Los Angeles clinched the NFC West title and a spot in the playoffs with a 27-23 victory over Tennessee on Sunday. Because the Vikings hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, we know L.A. can finish no better than the NFC's No. 3 seed. At worst, L.A. will be the No. 4 seed, still hosting a playoff game at the Coliseum on Jan. 6 or Jan. 7.
For that reason, head coach Sean McVay indicated in his press conference on Tuesday that the Rams will likely be resting some starters against the 49ers on Sunday.
"[B]eing locked into that 3rd or 4th seed — every single game is important — but I think it will provide an opportunity for us to potentially get some guys healthier, rest them, give some other guys a chance to step up," McVay said. "How that affects the guys that are healthy that we want to be smart with is going to be determined as the week progresses. But it is one of those deals where I think you might see us rest some guys and use this week where, you don't ever take anything for granted, 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 that we want to take advantage of," McVay continued. "And everything that we do is what we think is best for our football team."
Essentially, McVay said that the costs of potentially losing a key contributor due to injury in a game where L.A. is not playing to win the division outweigh the benefits of said player being involved on Sunday. And, again, Los Angeles will play at home in the Wild Card round.
"When you really take into consideration that there's four potential teams that we can play, all of them are very, very good football teams. And however it plays out, you're going to be on the road the following week," McVay said. "When you look at getting guys healthy, knowing that you are going to be able to play a home playoff game, and then you think about the risk-reward — we feel like that's probably going to be the best decision, is to rest some of those guys."
Who might be sitting out? Well, clearly those with injuries — McVay mentioned players like linebackers Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree.
"That's where you feel pretty good about saying, 'Alright, these are guys that are definite candidates to rest them and get them as healthy as possible for that first playoff game,'" McVay said.
But if a veteran like starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth isn't on the field, then that might also affect the quarterback and skill players, too.
This isn't quite a preseason-like situation, though. Especially now, teams have a true ability to rest starters because they go into the four exhibition matchups with 90 players. The Rams have only 53 players on their roster now, and only 46 of them can be active on gameday.
"You've still got 53 guys on your active roster, how do you get to those 46? Now, fortunately for us, we are fairly healthy. But how we determine, as far as getting to that 46, and then if you do go with a Whitworth and [center John] Sullivan, how does that affect a Jared [Goff] and a Todd [Gurley]? But those things are all definitely connected. And those are things that we're going to discuss as the week progresses."
Particularly offensively, McVay said there is some concern about taking the unit out of its rhythm. Like Gurley, who has averaged 8.14 yards per touch over the last two games scoring six total touchdowns. And Goff, who has thrown six TDs in the last two weeks.
"It's something that you always want to be mindful of," McVay said. "The bye probably provides the closest thing [to a comparison], and I loved the way that our team came off the bye. Just when you talk about the timing and rhythm from an offensive standpoint, thought it was one of our more productive games where we're hitting deep balls, we're able to run the football have a nice little bit of balance.
"I think we've got the right types of guys who can handle that the right way and understand how we need to practice and what we need to do in the meantime if it is a situation where they're not going to play this coming week," McVay added.
But even if starters rest, McVay and the Rams are looking to beat the 49ers on Sunday.
"Make no mistake about it — the guys that we are going to go forward with, we are going to do everything in our power to compete to go win a football game," McVay said. "But, everything that we do is intentional. I think that's served us well up to this point."