The San Francisco 49ers head into the final week of the regular season with at least one home playoff game secured.
A win on Sunday against Arizona would guarantee the 49ers the second seed in the NFC, assuring them of a home game if they were to advance out of the Wild Card round.
The 49ers also have an outside shot earning home field advantage and a first-round bye. For this to happen the 49ers must defeat Arizona and the New York Giants must defeat Philadelphia.
With the playoffs looming the question on everyone’s mind is whether San Francisco should rest its players this week.
The correct answer is no, this is not the time to let off the gas.
San Francisco has reached this point by winning nine in a row following a 3-4 start. All year long they have kept their sights focused on taking it one game at a time. This is not the time to start looking forward.
As Kyle Shanahan said last week when asked about this, “It’s really hard just to put people on hold in football and expect you’ll be the same team or definitely expect you’ll be better.”
Brock Purdy is a perfect example of this. The rookie quarterback has played well over the last five weeks, but he needs as many snaps as possible to get ready for the playoffs.
“We’re not going to risk guys who we think are putting a lot of risk to how their bodies are at now,” said Shanahan. “I think it’s a big risk to have guys who have been going and playing football at a high level just to tell them don’t play for three weeks, and then make sure you play at that high level for three and a half hours when everything’s on the line, so we’re just balancing that out and we’ll see how it continues.”
Some players who fall into the risk category are Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey.
Samuel and Mitchell are working their way back from injuries. If they can go, they should be active and get a few plays to get back into the flow of the game. Having these two would allow the 49ers to sit McCaffrey, if necessary, without debilitating the offense.
On the defensive side of the ball the only question marks are Dre Greenlaw, and Kevin Givens.
Greenlaw is dealing with a back injury suffered on Sunday. He has missed the first two practices this week. It makes sense to keep him off the field. As for Givens, he’s missed a few games but has returned to practice in a limited fashion this week. Just like with Samuel and Mitchell, he should be on the field for a few snaps Sunday to get back into the flow.
Brock Purdy’s wheels: Seeing Brock Purdy escape onrushing defenders has become somewhat common since he took over.
How’s he doing it? One explanation is his quickness.
Although Purdy’s 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine was only 4.84, his 10-yard split was 1.55. For reference, that time is the same as 49ers teammate Christian McCaffrey and faster than either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.
Short area quickness is extremely important in football. Think about it, how often do you see players running 40 yards in a straight line?
Injury Report: Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell were full participants for the second day in a row as they return from injury.
Left guard Aaron Banks (ankle, knee), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (back), defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (illness, knee), running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle, knee) missed practice for the second consecutive day while cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle) was out after being a limited participant on Wednesday.
Defensive tackle Kevin Givens returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since injuring his knee against Tampa Bay on December 11. Givens was a limited participant as was defensive tackle Arik Armstead (foot/ankle).