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It’s not quite as dramatic as “they won the battle but lost the war,” but the 49ers’ draft chances took a massive hit on Saturday. Blame Kliff Kingsbury, not San Francisco.
As it currently stands, they are 6-9, with the 14th overall pick. That’s a two-spot slide from where they started the day before most other games have been played. There was and always is so much weirdness with this team in division games, that splitting the final two seemed more likely than losing out. There are now two paths for them:
Lose to Seattle
Here’s how a 6-10 49ers team could finish:
Starting with the NFC East’s remaining schedule: which has a potential to cannibalize itself:
- New York Giants (5-9) face the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) and the Dallas Cowboys (5-9).
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) face the Dallas Cowboys (5-9) and Washington Football Team (6-8).
- Dallas Cowboys (5-9) face the Eagles (4-9-1) and Giants (5-9)
The best the 49ers (6-10) could finish with the NFC East in this scenario is gaining +2 spots. That is the least likely scenario.
If the Giants (7-9) beat the Ravens (probably not happening) and the Eagles (6-9-1) beat both the Cowboys (5-11) and Washington, that’s both of those teams finishing higher in the standings than San Francisco. Due to strength of schedule (49ers’ is .544, well above all every NFC East team), this is the only way they could gain two spots on them.
Here’s how all those NFC East scenarios could play out:
- Worst case (gain zero spots):
- If the Cowboys (5-11) lose out, Eagles lose to Washington (5-10-1) and Giants (6-10) lose to Ravens, that’s a net gain of zero spots for the 6-10 49ers. +0 spots
- If Giants (6-10) beat Cowboys, but lose to Ravens, Cowboys (6-10) beat Eagles, and Eagles (4-11-1) lose to Washington, 49ers gain zero spots. +0 spots
- If Giants (6-10) beat Cowboys, Cowboys (6-10) beat Eagles and Eagles (5-10-1) beat Washington, 49ers gain zero spots. In other words, if you see this: NYG def. DAL, DAL def. PHI, PHI def. WAS, the 49ers gain zero spots. I know, this is insane given that in the previous scenario they gain three spots. But if they win even one game, they need an NFC East team to win two. +0 spots
- Medium case (gain one spot):
- If Giants (5-11, face Baltimore, Dallas), Eagles (4-11-1, face Dallas, Washington) both lose out, 49ers would only jump Dallas (7-9). +1 spot
- If Dallas (6-10) beats the Giants and lose to Eagles (5-10-1), the 49ers (5-11) would jump both Cowboys and Eagles. If Giants (6-10) somehow beat Baltimore, the 49ers jump Giants too.
- Best case (jump two spots):
- If the Giants (7-9) beat the Ravens and Cowboys (5-11), and Eagles (6-9-1) beat Cowboys and Washington, the 49ers (6-10) jump two spots. +2 spots
Now, for the non-NFC East teams.
If the Houston Texans (currently 4-10) win out and their strength of schedule (.546 versus the 49ers’ .544) holds up, that would be +1 spot. That requires wins over the Bengals and Titans, which is unlikely, and it’s based on a miniscule strength of schedule advantage.
If the Los Angeles Chargers (5-9) beat both the Denver Broncos and Kansas Chiefs, that would be +1 spot. That can be considered unlikely, but like with the Texans, not completely out of the question, given that the Broncos are, well, bad, and the Chargers will be playing the Chiefs in Week 17, which might mean all or mostly backups.
If the Broncos (5-9) beat either the Chargers or Raiders, the 49ers will not lose a spot due to the Broncos’ .562 strength of schedule to the 49ers’ .544. The best-case scenario is that they beat the Raiders and the Chargers win out, so the 49ers stave off the Broncos and gain +2 spots on the Chargers and Broncos.
It would be a +1 spot swing if the Chargers win out, but the Broncos lose out, or +1 spot if the Chargers lose out. If the Chargers beat the Broncos though, and the Broncos lose the Raiders, and the Chargers lose to the Chiefs that’s a 0 spot swing.
