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December 13, 2017

Eagles should continue to play their starters if they clinch home field advantage

Eagles NFL

With the season-ending injury to Carson Wentz (and Jason Peters, and Jordan Hicks, and Darren Sproles, etc), it would stand to reason that the Philadelphia Eagles should rest their starters and end the carnage, should they secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

They have the opportunity to do so this weekend if they beat the Giants, paired with a Vikings loss to the Bengals.

Emotionally, it's certainly understandable why the Eagles would choose to go that route, if that is indeed what they decide to do. However, recent history shows that resting your starters is often a quick ticket out of the playoffs. Over the last 10 years, by my count, 11 teams have had home field advantage wrapped up heading into the final game of the regular season. Nine of those teams rested their starters. (By rested, we mean they either deactivated healthy starters, or pulled them out of the game early for preservation purposes.)

The record of those nine teams in their first playoff game: 3-6. A list of the teams that rested their starters, and their end results:

Year Team End result 
 2007Cowboys Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Giants 
 2008Giants Finished 12-4, lost first playoff game to the Eagles 
 2008Titans Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Ravens 
 2009Saints Finished 13-3, won the Super Bowl 
 2009Colts Finished 14-2, lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl 
 2010Patriots Finished 14-2, lost first playoff game to the Jets 
 2011Packers Finished 15-1, lost first playoff game to the Giants 
 2014Patriots Finished 12-4, won the Super Bowl 
 2016Cowboys Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Packers 

Over that same span, teams that played their starters, whether or not they needed to win that final game or not, had a combined record of 9-2 in their first playoff game. 

Yes, the loss of Carson Wentz hurts. Yes, the loss of Nick Foles would mean that Nate Sudfeld, a quarterback who has zero NFL pass attempts, would be the starter. And yes, losses to other key players like Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and others would further deplete the Eagles' star power. 

But the history is what it is, and the Eagles would be wise to consider it.

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