With the 2019 NFL Draft order on the line, who should San Francisco 49ers fans root for in Week 17 of the 2018 regular season? We break down draft order scenarios, tiebreakers and which games matter most to the Niners’ draft position.
The San Francisco 49ers aren’t in full control of their draft destiny, but as we enter Week 17, the Niners’ draft picture is clear. While all the potential outcomes and variables may seem overwhelming at first, the 49ers are only competing with four teams for five potential draft spots, so determining the rooting interests for Niner fans isn’t a difficult task.
Whether you want to get deep into the draft-order weeds or simply want a list of teams the 49ers Faithful should root for in Week 17, you’ve found the right place. Let’s start with the basics:
Draft Order and Tiebreakers
When determining the draft order for non-playoff teams, the NFL first ranks teams based on overall record, and then applies a series of tiebreakers if necessary. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the four teams capable of drafting before the 49ers, and the first draft-order tiebreaker — strength-of-schedule — which is likely to break any potential ties for San Francisco.
Strength-of-schedule is the aggregate winning percentage of a team’s opponents. However, since all NFL teams play the same amount of games, simply using the total number of victories of a team’s opponents is a simpler way to compare SOS.
To demonstrate, the 49ers’ 16 opponents have played 15 games, for a total of 240 games. In those 240 games, San Francisco’s opponents amassed 120 victories, 118 losses and two ties (each worth half of a win), for a total of 121 “wins” and an SOS of .504. But instead of comparing the 49ers’ SOS of .504 to the New York Jets’ SOS of .506, comparing the 49ers’ 121 opponent wins to the Jets’ 121.5 OW quickly shows us how close these two teams are in SOS.
Further simplifying our process, every NFL team plays a divisional opponent on Sunday, which limits the variability of every team’s SOS. Since the majority of a team’s 2018 opponents play each other in Week 17 — canceling each other out — only three games have an effect on a team’s SOS. For the 49ers, those games are their own matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and the games of their two intraconference opponents outside of the NFC North: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants.
49ers’ Draft Spot Competition
If the NFL schedule was random, each team could potentially add 16 OW to their season total on Sunday. But thanks to the NFL’s scheduling rules, we already know that the outcome of 12 opponent games will be exactly six wins. This leaves just four OW in play for each team in Week 17. To determine which teams can “catch” the 49ers in SOS, we simply compare the 49ers’ maximum OW to the minimum OW of each team within striking distance of San Francisco:
At first glance, it appears that five teams could potentially bypass the 49ers in draft order — the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders based on record alone, as well as the Detroit Lions and the Buccaneers via the SOS tiebreaker. However, since the Niners played the Bucs in 2018, a 49ers’ Week 17 victory required for the Bucs to end the season in a tie with the Niners would also add a win to Tampa Bay’s OW, leaving San Francisco barely out of reach.
In the end, the 49ers are competing with four teams for five potential draft spots. The 49ers hold the SOS tiebreaker over the Cardinals and the Raiders, while the tiebreaker is still in play for the Jets and the Lions:
The 4-11 49ers have already locked up a top-5 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft thanks to their low SOS. If they lose on Sunday, San Francisco will draft either first, second or third. If the Niners win this weekend, they’ll draft between pick No. 2 and pick No. 5.
If San Francisco loses, they’re ensured of a top-3 selection. The 49ers hold the tiebreaker over the Cardinals if Arizona pulls off a victory in Week 17, but San Francisco has just a half-game OW advantage over the Jets. If the Niners end the season in a tie with New York, they can maintain their SOS advantage with at least two victories from the following teams on Sunday: the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons:
If San Francisco wins, they will miss out on a chance for the first pick, but will still end up with a top-5 selection. The 49ers hold the tiebreaker over the Raiders, but would face SOS challenges from both the Jets and Lions if they end the season with similar records. Since their OW would jump up by two with a victory over a divisional opponent, the 49ers would need the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys and the Falcons to all win in Week 17 to force an unlikely SOS tie with the Lions:
49ers’ Week 17 Rooting Interests
There are five teams every Niner fan should root for in Week 17: Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions.
If the Jets and 49ers tie, San Francisco can maintain their 0.5-win tiebreaker advantage with wins from two the following four teams: Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns.
If the Lions and the 49ers tie, San Francisco can only match Detroit’s two-game tiebreaker advantage with wins from all three of these teams: Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers.
Any questions? Reach out to me on Twitter @cgawilson or in the comments section below.
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49ers vs. Bengals: San Francisco Week 2 Game Balls & Highlights
Game balls and highlights from the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL regular season.
