December is an important month for NFL teams -- I've heard it been called movement month by some, but that's sort of cheesy, so I'm not going to call it that.
These last four games could go a long way in both directions. For teams looking to make it into the playoffs, not only are wins crucial, but momentum is, as well. Teams hitting their stride at the right time is almost as important as them being good enough to make the postseason. We've seen teams before, say the New York Giants with both of their recent championships, where getting hot at the right time, even if it's from barely squeaking in, could be all you need to be crowned champion in the end.
But sometimes it's the other way around. Sometimes the importance of December for teams lies in what they don't do more than what they could do. I feel like I'll have to get into the topic of tanking in more detailed form, since it has been such a hot-button conversation lately, but for teams that have already been eliminated from playoff contention (or close to it), losing in the month of December goes towards another kind of "keeping pace."
That pace is for the better draft picks.
When we talk about teams getting better draft picks, sure, the higher the pick in the order the better, but there are times where we're just guessing at what a team might need. For other teams, who have specific needs -- say a quarterback -- losing becomes paramount, and mediocrity of a final record becomes the enemy, as they fight for position against teams who may also want to select a quarterback or some other crucial position of need.
With that, these are three teams that must lose this weekend and beyond, for a variety of important reasons.
I know they just played on Thursday Night Football so they already lost this week, but I have to mention the Jaguars first because them losing the rest of their games truly is the most important of any team in the NFL.
The Jags' front office and coaching staff believed their own lie when they decided to re-sign and trust quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles had an outlier of a turnover-free season two years ago, and they allowed themselves to believe situations more than genuine results.
The real results haven't been pretty.
The goal for the Jaguars -- subtly, since they can't actually play to lose -- has to be Dwayne Haskins, quarterback from Ohio State. With a down quarterback class, Haskisns is likely going to be the first quarterback taken off the board. He's big, strong, and might end up winning the Heisman trophy with insane stats as just a redshirt sophomore.
Haskins might end up being the only quarterback worthy of a Top 10 selection, and because of that, the Jags must do everything they can to get him.
San Francisco 49ers
Oh, baby, the race for Nick Bosa is a tight one.
The San Francisco 49ers need edge pressure as much as any team in the NFL, and for Bosa to be their selection, that would go a long way in completing a young defense that they're building -- he would certainly accelerate the process.
However, though they do have the No. 1 overall spot, as it stand right now, the Oakland Raiders are hot on their trail. Both have a 2-10 record, but what works in favor of the 49ers is the strength of schedule tie breaker. The NFL wants to reward truly the worst team in the NFL with their first draft pick. So record is first, and then strength of schedule is the next tie breaker, meaning they want to see who lost the most to the worst teams -- if you lost to a bunch of good teams, that doesn't prove you're as bad. The Raiders, due to the fact that they're in the same division as the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs -- playoff teams -- have the highest strength of schedule in the NFL, which means they won't win a tie breaker over the 49ers.
As long as the 49ers hold serve, they'll keep number one. But one false win and they'll get jumped.
This one might come as a surprise to some reading it, but give it time, it'll make sense.
The Atlanta Falcons still have one of the best rosters in the NFL, when healthy. The problem is, they haven't been very healthy this year, and much of their production and consistency has fallen off from the get-go. But the bottom line is, they still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
No one expected Atlanta to be 4-8 at this point in the season, but that's where they are, currently slotted for the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft. I expect a bounce back year from Atlanta next season, but can you imagine taking this Atlanta roster and then adding one of the elite, Top 5 players in this class, too?
Imagine if Clelin Ferrell, Jeffery Simmons or Quinnen Williams could be wearing a Falcons jersey next year. The Falcons aren't going to be bad with this nucleus and this coaching staff very often. Their record is this year, and they need to capitalize on it and big way.