For the San Francisco 49ers, earning a first-round bye in the 2012 NFL Playoffs was more of a necessity than a luxury. While any team would prefer to have one less game getting in the way of their Super Bowl hopes, the 49ers suffered an awful lot of injuries over the last couple of weeks, and can use the bye week to get healthier. Heading into their Week 17 matchup against the St. Louis Rams, they were already hurting, but coming out of it, there's a couple further concerns.
Though he returned to the field late in the game to insure the 49ers got the win, helping to stem off the Rams' late comeback, defensive end Justin Smith aggravated a knee injury and left in the first quarter, returning late in the fourth. Smith is a gamer, and it's not likely he'd miss any time if the 49ers had to play say, tomorrow, but some extra time to rest can only be a good thing.
Frank Gore also left the game early, and most figured he was just going to rest, but head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Gore was dealing with some injury issues. Still, Gore himself said that he's good to go. But for a running back that has dealt with injury problems throughout his entire football career, another week of rest can only help. Fullback Bruce Miller left the game with a knee injury and Moran Norris saw significant snaps, but he also returned late. It was the same knee injury that he was dealing with earlier in the season so, again, a week just helps.
As far as the pre-existing injuries are concerned, the 49ers expect both receivers Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. back in action. Williams has not been medically cleared to play following a concussion, but with that extra week, he should be good to go. Ginn is already running at just about full speed, so he too should be ready.
The only player really doubtful to return is tight end Delanie Walker, who sustained a fractured jaw against the Seattle Seahawks. He's not yet ruled out, however, and those kinds of injuries are taken on a case-by-case basis and vary a lot in recovery time.