The Raiders ‘loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night was the 49ers’ win.
San Francisco (5-8) has not yet been officially eliminated from the playoffs, but it’s only a matter of time. Apart from an extremely unlikely combination of results, the reigning NFC champions will not qualify for the postseason.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left in the game. With the playoffs exclusively ruled out, probably the best thing that can happen to San Francisco in the last three weeks of the regular season is an improvement in the draft position. The 49ers still have one of the strongest lists in the league when they are healthy and can add to that with a relatively large choice in the first round.
The loss of the Raiders to the Chargers did not change the position of the 49ers’ draft, as it would still have the general choice no. 12 in the 2021 NFL Draft if the season ends today. However, the chances of San Francisco advancing in order increased slightly.
With the victory, the Chargers improved to 5-9 and dropped to ninth overall in the draft order. They are now one of five teams with five wins this season, along with the 49ers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos – all 5-8 at the weekend.
In addition, there are five other NFL teams with four wins so far, including the Dallas Cowboys, facing the 49ers on Sunday.
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Cowboys (4-9) are certainly the easiest opponent left in the 49ers’ schedule, as they will face the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in weeks 16 and 17, respectively. San Francisco is a slight favorite over Dallas, but with inconsistency which the 49ers had at quarterback, combined with all their injuries, is by no means a certainty that they will prevail. With a loss, San Francisco could be on its way to a top-eight pick by the end of the season.
Of course, even if the 49ers defeat the Cowboys, the Chargers victory still helps. There is a major blockade of very few separate teams and every victory of a team that is currently ahead of the 49ers in the draft order can only increase their chances of climbing.
And with some of those teams scheduled to face off in recent weeks, San Francisco has a good chance of doing just that. For example, the Chargers face the Broncos in LA in Week 16, and the Cowboys will play the Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1) and the Giants in the last two games.
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Depending on how everything shakes, the 49ers could move more seats in project order. And given that the top QB prospects are expected to go early, this could be the best thing that can happen to them right now.
Here is the complete order for the NFL 2021 project, as it stands today:
- New York Jets (0-13)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12)
- Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)
- Dallas Cowboys (4-9)
- Carolina Panthers (4-9)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
- Miami Dolphins (through Houston Texans (4-9))
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1)
- LA Chargers (5-9)
- NY Giants (5-8)
- Detroit Lions (5-8)
- San Francisco 49ers (5-8)
- Denver Broncos (5-8)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
- Chicago Bears (6-7)
- New England Patriots (6-7)
- Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-5)