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December 18, 2017

Doug Pederson seems to be leaning toward resting starters if Eagles clinch 'home field'

When the Philadelphia Eagles took care of business against a garbage 2-12 New York Giants team on Sunday, they inched closer to their lone remaining regular season goal, home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

With one more win or one more Vikings loss, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC would go through Philly. On Monday, Doug Pederson acknowledged, sort of, that he has begun to think about what he will do if the Eagles clinch.

"I've begun thinking, but my focus is winning the game on Monday night, because that to me is the most important thing," he said. "Once we get to next week, we'll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football, and if we win that one. And like I've said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now. So that's the focus for me."

Still, it sounds like Pederson is leaning toward resting players, if given the opportunity.

"You just make the best decisions for your football team and if that means resting a guy, you rest a guy, or two or three," he said. "But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you've got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you've got to keep that alive.

"It's not a preseason game, you know what I'm saying, where you can rest in week four and rest all your guys. You can't do that because you're still limited to the roster limits on game day. Guys are still going to have to play, but at the same time, I'm going to be smart about the decisions we make moving forward and getting guys who need the rest, if possible."

As we noted last week, over the last 10 years, by my count, nine teams have locked up the No. 1 seed prior to Week 17 and rested their starters. They had a combined record of 3-6 in their first playoff game. Other No. 1 seeds who played their starters Week 17 went 9-2 in their first playoff game. 

Of course, one of the bigger decisions will be whether or not to rest quarterback Nick Foles.

"You want Nick to play as much as you can and get as many reps as you can and let him play and continue to work through some things and work the rapport with the offense and all of that," Pederson said.

Though at the same time, Pederson also believed that getting third quarterback turned backup Nate Sudfeld some reps would also be beneficial.

"Ideally, yeah, you'd like to get him some time and some reps here in the next couple of ballgames," he said.

The Vikings play on Saturday this week, so the Eagles will know if they have to win against the Raiders on Christmas to lock down home field advantage. In that event, they'd have three possibilities:

  1. Play the starters Week 16, rest them Week 17: This is the most traditional scenario for teams resting players, though it's rare to even be able to rest starters as early as Week 16.
  2. Rest starters Week 16, play them Week 17: In this scenario, the Eagles could sort of have their cake and eat it too. They could give their most important players a rest in a meaningless game on Christmas, while also having them get geared back up for Week 17, the week before they'll have another bye.
  3. Rest the starters both weeks: In this scenario, the the Eagles would go into the playoffs very fresh and rested, however, you risk losing your sharpness, and Pederson's aforementioned reference to swagger.

If possible, if I were Doug, I'd choose option No. 2.

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