Why 49ers shouldn't rest starters in 'meaningless' Week 18 game

The 49ers are locked into the playoffs and No. 1 seed, but this shouldn't mean starters can take the week off.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (L) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (R)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (L) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (R) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

At the of the day, the San Francisco 49ers don't care about the result in their last regular-season game against the Los Angeles Rams. They've already locked up the top spot in the NFC and are focused just on staying healthy in advance of the playoffs.

But here's the deal: Given the first-round bye associated with the No. 1 seed, the Niners' starters won't be playing for 21 days if they end up resting in Week 18 against LA. To make it relatable to most of us, it would be like starting a workout now after giving up at the beginning of December because the holiday goodies are just too addicting (obviously, the players will be more disciplined and are in better shape, but three weeks is still a long time).

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has already ruled out 2023 Pro Bowlers, running back Christain McCaffery (mild calf strain) and quarterback Brock Purdy out for the season finale.

McCaffery makes sense. Even though it's just a minor inconvenience, the 49ers know they can't risk losing CMC for the entirety of the playoffs. He's too important to the team, and in the position he's in as running back, it's easy to plug in a couple of other guys like Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason.

Resting Purdy, however, might not be the best idea.

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young isn't a fan of the young signal caller sitting for three weeks:

San Francisco should realistically treat Week 18 as a preseason game. Give Purdy a series or two just to ensure everything is clicking and to keep his mind sharp. Shanahan could've also tested the waters on the first few plays. If the offensive line is cracking and Purdy is having to run wild or is taking big hits, immediately pull him.

But having him sit for nearly a month before the 49ers play again is a bit worrisome.

Read more: Brock Purdy becomes first 49ers QB to make the Pro Bowl since Jeff Garcia

Never fear, however, Shanahan has a plan to keep Purdy fresh during the week:

""We're treating this as a normal week, so this is a normal week for this time of year, which means we go half speed on everything. Brock will get half reps with the ones, and Sam will get the other. I want our team to treat this as Brock going down on the first play of the game. That's why I want them both repping it""

Head coach Kyle Shanahan

49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares provided further details here.

Other 49ers starters should play

OK, you want to be safe and keep your star QB and running back fresh and healthy. Understandable. But what about guys like receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk? Anyone on the defensive line or linebackers? Offensive lineman Trent Williams?

Give these guys the preseason treatment. Williams can take a play or two and then remove the shoulder pads and enjoy the rest of the game from the sidelines.

You can't put in every single backup. Some of the starters need to play and will play the whole game. It's just how the rosters and rules are.

If the 49ers were maybe off for 14 days, the strategy would be different. This is two straight bye-weeks before gearing up for the NFC divisional round. Much needed, earned and deserved rest, but depending on the outcome of the playoff game, we'll be looking back at this Week 18 game with either praise or blame.

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