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December 29, 2017

Eagles' starters will play Week 17 vs. Dallas despite securing home-field advantage

When the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Oakland Raiders Week 16, they clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, thus setting up a decision on whether or not to rest their starters in a game that is meaningless in terms of playoff seeding.

Doug Pederson has decided that the best course of action for his team heading into the playoffs is for his starters to play.

"I want all the starters to play," he said. 

OK, so that settles that. Why, Doug?

"The idea is to just keep the starters going," Pederson explained. "I don't want to not play them, and then it's three weeks later and you're playing a game. I think that would be foolish on my part, so I want to make sure that they stay in the moment, but at the same time be smart with how much they play, how long they play, and go from there."

As we noted a couple weeks ago, 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, other No. 1 seeds 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.

There is certainly reason to worry about the team losing its edge by getting too much rest. Of course, if another important player gets hurt, Pederson is sure to face heavy criticism.

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