It's been that kind of season for the San Francisco 49ers: Last week, they were playing for the division title. This week, they're playing for the second-worst record in the league and the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
If it seems far-fetched, it is. It's an unlikely scenario of outcomes to Sunday's Week 17 games in the NFL, but Eric Branch reports in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that it's possible the 49ers will come out of Sunday with the second-worst record in the league and the No. 2 overall draft pick.
Ready to take a deep breath and consider how losing on Sunday can perhaps make the franchise much better for the future? Or did you already start doing that weeks ago?
The odds are long, but it could happen. For starters, consider that the 49ers' current draft standing has them picking No. 6 on April 28, 2011 at Radio City Music Hall. That will change with Sunday's results, up or down.
To get the No. 2 pick, the 49ers would need, of course, to lose to Arizona at Candlestick. Then they need unlikely upsets out of all the bad teams currently picking ahead of them -- except Carolina, who are locked in at No. 1.
The 4-11 Buffalo Bills would have to knock off the playoff-bound New York Jets. The 4-11 Broncos would have to beat the Chargers. The 9½-point underdog Cincinnati Bengals would have to knock of a Baltimore Ravens team that's playing at home for a division title and a first-round bye.
Even with this near-impossible set of game results, a theoretical 5-11 final regular season record for these 49ers would not guarantee them a draft slot ahead of the above-named underdogs if all four teams tied at 5-11.
The tiebreaker process factors in strength of schedule. Sure, the 49ers' playing in the NFC West helps water theirs way down. But strength of schedule ratings for all four teams will be affected by the outcomes of games elsewhere they're not even involved in.
Given all this, it's possible the 49ers come out of this weekend with the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. And it's possible there's a certain quarterback from Stanford waiting for them at that slot.