
Two weeks left in the season and the battle for the No.1 overall pick in the 2014 draft is now in full flow. Message boards are full of conspiracy theories and intentions to lose games but the past week showed once again that any NFL team can pull out a win against anyone at any time in Pete Rozelle's dream of Any Given Sunday.
Right now there are eight teams really in contention for a seat at the top table in New York next spring and the Bucs right now would be in the 7th spot based on draft tie-breakers which has something to do with opponents' strength of schedule.
Houston leads the way at 2-12 and a losing streak that encompasses all 12 of those defeats. Texans beat-writers have been banned from using the phrase "we have a problem" as it went past that stage in early November. The coach is gone, they still have Matt "Pick Six" Schaub on the roster and interim coach Wade Phillips faces games against Denver and at Tennessee to complete the schedule. They surely have the No.1 overall pick sewn up now.
The Washington Redskins are at 3-11 and have "rested" their quarterback in either an attempt for the coach to get fired (and hence $7M of severance pay) or to get the No.2 pick. The only trouble is that they trade it to the Rams in 2012 to acquire RG III in the first place so there really is no hope, no idea and no chance in the nation's capital right now. They play at home to Dallas and at the Giants so there is a chance they could sneak a win to get to 4-12.
Leaving the Bucs to one side for now, the Cleveland Browns are at 4-10 with games on the road against the Jets and the Steelers. They also have the ultimate weapon in an attempt to move up the draft charts in that they can bring Brandon Weeden in from the bench to lose a game. They are the Bucs' biggest rivals of the four-win teams right now.
Atlanta are at 4-10 and must have been gutted to sneak that win against the Redskins last weekend. They are in San Francisco and then home to Carolina to finish so also look likely to be in 4-12 mix at the end of the season with two high-win opponents to bolster their strength of schedule percentage. C'mon Matty Ice, you can get one more win surely.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have totally blown their seemingly-secure hold on the first pick since returning from Wembley and now sit at 4-12 with games against Tennessee and on the road in Indianpolis to finish. Chad Henne is one of those quarterbacks who is efficient enough to win games for a team but will never be regarded as a realistic starter.
The Oakland Raiders have just clinched their 11th straight non-winning season (the curse of Super Bowl XXXVII strikes again) and they always seem to fire their coach at the end of the year. They have games in San Diego and home to Denver to complete their current 4-10 mark and knowing the Raiders, will of course screw things up for themselves by winning one of those.
The Vikings are at 4-9-1 thanks to kissing their sister against Green Bay a few weeks ago and really hurt their chances by scoring nearly 50 against the Eagles last Sunday. They are in Cincinnati and home to Detroit to finish.
Which brings us to our own 4-10 Buccaneers facing road trips to St.Louis and New Orleans. The Rams are the most Katy Perry team in the NFL (that's hot and cold to you JD) so there is the chance the Bucs could catch them on an ice day and sneak a win in their Dome. But more realistically it is a pair of losses to complete the schedule and probably at least the No.3 pick in the 2014 draft.
So it is root for the Raiders, Jaguars, Browns and Falcons to win the next two weeks, watch the college bowl games and start thinking of who will have their picture taken with Roger Goodell on stage in New York next year. The last time the Bucs had the No.3 pick they took Gerald McCoy in 2010 which is one good omen.