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NFL Draft 2018: Bengals could end up with a first round pick outside the top 10

As the Bengals hopes of reaching the playoffs (or coming close) grow stronger, the odds of the team finishing with a high draft pick dwindle.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the Bengals’ win on Sunday against the Broncos, the team mathematically kept their hope for the playoffs alive. That is great for fans who are still holding onto the hope that this is the year. For those of us who already have our eyes on next year, that win caused a pretty big shift in where the Bengals could eventually be drafting.

Coming into Week 11 the Bengals were slotted at the fifth overall pick right in front of the Broncos. After defeating Denver, Cincinnati is currently at pick number eight, while the Broncos moved all the way up to fourth.

NFL Draft order heading into Week 15

# Team W L T W% SoS %
# Team W L T W% SoS %
1 Browns 0 13 0 0.000 0.5288
2 Giants 2 11 0 0.154 0.5144
3 Colts 3 10 0 0.231 0.4904
4 49ers 3 10 0 0.231 0.5192
5 Broncos 4 9 0 0.308 0.4854
6 Texans (pick belongs to CLE) 4 9 0 0.308 0.5121
7 Bears 4 9 0 0.308 0.5529
8 Buccaneers 4 9 0 0.308 0.5583
9 Bengals 5 8 0 0.385 0.4760
10 Washington 5 8 0 0.385 0.5240
11 Jets 5 8 0 0.385 0.5245
12 Dolphins 5 7 0 0.417 0.5485
13 Cardinals 6 7 0 0.462 0.4808
14 Raiders 6 7 0 0.462 0.5000
15 Chargers 7 6 0 0.538 0.4612
16 Cowboys 7 6 0 0.538 0.4856
17 Lions 7 6 0 0.538 0.4952
18 Bills 7 6 0 0.538 0.5000
19 Packers 7 6 0 0.538 0.5288
20 Seahawks 8 5 0 0.615 0.4808
Currently in playoffs
AFC Wild Card Ravens 7 6 0 0.538 0.4589
AFC West Chiefs (pick belongs to BUF) 7 6 0 0.538 0.4903
AFC WIld Card Titans 8 5 0 0.615 0.4444
NFC Wild Card Falcons 8 5 0 0.615 0.5534
AFC South Jaguars 9 4 0 0.692 0.4375
NFC Wild Card Panthers 9 4 0 0.692 0.5388
NFC South Saints 9 4 0 0.692 0.5388
NFC West Rams 9 4 0 0.692 0.4904
NFC North Vikings 10 3 0 0.769 0.4952
AFC East Patriots 10 2 0 0.833 0.5000
NFC East Eagles 11 2 0 0.846 0.4375
AFC North Steelers 11 2 0 0.846 0.4493

The one thing the Bengals do have going for them is their strength of schedule, which is used as a tiebreaker to decide how to order teams with the same record. The easier the strength of schedule, the earlier you pick in the draft.

Right now the Bengals strength of schedule sits at .475, which is tied for the second lowest of teams that aren’t currently seeded into thw playoffs. Also it doesn’t look like that will be getting better anytime soon. The Packers are without Aaron Rodgers, the Bills sat Tyrod Taylor for a guy who threw five interceptions in one half and the Texans lost Deshaun Watson for the season. Plus the Bengals have the benefit of having the Browns on their schedule twice to help pull that down.

Unfortunately, that brings us to the major issue to the Bengals finishing the season with a high draft pick. Their remaining schedule still has several winnable games. First off they take on the Browns this week, who plan on starting DeShone Kizer. Despite how entertaining it will be to see if there are any longing looks from Hue Jackson at AJ McCarron on the other sideline, another win really pushes the Bengals up the draft order. So many teams in the playoff hunt are trending downward, and while that actually gives the Bengals a decent shot at making the playoffs it means the margin is razor thin as far as finishing with another top 10 pick.

The Bengals do also play teams like the Steelers, Lions, Vikings and Ravens who all have a very good chance of beating the Bengals, but the Bengals could just as easily go 2-2 against those teams. Plus the Bears are also one of their remaining games pushing the Bengals further back in the draft order if they defeat them.

Just look at how many 4-6 (or worse) teams there are in the AFC right now. There’s a lot of average to below average play going on in the AFC and not a lot of contenders.

There are currently eight teams sitting at 4-6, and the Bengals are picking the second highest because of their strength of schedule. Most of them are bad teams that started off the season surprisingly strong, but are coming back to earth now. It honestly looks like the Bengals are probably one of the best teams of that bunch.

The offensive line has been protecting Andy Dalton slightly better, and the defense still looks capable of being a top unit in the league. Still, there are major issues that will be taken advantage of in the playoffs (if the Bengals manage to get there) like the Bengals not being able to run the ball or keep an offensive drive going long enough to get the defense some rest. Plus, the closer the Bengals get to the playoffs the more likely it is that Marvin Lewis somehow gets another contract with the team.

I’m not going to sit here and say I hope the Bengals lose the rest of their games, but come the end of the year when the Bengals either miss the playoffs by one or two games or they make it miraculously, I’m going to feel like the Bengals finished in no man’s land. We had to sit through a frustrating season, and we don’t even get the benefit of selecting one of the top talents?

Well, it’s still early. We’ll see how this plays out, but don’t expect the Bengals to have a top 10 pick locked up.