For a certain segment of the 49ers fan base the math is simple: 2 wins + 1 Seattle loss = 13 draft spots.
San Francisco, based on its 5-9 record, would have No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft if the season ended today. But if the Niners’ season ended in the playoffs they would select no higher than 21st despite a 7-9 record. (Worst-case scenario: They would pick No. 32 if they won the Super Bowl)!
Given the current state of affairs, which includes the lack of a franchise quarterback, the we-don’t-want-no-stinkin’-playoffs argument can’t be completely dismissed. (The flip side: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers etc. weren’t top-20 draft picks).
A less significant factor is the matter of next year’s schedule.
In 2011, the Niners will play the teams from the NFC North and NFC South that finish 2010 in the same spot in their division.
An NFC West title would mean a trip to Chicago (NFC North champions) and a home date against Atlanta (NFC South champions) next year. In contrast, if San Francisco finished last in the NFC West, still a possibility, it would host Carolina and likely visit Detroit, currently last in the NFC North, one game behind Minnesota.
Here’s a look at the 2011 schedule (assuming, of course, there is a 2011 season):
Home: Arizona, St. Louis, Seattle, Dallas, New York Giants, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, NFC South.
Away: Arizona, St. Louis, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati, NFC North.