The Bears can even win on the bye week

The Chicago Bears won’t be playing in Week 13, but it’s still a pivotal week for the franchise. With the regular season over, the Bears still hold the #1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But there is no guarantee that they will pick first in the draft. After Chicago’s win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12, the pursuit of Caleb essentially came down to three teams: the Carolina Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals and the New England Patriots. Those three teams have two or fewer wins this season.

Either USC quarterback Caleb Williams, North Carolina quarterback Drake May or Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is believed to be considered the top pick in the 2024 NFL draft, although that depends on which team provided the choice.

At 1-10, the Panthers have the worst record in the NFL, but that benefits the Bears. Carolina sent its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago as part of the DJ Moore trade in the offseason. If the Panthers secure the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Bears will make that pick.

(LR) Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus can take advantage even in the bye week. (Chicago Tribune via Getty Images)

The Panthers are looking for a rebound against the bottom Pirates

Things look bleak in Carolina. After a fourth straight loss, Panthers owner David Tepper fired Frank Reich just 11 games into his contract. The team promoted special teams coordinator Chris Tabor to interim head coach. Tabor will try to turn things around after a disastrous start.

That could happen as soon as Week 13. At 4-7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the most formidable opponent offensively. If the Panthers get a boost after Reich’s firing — hey, it worked for the Las Vegas Raiders — it’s plausible the Panthers could pull out a win against the Bucks.

However, Bryce Young – whom the team selected No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft – will have to turn things around against a stout defense. While the Bucs offense struggles in 2023, the team’s defense has limited opponents. The Bucs are allowing 20.6 points per game, good for 13th in the NFL. The Panthers are scoring just 15.7 points per game, which ranks 30th.

The Cardinals take on the surprising Steelers

One of the teams that could benefit the most from the Panthers’ shocking turnaround is the Cardinals. Arizona has a tough task in Week 13 as they face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have played some pretty ugly football in 2023, but they always seem to find a way to pull out a late win. The team is 7-4 despite ranking 28th in points per game. The team’s excellent defense is certainly responsible for quite a few of those wins.

But things are looking up in Pittsburgh. The offense performed well in its first game without former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who was fired after Week 11. For the first time since 2020, Pittsburgh’s offense produced at least 400 yards in a 16-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12.

Arizona, meanwhile, has looked more dangerous with Kyler Murray back under center, but still lacks the talent to stay in games. The Cardinals won in Murray’s debut in 2023, but lost their last two games. They were able to hang with the Los Angeles Rams for roughly half, but then completely forgot how to handle Kieron Williams en route to a 37-14 loss.

The Patriots take on the Chargers

And then there are the Patriots, a team in desperate need of a new quarterback. Neither Mack Jones nor Bailey Zappé are the answer in New England, something both players have emphatically proven in 2023. Jones was benched — once again — in a close loss to the New York Giants in Week 12. Zappé wasn’t much better after entering the game.

But will the ineptitude of Jones or Zappe outweigh the ineptitude of Brandon Staley’s Los Angeles Chargers? Despite some strong pieces on offense, the Chargers always find ways to lose games late. If the team suffers another loss like this — especially against the Patriots — it could be the end of Staley’s tenure in Los Angeles.

Who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Here’s the current 2024 NFL Draft order entering Week 13.

  1. Carolina Panthers (pick changed to Chicago Bears)

  2. Arizona Cardinals

  3. New England Patriots

  4. Chicago Bears

  5. Washington commanders

  6. New York Giants

  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  8. New York Jets

  9. Los Angeles Chargers

  10. Tennessee Titans

  11. Las Vegas Raiders

  12. The New Orleans Saints

  13. Green Bay Packers

  14. Los Angeles Rams

  15. Cincinnati Bengals

  16. Buffalo Bills

  17. Houston Texans (pick traded to Arizona Cardinals)

  18. Denver Broncos

  19. Atlanta Falcons

  20. Minnesota Vikings

  21. Indianapolis Colts

  22. Seattle Seahawks

  23. Pittsburgh Steelers

  24. Cleveland Browns (pick changed to Houston Texans)

  25. Miami Dolphins

  26. Dallas Cowboys

  27. Detroit Lions

  28. Jacksonville Jaguars

  29. Kansas City Chiefs

  30. San Francisco 49ers

  31. Baltimore Ravens

  32. Philadelphia Eagles

Who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft?

There is no clear pick at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft. Either May or Williams is projected to go first because they play the most important position on the field. If Chicago secures the pick, it will have a decision to make. Do they start over with a new quarterback and trade Justin Fields? Or do they trade the #1 pick again to build a better roster around Fields? It’s a franchise-changing pick.

Arizona could also trade the selection if they secure the No. 1 pick in the draft. Murray is still owed a lot of money, making it harder to trade him. If the team wants to build around Murray, he can field offers for the top pick. Might as well just get Harrison there and give Murray a potential star receiver.

Picking the Patriots should be easy. The team needs to replace Jones or Zappe with a new quarterback. Unless they’re the team that trades for Fields, the Patriots probably won’t be able to pass up May or Williams with the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

There are still many weeks before the final draft decision is made, so fans of the worst teams in the NFL still have a lot to look forward to.

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