The 49ers enter the final weekend of the regular season still in contention ... for the No. 1 overall draft pick position and, presumably, their top-rated edge rusher.
The Arizona Cardinals, owners of the NFL’s worst record at 3-12, are the prohibitive favorites for the top overall draft slot. The Cardinals can wrap that up with a loss Sunday at the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle has a playoff spot locked up, and there's no chance for a first-round bye. But coach Pete Carroll told the media Monday that he will not rest his starters in preparation for wild-card weekend.
“We don’t do that,” Carroll said. “Maybe the game allows you to make some decisions or something during the game, and that would be a little bit different. I’ve done that in the past, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like doing it. I think it messes with us. Just go play.”
The 49ers will finish the season Sunday at the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams, who might need a victory to secure a first-round playoff.
If the Cardinals and the 49ers (4-11) were to finish with the same record, the 49ers would “win” the tiebreaker and get the No. 1 draft pick because of their worse strength of schedule.
The 49ers and the Cardinals played the same competition in 14 of their games this season. The only differences were, the Cardinals played Washington (7-8) and the Atlanta Falcons (6-9), while the 49ers played the New York Giants (5-10) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10).
If the Cardinals were to win and the 49ers and the New York Jets both lost, there are four other games that would determine whether the 49ers or the Jets got the No. 1 pick. The Jets will wrap up the season Sunday at the AFC East champion New England Patriots.
Currently, the 49ers have the tiebreaker edge by a half-game over the Jets, who also have a 4-11 record. (The only tiebreaker when it comes to determining the draft order is strength of schedule; head-to-head competition does not apply.)
The 49ers are in line for the No. 2 overall draft spot, ahead of the Jets, but they will need at least two of the following results in Week 17 to hold onto that position:
-- Dallas win at the New York Giants;
-- Atlanta win at Tampa Bay;
-- Cleveland win at Baltimore;
-- Denver win at home against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 49ers-Jets strength-of-schedule scenario was made less complicated because both teams played the four teams in the NFC North.
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The draft is scheduled for April 25 -- so this is getting way ahead of the game -- but it could be important for the future of the 49ers to secure one of the top two selections.
If the team ultimately rates outside pass rushers Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Kentucky) as worthy of those selections, the 49ers would take a huge step toward filling their biggest offseason needs.
Of course, teams will have their first chances to fill gaping holes in free agency, which is scheduled to begin March 13.