The Week 17 battle between NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia is a meaningless football game. The Cowboys have been officially eliminated from the playoffs and the Eagles have sewn up the #1 seed in the NFC and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If Dallas was eliminated, and Philadelphia was still playing for something and another team was concerned with the outcome of the game for their own playoff hopes, then I would advocate for the Cowboys playing all their starters and trying to do everything they can to win the game. Taking this position insures the integrity of the playoff chase process. Imagine if the Cowboys were in the position of two teams playing and Dallas needs one of them to lose for a playoff spot or higher seeding, and the other team decided to rest all its starters.
In this case, though, we have two teams just playing out the final game. Philadelphia will likely rest many of their players, but there is always the double-edged sword of resting players to avoid injury and ending up rusty when you return after a playoff bye. They also have the unusual situation of Nick Foles at QB and his need for live reps. They will address their situation on Wednesday.
“I’ll evaluate that tomorrow when we get in and see where we’re at injury-wise,” coach Doug Pederson said after Monday night’s win over the Raiders. “I might have more information for you tomorrow, but it will probably be more like Wednesday before I finally make a decision on who we play.”
As for the Cowboys, who knows what direction they will go? If I were their coach, I certainly would make some changes.
- Sit Dak Prescott. Someday, Dallas might need Cooper Rush to come in and play a few games if Prescott is injured, and it would be nice if he had some real game action under his belt. Plus, what if the unthinkable happened and Prescott seriously injured himself in the game and that injury was the kind that lingered into the 2018 season? No real reason to risk it.
- Limit Ezekiel Elliott. Why risk any kind of injury? Also, let’s reward Rod Smith for all his hard work over the past couple of years on special teams and as a backup running back. I would make him the feature back and let him run all day.
- Sit Tyron Smith. This has got to be a no-brainer. Todd Archer says:
I wonder why the Cowboys would even think about playing Tyron Smith this week. Normally I like to quote Bill Parcells, “Football players play football during football season,” but there is no reason, good or otherwise, for the Cowboys to play their left tackle. In fact, there is no way Smith should play in the Pro Bowl either.
- Continue sitting Orlando Scandrick. He hasn’t played in weeks, why start now.
- Play Noah Brown and Ryan Switzer at wide receiver a lot. While you can’t sit down Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams completely, I would let the two rookies play a lot and see what they have as parts of the offense. The Cowboys need to recamp their receiving corps this offseason, so let’s get a look at these two rooks before making any decisions.
- Give Taco Charlton every rep he can handle. The good news is that Charlton’s play has been on the upswing in the last month. He’s finally starting to make plays. Give him a heavy dose of playing time, maybe he’ll have a breakout game that will boost his confidence heading into 2018.
Obviously the injury report over the next few days will tell us more about what will happen in the game. If some vets suddenly show up with issues, the Cowboys front office might be prepping to shut them down for the last game. Jason Garrett is a stickler for process, accountability, of doing everything right... but in this case, he really should be thinking about 2018 and not 2017.