49ers battling Giants for NFC playoff bye

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49ers battling Giants for NFC playoff bye

The 49ers own a five-game lead in the NFC West with eight games to play. So it has been obvious for a while that the 49ers are going to break an eight-season drought and return to the playoffs.The New York Giants might be going there, too. The Giants have a two-game lead in the NFC East over the Dallas Cowboys.
It's only the mid-point of the season, but there will be a lot at stake when the 49ers face the Giants on Sunday at Candlestick Park."Our season does not depend on a win or a loss against these guys," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "But we really want to go out and win this football game."RELATED: LIVE NOW -- 49ers safety Donte Whitner on Pro Football Talk
And for good reason. This game could have January implications.Currently, the 49ers stand as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs behind the unbeaten Green Bay Packers. The Giants are No. 3. The top two seeds earn first-round byes in the playoffs, and then would play a conference semifinal in their home stadium.The 49ers could take a major step toward a playoff bye with a victory over the Giants. After all, it would give San Francisco a two-game lead over the Giants, while also giving the 49ers a tie-breaker edge over the Giants. The New Orleans Saints, who play at Atlanta on Sunday, would be no closer than two-games behind the 49ers, as well.
"There's great significance to this game," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The biggest thing is it's the next game. That always makes it the most important game."Here is a look at the NFC playoff picture at the mid-point of the season:Division leaders
1. Green Bay (North) 8-0. (NFC record: 6-0)
2. 49ers (West) 7-1. (NFC record: 5-1)
3. N.Y. Giants (East) 6-2. (NFC record: 3-2)
4. New Orleans (South) 6-3. (NFC record: 3-3)Wild card
5. Detroit (North) 6-2. (NFC record: 4-2)
6. Chicago (North) 5-3. (NFC record: 5-3)Next in line
7. Atlanta (South) 5-3. (NFC record: 4-3)
8. Dallas (East) 4-4. (NFC record: 4-2)
9. Tampa Bay (South) 4-4. (NFC record: 3-4)
10. Philadelphia (East) 3-5. (NFC record: 3-4)
11. Washington (East) 3-5. (NFC record: 3-4)
12. Seattle (West) 2-6. (NFC record: 2-3)
13. Minnesota (North) 2-6. (NFC record: 2-4)
14. Arizona Cardinals (West) 2-6. (NFC record: 2-4)
15. Carolina (South) 2-6. (NFC record: 1-6)
16. St. Louis (West) 1-7. (NFC record: 1-6)Tie-breakers
Head-to-head, if applicable.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.