Essentially, if the Chargers beat the Broncos, the 49ers will be rooting for both the Chargers and Broncos to win in Week 17.
The Detroit Lions (5-10), with their loss and the 49ers’ win have already locked themselves in to finishing below the 49ers, along with the Jets, Jaguars, Bengals, Panthers and Falcons.
As for the 6-9 Vikings (to face Detroit) and 6-8 Patriots (to face Bills, Jets), if either of them win a game, they would finish behind the 49ers in the draft.
But if either lose out, they will jump a 6-10 49ers team due to strength of schedule. Both seem likely to win one game, but if they do lose out, the 49ers would either hold where they are, or drop -1 spot. The 49ers are currently above the Vikings.
There is actually a worst-case scenario here.
It requires the Vikings, Patriots and Broncos to lose out, the Chargers to beat the Broncos but lose to the Chiefs, and all of the NFC East teams not named the Football Team to win one game or less, in which the 49ers drop from 14th to 15th, which is basically as bad as if they win the final two games.
Now, the real floor in this situation is probably 14th, given that it is unlikely New England loses to the Jets, or 13th, given how frisky Minnesota is and how bad the Lions are.
The best-case scenario, requiring the Texans, Eagles, Giants and Chargers to win out, Broncos to beat the Raiders, and the Vikings and Patriots to win one game, would result in a +5 spot swing, bumping the 49ers up to, at best, 8th.
The most likely scenario here is that the 49ers don’t gain any spots on the NFC East teams, and they all split down the stretch, or they gain +1 spot, from the Cowboys or Eagles. I can’t see the Giants beating the Ravens.
The Texans likely will not win out (and may even finish with a worse strength of schedule) nor will the Chargers; though, the Texans and Chargers both play bad teams in the Bengals and Broncos next week, and have two tough, but playoff-secured teams in the Titans and Chiefs, who just might take their foot off the gas a bit. Most likely, they gain 0 spots.
The Vikings should beat the Lions, and the Patriots should beat the Jets, so that should represent +1 spot.
Denver, though, could easily lose to the Chargers and Raiders, which would be -1 spot.
My best guess is that if the 49ers lose to Seattle next week, they finish between 11th and 13th.
If the 49ers win out, the absolute worst they could mathematically draft is 17th. It’s more likely that they’d draft 16th at worst, if Chicago (7-7) beats Jacksonville (1-13), and 15th if the Las Vegas Raiders (7-7) beat either the Miami Dolphins (9-5) or Denver (5-9). At last check, the Raiders were beating the Dolphins 13-6 at halftime. A win there moves them out of contention for the draft with the 49ers.
Then, it gets tricky. The absolute best they could draft if they win out is 13th, which would necessitate the Broncos beating the Raiders and Chargers, and Raiders beating the Dolphins, or getting a boost in their .540 strength of schedule.
If the Raiders lose both, barring that change in strength of schedule (.540 compared to the 49ers’ .546) that’s -1 spot. If the Broncos lose to the Chargers, that’s –1 spot. So if they win out, they could keep their spot at 14, gain one spot or lose one spot solely based on the results of the Broncos and Raiders.
If they win out, the best they can draft is 13th. That requires the Broncos winning out and for the Raiders to beat the Dolphins. The Broncos are the only team the 49ers could jump if they were to win out.
If both the 6-8 New England Patriots (face the 11-3 Bills, 1-13 Jets) and 6-8 Minnesota Vikings (10-4 Saints, 5-9 Lions) only win one game, which seems likely, the 49ers are guaranteed to lose -1 spot to the Patriots and gain no ground on Minnesota.
The most likely scenario if they win out is that they gain 0 spots to the Broncos, -1 spot to the Patriots, and keep a spot on Chicago. That would have them drafting 15th.