The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday with a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Even if they stumble, they still are almost certain to wind up as the division representative in the playoffs because one more win in any of their last three games, or one more loss each by Philadelphia and Washington will put Dallas in. So even though it is just week 15, the Cowboys can start peeking ahead at the playoffs. That means it is time to start thinking about resting some of their players, especially those that need some real healing.
But is this wise? There are pluses and minuses, as our Michael Strawn and Tom Ryle discuss in this week’s friendly argument.
Michael: I normally like for players to play. I’ve never been a fan of resting players to avoid injury. It’s frustrating watching teams sit their key players in late-season games and then when the playoffs start they spend the first quarter looking like players who haven’t played in several weeks.
I feel differently this year. Specifically when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line. Injuries and illness have transformed what was considered the team’s best unit going into the season into, perhaps, its worst unit today. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin have both been hobbled recently and I’d be fine seeing them with reduced roles or even sitting out completely for a game or two. (Zack will be sitting on Sunday)
Tom: First things first, I get a little uncomfortable even talking about the division being won until the deal is done. Yeah, I know it is like 99% that Dallas makes it to the postseason, but I am really not a fan of backing into anything. I want to see them earn it the right way, and that’s with a win on Sunday. That, to me, says you don’t sit anyone unless there is a real health concern. Zack Martin makes sense as a player you want to be very cautious with, since he did not practice and has been really struggling. Sitting him is a good call for Sunday. But Tyron Smith did practice, and I think he needs to go this week at a minimum.
And there is one other thing to consider here. Dallas still has a shot at bumping the Chicago Bears from the #3 seed. As long as that is in play, it makes sense to go with your best players, rather than rest them. It simply may be too early to consider things.
Michael: You’re absolutely right; nothing should be taken for granted and until the NFC East division championship is written in ink the team should go all out. Martin is a no go at this point for the Colts and Tyron is likely a go. Assuming Dallas has the championship wrapped up, one way or another, come Monday morning these should be legitimate topics of discussion. I’d simply feel a lot better letting those three players have some rest: Smith, Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott is on pace for a monster number of touches this season (410) and has averaged 32.5 (not a typo) touches his last four games. That translates to 520 touches over a full season. Elliott has come off the field looking absolutely worn out several times in recent weeks. I would feel a lot better giving Tron, ZMart and Zeke a break from the rigors so they can go into the playoffs as fresh as possible. Remember, the Cowboys have virtually no chance at a bye week. The only rest those players will see is what they can get over the next few weeks.
Tom: I’ll concede on Martin, and the team already has with him being designated as out for the Colts game. He has been really fighting through his knee injury. Given those circumstances, they may just want to slow roll him until the postseason. But I’m less enthusiastic about having Tron sit, because he really looked rusty against the Eagles. I also think Zeke thrives on the workload, so while I could see having Rod Smith get a few more reps, I still think Zeke needs to get work and keep working hard towards the postseason. There is also a possible race to the rushing title, but fortunately, neither Zeke nor the team really seems to take that into account.
I just don’t think the team should be considering rest until the final game against the Giants. At that point, they may be fully locked into the four seed and have nothing to gain or lose. Also, that is the only game left that is not indoors, and MetLife stadium is not exactly the best place to be playing a game in late December. There are certainly arguments to be made for protecting some of their players, especially if it is a really cold day. Heck, if their position is all wrapped up, I’m here for the Cooper Rush show. But that is really a bit different than resting, at least in how I look at it for the next two games. For those, keeping starters on the bench should be strictly injury/healing driven, not just to give them a break.
Michael: Again, assuming the division title is secured, I think those three could really benefit from a lightened workload. Not necessarily sit out completely, but not play a full game either. Maybe play Tron a half in the week 16 contest against Tampa Bay and a quarter in the season finale. Reduce Zeke from 30+ touches to 15 or so (and probably sit completely in the season finale). It’s always a balancing act; you don’t want players to get rusty. But the OL has been so banged up....and Zeke has looked worn out at times. I personally think the situation gives the team an opportunity to rest these key players as they go into the most important games of the season.
Tom: Well, I am going to remain a bit more skeptical about the whole resting idea, at least for the next couple of games. While moving up to the three seed may be very unlikely, I just don’t see why they should concede. I also have those reservations about how sometimes a little rust can set in. I prefer leaving it more up to the medical staff. But it ain’t our decision, so we will have to see how things go.
OK, that’s our take. So how about you? Play head coach for a minute and let us know how you would handle this.
Should the Cowboys rest as many starters as they can, or keep them playing to win all the games they can?
This poll is closed
Rest them, there’s not enough to gain and too much to lose from injury.
You play to win the game, and a 1% chance of missing the playoffs is still a chance. Keep ‘em in.
I just woke from a six week coma. Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs?