If you thought that Monday Night’s matchup between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers was going to be a dud, you were wrong. And if you were an Oakland Raiders fan? You were doubly wrong.
When Sterling Shepherd caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning with just 53 seconds remaining on the clock — giving the Giants a four-point lead — not only did it cap off an exciting game between terribly football teams, but it also put the Raiders into prime position for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Coming into the game, the 49ers were 2-7, while the Giants were 1-7 (tentatively tied with the Raiders for the worst record in the league).
Come Tuesday morning, however, only one team remained at the bottom of the standings: your 2019 Raiders. Obviously, the season is far from over, but here is where the No. 1 pick rankings currently stand heading into Week 10:
Oakland Raiders: 1-8
San Francisco 49ers: 2-8
New York Giants: 2-7
Arizona Cardinals: 2-7
Beyond those four, there’s a group of seven teams with just three wins this season — and, well, I didn’t include them here because you’re more optimistic than me if you think the Raiders are sniffing two more wins.
But what about their remaining schedule? This Sunday, they play the 2-7 Cardinals (we’ll get to this game in a second), but beyond that, the news is good for those of you rooting for the top pick:
@ Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1)
@ Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
vs. Denver Broncos (3-6)
@ Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
Right off the bat, you can chalk five of those up as losses (home games against Kansas City and Pittsburgh, road games against Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore). Of the seven remaining games, only the Cardinals game and the Broncos game seem even remotely winnable, which brings me to Sunday…
It’s hard to over-emphasize the significance of the game on Sunday. If the Raiders lose, it solidifies their stranglehold on the most important pick in next year’s draft. Of all the two-win teams, the Cardinals are by far the worst (San Francisco and New York could easily add another win before the season ends because they actually seem like they care and they have favorable matchups still to come) — not to mention their schedule is pretty brutal down the stretch.
By the time Sunday comes and goes, it seems as if we’ll have a pretty clear picture as to who will be in control of the 2019 NFL Draft — and as we saw with last year’s coin flip, the difference between two picks could be everything.