To get an update on where things stand, we turn to Austin Mock’s projections. Mock projects the score for every game and the final winning percentage for every team using his NFL betting model. The model phases out older data and uses data from this year as the season progresses. The simulation then runs 100,000 times after each day of games to give us, in this case, our projected top-10 draft order, plus each team’s projected win total and playoff chances.
Projected top 10 (as of Nov. 21)
A few thoughts on this week’s projections:
The Bears helped themselves — from a draft perspective, at least — with a late-game collapse in Detroit. A Week 11 win by the Bears would’ve been their fourth on the season, pushed their own current (not projected) draft slot to No. 7 and, with a few more victories, left them staring down the possibility of picking in the teens.
Instead, the Bears held steady in Mock’s projected order at No. 5 … and climbed back into the No. 1 spot via the Carolina pick acquired last March. They can thank the Giants for the latter development. Left for dead after dropping seven of eight games (and losing quarterback Daniel Jones for the season), the Giants scraped together a 31-19 upset of Washington with Tommy DeVito under center. That result moved the Giants down a spot, to No. 2, in our latest projections.
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2. It’s a ‘big’ week for the top 10
Relatively speaking, of course. But here’s what we have on the Week 12 schedule:
• Carolina at Tennessee: We’ve already covered the Panthers, but the Titans (6.0 projected wins, 0.5 percent playoff chance) are creeping toward the top five. Flip side, Mike Vrabel’s team plays five of its remaining seven games at home, so there might be talk inside that building of stringing together a miracle run down the stretch.
• New England at New York Giants: In recent years, the networks would’ve circled this game for a prime-time slot. This season, it’s (rightfully) buried amid a rather underwhelming 1 p.m. ET Sunday slate. This is a Tank Season special. The winner probably drops out of the race for No. 1.
• Los Angeles Rams at Arizona: The 4-6 Rams aren’t far off from being 6-4, but the record is what it is. And at this point, it’s bad enough to have them clinging to a top-10 pick. The Cardinals are No. 2 in our projections (and in the current draft order). Does that put them in QB-or-bust territory? Hmm …
3. Could Marvin Harrison Jr. change the Cardinals’ trajectory?
As has been discussed and will continue to be discussed, the Cardinals could have a Kyler Murray decision to make this offseason. The 26-year-old quarterback still has five years left on his $220 million contract (although any guaranteed money runs out before that fifth year, 2028). Arizona, meanwhile, is projected to land at No. 2 in April’s draft and also holds Houston’s first-round slot (projected at No. 23), courtesy of a ’23 draft trade.
That’s a perfect setup to nab a QB (Caleb Williams or Drake Maye), then come back later in Round 1 to find another plug-and-play starter who can help accelerate a rebuild. Except … well, which plan gives this franchise more hope? Williams/Maye plus whatever comes later in Round 1? Or Murray plus Marvin Harrison Jr. — and maybe a little sweetener from trading down to No. 3?
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Harrison is elite, full stop. Our draft guru, Dane Brugler, called him “the best wide receiver prospect that I have evaluated over the last decade.” He’d help shift that Arizona offense for the better, probably more quickly than any incoming QB could.
4. Welcome (back) to the top 10 …
… Las Vegas.
Props to Antonio Pierce for what he’s gotten out of this Raiders roster in his three games as interim coach. If the Raiders can head into their bye with a Week 12 upset of Kansas City, we’ll have no choice but to talk about them as wild-card contenders.
For now, though, they’re 5-6 and are projected to draft No. 9. Their projected win total (7.2) gives them at least two more wins over the final six games — a schedule that includes two with the Chiefs, a season finale against surging Denver and a visit from Minnesota. This Las Vegas season still feels like it could go either way.
5. How many playoff spots are actually up for grabs?
You obviously can’t see it on our top-10 chart above, but at the opposite end of the NFL standings, Mock’s model has nine teams with an 88.9 percent or better chance of making the playoffs. So, that leaves five additional spots in the 14-team playoff field for the taking.
The projected top seven in the NFC: Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, New Orleans, Dallas, Minnesota and Seattle — those are the same seven currently slotted into playoff spots by the standings, although the projections have flipped Minnesota and Seattle. The Eagles, Lions and 49ers all have better than a 93 percent chance of winning their respective divisions.
The projected top seven in the AFC: Kansas City, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Miami, Cleveland, Houston and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs (96.2 percent) and Dolphins (84.3 percent) have the strongest division-title shots. Missing from the projected field is Buffalo, which sits a half-game back in the wild-card race coming out of Week 11.
(Top photo of Tommy DeVito: Michael Owens / Getty Images)
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