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Carolina Panthers have a top-5 draft pick on the line this week. What needs to happen

The Carolina Panthers selected running back Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round of last year’s NFL draft.

The Carolina Panthers selected running back Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round of last year’s NFL draft.

AP

With one game remaining, the Panthers are locked into a top-6 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Carolina (5-11) is a 10-point underdog to Tampa Bay in a rematch from two weeks ago, where the Buccaneers won 32-6 at Bank of America Stadium.

The worst the Panthers can select is sixth, which is where they are currently slated. Even if Carolina upsets Tampa Bay and the Seahawks (6-10), Bears (6-10) and Washington (6-10) lose, tying all five teams with six victories and 11 losses, the Panthers’ .507 strength of schedule is the lowest, giving them the five-way tiebreak.

Tiebreakers in draft position are determined first by strength of schedule (SOS). The lower the SOS, the higher a team picks if their records are tied. After strength of schedule, tiebreakers are settled by division tiebreakers, conference tiebreakers, interconference tiebreakers and, if necessary, a coin toss.

Carolina cannot select third because the Texans (4-12) have a lower strength of schedule at .498. Detroit (2-13-1) and Jacksonville (2-14) will pick either first or second.

Let’s explore the three realistic draft positions the Panthers can earn once Week 18 comes to a close and what needs to happen to cause each.

Panthers pick 4th in the draft if …

This is the lowest the Panthers could pick. It would require a Panthers loss and wins by both the Giants and Jets, tying all three teams with 5-12 records. The Panthers’ .507 SOS is worse than the Giants (.537) and the Jets (.515).

The Giants host Washington on Sunday. The Giants have lost five straight games under second-year head coach Joe Judge and lost 30-29 to Washington in Week 2.

The Jets are playing at Buffalo in another Week 18 divisional game. The Bills blew out New York in Week 9, winning 45-17. Both the Jets and Giants are underdogs in their respective matchups. Washington is favored by 6.5 points over the Giants while the Jets are 17-point dogs.

Panthers pick 5th in the draft if …

Landing the fifth pick requires the Panthers to lose and just one of the New York teams to upset their Week 18 opponent.

Panthers pick 6th in the draft if …

This is where the Panthers are slated to pick if the NFL season were still 17 weeks long. It’s most likely Carolina will pick sixth considering both the Jets and Giants are large underdogs.

One thing Panthers’ fans can look forward to is if Carolina beats Tampa Bay, its draft position will not change. Coach Matt Rhule has a chance to snap the Panthers’ six-game losing streak while not hurting draft position like what happened in Week 16 last year when they beat a playoff-bound Washington team on the road.

That’s a win-win.

Hailing from Minnesota, Ellis L. Williams joined the Observer in October 2021 to cover the Carolina Panthers. Prior, he spent two years reporting on the Browns for Cleveland.com/the Plain Dealer. Having escaped cold winters, he’s thrilled to consume football, hoops, music and movies within the Queen City.

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