The Hardest Strength of Schedule in the NFL Could Screw the Bears Out of a Higher Draft Pick

Justin Fields

The Chicago Bears took last week off (and so did I). But we’re both back to work and looking to close the year with some good vibes while also pivoting some of our attention to the future.

Unfortunately, while taking some time off, the Bears saw their NFL Draft stock take a hit this weekend. The Rams beating the Raiders on Thursday Night Football was helpful in getting Chicago’s football team toward a clear path to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the Broncos losing to the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon threw cold water on those dreams. At least, it did for the moment. Denver’s plunge has the Bears picking third overall. It’s not bad, but it could be better.

Here is what the draft order for non-playoff teams looks like going into Monday Night Football:

You might be wondering why the Broncos get the edge over the Bears even though the two teams have the same record. The answer? Chicago’s strength of schedule — which is the toughest in football based on opponent’s winning percentage — is hurting the Bears’ draft stock. Go figure. Not only are the Bears battling through a season in which eight of their opponents are currently in playoff position, but their rebuilding efforts are also taking a hit because of it. Good grief!

An explanation from the league when it comes to draft positioning tie-breakers:

In situations where teams finished the previous season with identical records, the determination of draft position is decided by strength of schedule — the aggregate winning percentage of a team’s opponents. The team that played the schedule with the lowest winning percentage will be awarded the higher pick.

If the teams have the same strength of schedule, division or conference tiebreakers are applied. If the divisional or conference tiebreakers are not applicable, or ties still exist between teams of different conferences, ties will be broken the following tie-breaking method:

  • Head-to-head, if applicable
  • Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games (minimum of four)
  • Strength of victory in all games
  • Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed in all games
  • Best net points in all games
  • Best net touchdowns in all games
  • Coin toss
  • Frankly, I’m rooting for a situation to get down all the way to a coin toss. But it might not even get to it.

    The Broncos and Rams play on Christmas Day. And while that game might be a stinker based on those two teams’ current records, it is one we’ll watch with great interest. Because a Broncos win on Christmas, coupled with a Bears loss on Christmas Eve, could put the Bears in full control of its own draft destiny. Of course, the importance of that game depends on what happens this week and in the other games remaining on the schedule. Nevertheless, it is something we’ll need to watch intently as the season comes to a close.

    In any case, the Bears still appear to be in a great position to draft an impact talent. Selecting third puts GM Ryan Poles in a solid spot to take Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson. Or perhaps Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is the apple of this front office’s eye. Maybe there will still be trade-down options that present themselves. The extra draft capital would be nice if the Bears can get it. In any case, things are looking good for this team’s draft positioning. Even if their strength of schedule might end up hosing them out of the best possible spot.

    written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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