In the race for the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, there is plenty for Patriots fans to consider this weekend.
Friday’s Oregon-Washington showdown was a compelling game on the schedule, as the Patriots could face a decision between quarterbacks Bo Nix of Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington. And Saturday’s Georgia-Alabama game will have no shortage of NFL prospects, many of whom could appeal to the Patriots.
But with college football entering the post-regular season/pre-bowl stretch, this week’s focus will be largely on NFL games that figure to have an impact on New England’s draft position. With that in mind, here are three games for Patriots fans to keep an eye on:
Miami (8-3) at Washington (4-8), Sunday at 1 p.m. (Fox): The Commanders are hanging around the fringes of the race for the No. 1 pick; they hold No. 5 overall, part of a three-team group (including the Bears and Giants) at 4-8. But a win over the Dolphins should effectively end any hopes they might have of landing the No. 1 spot. If the Commanders lose, they still could challenge for a spot in the draft’s top five, given that they have games left against the 49ers and Cowboys.
Arizona (2-10) at Pittsburgh (7-4), Sunday at 1 p.m.: The Cardinals hold the No. 2 pick and are the Patriots’ most formidable challengers for second position. In terms of strength of schedule the rest of the way, it’s pretty much a tossup: Arizona has five games left, with four of them against teams .500 or better; while the Patriots have six games left, four against teams .500 or better. When it comes to Sunday, however, New England fans need to be rooting for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.
Carolina (1-10) at Tampa Bay (4-7), Sunday at 4:05 p.m.: While I’m cautious to use the phrase “winnable game” for a 1-10 team, this could be a breakthrough week for the woeful Panthers. Interim coach Chris Tabor took over the head coaching duties this week after Frank Reich was fired; since 2018, NFL teams have gone 8-5 in their first game with an interim head coach. They’re also facing an inconsistent Tampa Bay team that’s lost six of its last seven. A Carolina win and a New England loss would leave both teams at 2-10, putting the Patriots and Bears (who have Carolina’s pick) in a dead heat for the No. 1 slot with five weeks left.