Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few days, you already know the scenario: if the Cowgirls beat the Skins on Sunday, the Eagles-Bears game becomes meaningless for the NFC East race. The winner of the week 17 Eagles-Cowgirls tilt will win the NFC East crown. It isn’t completely meaningless, mind you. You are still playing the team you are battling for the 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture.
That seed will determine who you play in the Divisional round, if you get there, which could be a big deal. But, since that is so tough to predict due to the NFL’s re-seeding after the Wild Card round, let’s just concede that you will be playing a very good football team. So, for all intents and purposes, it becomes rather “meaningless” compared to just getting into the tournament.
Whether you’re the 3 or the 4 seed, you still get a first round home game and you still play one of the same 2 teams in the Saints/Panthers loser or the 49ers. All are very good football teams who are likely better teams than the Eagles if you had to play a series against them. But, this is the NFL, and anything can happen on Any Given Sunday (Trademark LL Cool J). You need your guys to be as healthy as possible going into the playoffs, because you just never know how many more games you will be playing. And if you weren’t aware, a football game, let alone a season, is slightly rough on the human body.
It is this point that leads me to question a decision Chip has already made prior to any of these games finishing. We all can see how lucky we are to have gotten Chip (how’s the Gus Bus doing down in Jacksonville?), and I have been a huge supporter of his since before he was hired. He hasn’t had too many decisions this year that have made you scratch your head, save for pooching every kickoff in Minnesota. But, Chip has already stated that he will not be resting any starters on Sunday night, regardless of the outcome of the Cowgirls game, because he wants to get “back to a winning attitude”. I am here to go on record that I believe this is completely short-sighted and exposes the starters to unnecessary risk for very little reward.
This has long been an argument in football and sports circles if you are provided the luxury of this decision: do you rest your players and risk them “getting rusty”? Or do you continue to play them to “keep them sharp”? The media narrative is always the same: whenever a team coming off a bye week or a lengthy rest loses their next game, it is because they were “rusty”. Whenever a team coming off a break wins their next game, it is because they were “well-rested”. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and the media exploits that hindsight to the nth degree.
To me, the reality lies in the fact that the better team usually wins. And a large part of being the better team in football, more than any other sport, is being the HEALTHIER team. At this stage of the season, every team has dealt with a ton of injuries. But, if you can minimize the injuries from today forward, especially to your key players, you have a much greater chance of succeeding in Dallas and onward into the playoffs. Most important in minimizing risk is to rest your players whenever the injury risk of playing them outweighs the reward of a meaningless win for “attitude” purposes. This team already has a winning mentality. It’s one of the main reasons they are where they are right now, when no one outside of that locker room believed in them. They already know what they can do. These aren’t the 2012 Eagles, who quit on their coach. Their attitude is just fine, and you can’t make me believe that one loss in Minnesota has changed that.
I’ll leave you with this: if the Eagles somehow had a bye this week through a massive mistake by the NFL scheduling committee (completely hypothetical, just go with me for a second), would Chip call up the Jags during the bye week to stage a scrimmage just so they can get their “winning attitude” back? We all know the answer to this, and I hope this isn’t a decision that comes to define the 2013 Eagles “shoulda, woulda, coulda” season.