THOUSAND OAKS — It’s against the nature of any NFL coach to keep his best players on the sideline, but for the Rams and Sean McVay this week, prudence might win out over competitiveness.
The Rams host San Francisco in their regular-season finale Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. The game isn’t meaningless, but it’s close. The Rams are in the playoffs and are locked into a first-round home game. Their opponent isn’t yet known, but that’s somewhat out of their control anyway.
So while McVay stopped short Tuesday of definitively saying so, it’s likely that some of the Rams’ top players won’t be on the field, or will see very limited action, against the 49ers.
“You don’t ever take anything for granted,” McVay said in an off-day news conference at Cal Lutheran, “but knowing that you do have a home playoff game, regardless of how things play out, this might provide an opportunity for us to get some guys healthy. That’s a luxury we want to try to take advantage of.”
McVay mentioned quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth and linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron as players who might get rested.
It stands to reason that defensive star Aaron Donald also would be on that list, as well as offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, who left part of last week’s game at Tennessee with an injury.
The problem for the Rams (and any team in this scenario) is, they only have 53 players on their active roster, and 46 suit up for a game. Not every starter can be rested, but it’s quite likely that the Rams’ backups will play an overwhelming percentage of snaps against the 49ers.
If the Rams win Sunday, they will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC and host either Atlanta or Seattle the following weekend. If they lose to the 49ers, they still have a chance to retain the No. 3 seed, but more likely, they will fall to No. 4 and host either Carolina or New Orleans.
It’s fair to argue that some…