By now, you know that the LA Rams are sitting seven starters in the Week 18 season finale against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco 49ers. But what of the 49ers? Many Rams fans expected the 49ers to play starters against the LA Rams for two reasons. The first reason is simple: The 49ers have earned a BYE in the the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs. So sitting players in Week 18 has less urgency to get banged up players a badly needed rest week.
But some believe that the San Francisco 49ers do not want to bestow any goodwill to the Rams organization either. The LA Rams (9-7) could finish the 2023 NFL season with a record of 10-7 and a sixth seed in the upcoming playoffs. If that holds, then the Rams would likely face the Detroit Lions (as the projected third seed) in the Wild Card Round. Should the Rams win that game, they would go on to face the San Francisco 49ers (assuming that the second seeded Dallas Cowboys defeats the seventh seed)
Perhaps even more than any deliberate reason is simply logistics. The 49ers, just like the LA Rams, can only truly sit a limited number of players. So which players do we know will sit for now?
The 49ers will sit starting QB Brock Purdy, as well as starting RB Christian McCaffrey. Okay, so the Rams equivalent of QB Matthew Stafford and RB Kyren Williams:
So who else could rest in Week 18? Based on the latest 49ers injury report for Week 18, there are a number of starters and rotational players who have been limited in practices. Those limited practice players include: DE Arik Armstead (foot, knee), DB Ji'Ayir Brown (knee), TE Ross Dwelley (ankle), G Joe Feliciano (back), DB Tashaun Gibson (quad), DB Ambry Thomas (hand), and WR Jauan Jennings (concussion). There have been some rumors that the 49ers would sit offensive tackle Trent Williams, but 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan has insisted that Williams would practice as normal this week, even if he sits in Week 18.
"So the guys who are injured are already not playing. So how many other guys do you get to pick? I can pick two up from practice squad, but that’s all. Unless we start cutting a bunch of players there’s no other option. So guys have got to be in uniform. They’ve got to be ready to go. . . We have to make sure we get something out of this week. Guys’ minds have to be right this week. Two bye weeks isn’t good for anybody. And that’s why this isn’t one."- 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan
Ultimately, I would not expect the 49ers to push starters to compete in Week 18 if they are: Vital to the team's overall success (Purdy and McCaffrey) or a bit banged up (Armstead or Brown). But beyond that, the 49ers have no incentive to give starters two consecutive weeks off before post-season competition.
Like it or not, it looks like the Rams may sit more starters than the 49ers in Week 18. In the end, I still expect a very competitive game. After all, the Rams will want to beat the 49ers, no matter who plays. As for the 49ers? Their eyes will be on a bigger prize, and I cannot fathom that beating the Rams backups as ranking high on their list of priorities.