On yesterday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out four game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from their Week 2 blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 49ers made a statement to the rest of the league during their second consecutive road victory to start the 2019 NFL regular season. Outside of a long garbage-time touchdown given up in the final minute of the matchup, the 49ers’ defense was dominant, finishing the game with four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and one interception.
But despite holding the Bengals to just 25 yards on 19 rushing attempts, San Francisco’s offensive unit shined the brightest in Week 2 — which brings us to our first game ball:
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco’s offensive attack was nearly unstoppable in Week 2, and much of their success should be credited to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who called one of his best games since arriving in the Bay Area over two seasons ago. The Niners tallied 572 net yards on offense at an 8.4 yards-per-play clip, and were forced to punt the ball just once during meaningful play, prior to the final two minutes of the game.
Shanahan — the 49ers’ de facto offensive coordinator — was always one step ahead of the Bengals’ defense, which was constantly confused by the Niners’ flurry of misdirection plays. With Cincinnati’s defenders forced to play both passively and reactionary, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took advantage by throwing for 297 passing yards and three scores. Garoppolo executed on the field, but he had Shanahan’s superb game plan to thank for his FexEx Air Passer of the Week nomination, as well as his 131.2 passer rating and his 11.9 yards-per-pass-attempt — both of which were tops in the NFL in Week 2.
49ers RB Matt Breida
Prior to the beginning of the regular season, many analysts wrote 49ers running back Matt Breida off as either a potential change-of-pace option in San Francisco’s backfield or a player who would simply ride the bench in 2019. But just two games into the season, Breida has officially put that talk to rest by claiming his well-deserved spot at the top of the 49ers’ running back depth chart, even after fellow RB Tevin Coleman eventually returns from injury.
Breida was electric on Sunday as he tallied 121 rushing yards on only 12 carries, and added 11 yards through the air on one reception. The former undrafted free agent may never be a 25-carry feature back, but it’s hard to ignore a runner who averages over 10 yards-per-touch. Breida’s outstanding Week 2 performance was highlighted by a 34-yard gain on a third-and-short run, where he looked a lot more like Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders than a bench player who should be relegated to the sidelines:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
49ers Offensive Line
Although Breida has the speed and agility necessary to break off long runs after making defenders miss, he surely didn’t mind running through some of the gaping holes the 49ers’ offensive line provided on Sunday. Breida wasn’t the only beneficiary of San Francisco’s big men up front, as the 49ers’ trio of running backs graded out as the NFL’s top unit of the week by Pro Football Focus (PFF). Recent practice-squad RB Jeff Wilson found the end zone for a pair of scores in the contest, and dual-threat running back Raheem Mostert followed his blockers on long runs and screen passes en route to a spot on PFF’s “NFL Team of the Week” for Week 2:
#49ers RB Raheem Mostert @RMos_8Ball, LB Kwon Alexander @kwon and EDGE Ronald Blair @superblair are all featured in @PFF‘s NFL Team of the Week. The @49ers‘ running backs also graded out as the #NFL‘s top group of RBs in Week 2. https://t.co/zbfzmMtEs0
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 18, 2019
It was a near-perfect day for the Niners’ offensive line, as they also kept Garoppolo’s jersey clean for the vast majority of the game. But a dark cloud fell over the group in the third quarter of the team’s Week 2 victory, when left tackle Joe Staley sustained a fractured left fibula which will keep the 49ers’ top lineman out of action for approximately six to eight weeks.
49ers LB Kwon Alexander
Last week, linebacker Kwon Alexander received a game ball from Shanahan in the 49ers’ locker room after the team’s 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite his early exit from his Niners debut. Alexander was ejected from the contest when his helmet made contact with the helmet of former teammate Jameis Winston, when the quarterback awkwardly went to the ground at the end of a third-down scramble. In the limited time prior to his questionable ejection, Alexander looked like the player Shanahan and general manager John Lynch hoped to sign, as the 25-year-old linebacker flew around the field making plays and hyping up his teammates.
Last Sunday, Alexander earned his 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room and his passion for the game. This Sunday, Alexander earned Locked On 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room, his passion for the game and his production on the field. Alexander not only brought the same level of intensity to Cincinnati, but the linebacker was also one of the best — and most productive — players on the field in Week 2. With a key interception, three defended passes and six tackles, Alexander earned PFF “NFL Team of the Week” honors, and our final game ball of the week:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 2 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ second matchup of the 2019 NFL regular season — on yesterday’s Rapid React podcast:
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