The San Francisco 49ers have already punched their ticket to the postseason and seem earmarked for either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NFC as they head down the stretch run. With their playoff seeding all but certain, the question now centers around whether or not Kyle Shanahan should rest some of his star players so that they are fresh for a potential run to the Super Bowl. “I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes people make just watching it over the years. That’s my opinion,” Shanahan told reporters Tuesday when asked about resting starters, via NFL.com. “I would understand if you were getting ready for a seven-game series; I don’t think football is like that. It’s three and a half hours. It’s one shot. I’ve been on a lot of teams where you rest guys and or give guys a few more weeks and those are usually the guys who struggle the most in that first playoff game.”
On top of keeping his players sharp, it is worth pointing out that winning these final three games could be important, despite already locking up a spot in the playoffs. At 10-4, they could conceivably leap over the 11-3 Vikings for the No. 2 seed and secure two home playoff games. There’s also an outside shot at the No. 1 seed if Philly collapses down the stretch. So there is a benefit of playing throughout the rest of the season, but Shanahan conceded that it is a bit of a balancing act, especially with players who are currently banged up.
“Like last year when it came down to our last game you have guys that are fighting to play because they’re right on the bubble of not being able to play,” the Niners coach added. “In this situation, those guys you would definitely rest, so anybody who has an injury that could risk them for the following week or something like that, that’s to me the decision’s now that there is no decision. Definitely rest them.”One of the players worth monitoring in that regard is wideout Deebo Samuel, who injured his knee in Week 14. Shanahan said Samuel won’t play in Week 16, but it is “week to week,” so it doesn’t sound out of the question that we could see him before the regular season ends.
San Francisco finishes up the season hosting the Commanders in Week 16, visiting the Raiders in Las Vegas in Week 17, and then hosting the Cardinals in the regular season finale.