The bottom of the league is so far and away worse than those in the middle, its practically unprecedented. The worst team gets first pick and Carolina and Arizona hold the wheel. NFL Week 8 brings clarity.
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Earlier in the month, we delved into the top teams in the NFL and when they might lose their next game. It was a brief glimpse at the Super Bowl contenders and how they stand apart from the rest of the league. Something even more exciting has also now been revealed.
Heading into NFL Week 8, an even more drastic gulf has emerged between the rest of the league and the teams vying, not for the championship, but for the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. We felt as though the top of the sport was tiered rather precipitously, but that’s nothing compared to what is going on at the bottom.
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In Week 7, all of the following happened:
- The one-win Bears won handily at home.
- The one-win Patriots vanquished the Bills.
- The one-win Giants held court, securing their second win.
- The one-win Broncos did the same.
That means, after less than two months, just two teams remain with fewer than two wins. The Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers have a leg up (or down) on the entire rest of the NFL. So that begs the question. If either team is going to win a (next) game, when will it happen? Who is the favorite to be first because they are worst?
NFL Week 8: First (Pick) Is The Worst
Todd Salem: No One Stops Carolina
Arizona at 1-5 has looked feisty many times this season, especially early on. It’s why, despite the second-worst record in the sport, their point differential ranks 28th. However, the upcoming schedule is not overly friendly. The Cardinals may not be favored in a single remaining game. The easiest potential for a win is a road contest at Chicago in the middle of winter in Week 16.
Obviously, as we knew when investigating when the top teams might lose next, any team can lose to any other in this league. That’s just how it works week to week. But realistically, prior to Week 16, I could see the Cards pulling an upset over Atlanta or Los Angeles at home in the middle weeks. Both of those teams are better though. It would certainly be an upset. At Houston could also be winnable if the Texans don’t get rolling. There are avenues to multiple more wins for Arizona but nothing easy.
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What about Carolina? The Panthers have yet to win a single game. Their quarterback has looked overmatched; their offense lacking weapons; their defense just trying to hang on. Ironically, if we recall, Carolina traded its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago in the deal to acquire said quarterback in this year’s draft. It’s not often a team ends up with the first overall selection in back-to-back seasons, and it won’t happen here either! It’s too early to declare anything about Bryce Young, but boy does this have the potential to be devastating.
For Carolina to end up with the worst record and owe the top draft pick to the Bears, it would have to stay below Arizona’s win total. And that may be asking a lot. While the Cardinals’ remaining schedule seems pretty difficult, the Panthers’ does not. Of course, the Panthers are the underdog against everyone, being the worst team, but we see some winnable contests upcoming.
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Coming out of the bye, Carolina faces Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago three consecutive weeks. Tennessee, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans are three straight later in the season, though all coming on the road. In fact, while Arizona has the second-hardest remaining schedule in the NFL, Carolina’s is one of the easiest.
We know Chicago is sitting pretty either way, with its own pick as well as Carolina’s. But do you think the Panthers manage to “hold on” to the top spot, meaning the bottom spot, or does someone else edge them out?
Dan Salem: Arizona “Wins” This Race
Perhaps it’s my naive desire to not be so completely wrong about these bad football teams, but I still think Carolina is going to find some footing and win a few games. Their easy schedule speaks to this possibility, assuming we ignore how they’ve played thus far. The Panthers are not actively trying to lose, because they don’t own their first round pick and they’ve presumably already drafted their quarterback of the future, even if Bryce Young is struggling out of the gate. I give Carolina two or three wins by season’s end, meaning they relinquish the top spot in the draft to another team and Chicago must earn that pick themselves.
The Bears pose another interesting scenario, because one would assume they too like their quarterback. Just how good is Caleb Williams and can he possibly overcome the USC quarterback curse? Seriously, when is the last time a USC quarterback truly thrived in the NFL? Does Mark Sanchez count as thriving? How about Sam Darnold? We likely have to go all the way back to Carson Palmer to find one who achieved something close to their lofty expectations. Despite these facts, I can see the Bears punting on Justin Fields in favor of Williams. They’ve got a hill to climb, but incentive to reach its peak in terms of losing more.
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All that said, I still believe the Arizona Cardinals “win” the top pick in the draft and continue to tank this season. Nearly everyone expected them to do so and here we are in NFL Week 8 with a competitive team that has scrounged out one victory and has a very challenging schedule remaining. The Cardinals are bad, but they are playing like a real tanker. Just good enough to avoid a pointing finger, but bad enough to lose nearly every game.
Both Arizona and Chicago have reason to lose, while the Panthers have reason to win so they avoid embarrassment. The Patriots, Giants, and Broncos all fall somewhere in the middle. Now that Bill Belichick has his 300th win, I can see the Patriots with reason to lose. Denver and the Giants likely want to win, because they are both tied to their questionable quarterbacks for at least one more season. My instincts tell me this is Arizona’s pick to lose, but damn the Panthers have looked bad. At least our other losing teams have appeared feisty at times. Not Carolina. No Sir. What saves them is the poor company they keep in the NFC South. Will Caleb Williams buck the trend of lackluster USC quarterbacks in the NFL? Chicago or Arizona will find out the hard way.
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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