San Francisco 49ers: Who Should Start at QB for Week 17?

Steve ButlerCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2012

Does Alex Smith get one last go as the QB of the 49ers Sunday?
Does Alex Smith get one last go as the QB of the 49ers Sunday?Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers will cap off a regular season filled with highs and lows on Sunday with a home game against division rivals the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals started off their season hot but have skidded into high draft-pick territory since October. For Arizona, there is little meaning to this game other than evaluating for future personnel decisions.

For the 49ers, on the other hand, a much-needed win ensures an NFC West division championship and is the only way they can compete for a higher playoff seed.

To earn the No. 2 seed, the Green Bay Packers would have to beat Minnesota in the Metrodome, where Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will very likely be in beast mode himself.

Peterson, who needs 208 rushing yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season mark of 2,105 yards, ran for 210 yards on just 21 attempts against a middling Packers run defense (108.7 yards allowed per game) at Lambeau Field earlier this season in a 23-14 defeat.

It's safe to say that the Packers stand a legitimate chance of being defeated as Peterson pursues the record.

I'd be in the majority in saying the 49ers could win this game with either quarterback, which brings up the following questions:

Should Colin Kaepernick be rested for Alex Smith? Does Kaepernick have enough games under his belt, or does he need the experience? Would sitting this one out disrupt his rhythm? Would having Smith start and play really well, as he did earlier this season against Arizona, pour more gas on the QB controversy? 

We've seen and heard that Coach Jim Harbaugh has not shown much interest in personal accolades.

But he does need to recognize the "What's in it for us?" aspect of the decision that quarterbacks play in this game, as many other teams this year (including the Cardinals) have questions about who their QB will be going forward.

Putting Smith on display, in light of the relatively low talent pool of QB prospects in the 2013 draft class, would be a move worth considering, but do the 49ers even want to trade Smith? 

Another question worth considering: Would allowing Smith a chance to win the passing title help increase Smith's trade value?

It sure wouldn't hurt.

I think Harbaugh should at least give Smith a shot. Although I'm inclined to think Harbaugh would disagree, I think it would be a gesture of gratitude toward Smith.

There are more questions to be asked about San Francisco's current starter: Does Kaepernick need the confidence booster to start this game and hopefully have a better mindset going into the playoffs? If he starts, should he play the entire game?

Then there's San Francisco's no. 3 quarterback Scott Tolzien.

If the 49ers do trade Alex Smith, should the team take into consideration how Tolzien handles regular-season action in this decision? Does it matter, with the looming $8 million roster bonus that Smith is due next year? If the game gets to a point where the 49ers are running out the clock, should Tolzien take the reins? 

There are so many different factors to consider here!

I'm looking forward to a fiery debate and to hearing the thoughts of the fans.