April 20, 2024

The most difficult decisions for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in Week 18 will come well before the game, when he must determine whether any of his key players will be given the week off to prepare for the postseason.

The 49ers are in that fortunate position after defeating Washington 27-10 on Sunday and then seeing Arizona upset Philadelphia, securing the No. 1 seed for San Francisco.

It was easier to earn this bye than it was four years ago, when it required a Dre Greenlaw tackle at the one in the final seconds to secure a win at Seattle and give the Niners the top seed.

So for the first time as a head coach, Shanahan will enter the playoffs with nothing at stake in the final regular-season game.

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“When you give them time off from the game, practice changes as well. That can wind up harming guys a lot and leading to terrible behaviors,” he said. “I’ve seen it cost many teams. Also, it allows some guys to get well.”

Several players with injuries, most notably star running back Christian McCaffrey, will take advantage of the opportunity to recuperate before San Francisco’s divisional round playoff opening at home on Jan. 20 or 21.

However, he has not decided whether crucial players such as quarterback Brock Purdy, left lineman Trent Williams, edge rusher Nick Bosa, and receiver Deebo Samuel will also take the week off.

But, nevertheless, they will all be able to enjoy wild-card weekend owing to their rebound performance against Washington, which came after a home loss to Baltimore on Christmas night.

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“It’s huge just in terms of our bodies and being able to rest and recover,” added Purdy. “There are a lot of guys on our team who have given so much during the season. And being able to take a short break is huge. We hadn’t had one since the bye week. So, every team has been through this part of the season, but for us to be able to secure that one spot and have guys healthy for the playoffs is significant.”

Purdy rebounded nicely to his four interception performance against the Ravens. He finished 22 of 28 for 230 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers against the Commanders. He also set the single-season franchise record for throwing yards with 4,280, surpassing Jeff Garcia’s mark of 4,278 set in 2000.

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