January 09, 2019
Last December, with the Philadelphia Eagles about to wrap up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, we wrote that the Birds might be wise not to rest their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game, as recent history had shown that that strategy can — and more often did — backfire.
Doug Pederson didn't listen. He had several key starters as healthy scratches, and pulled Nick Foles after about a quarter. And then the Eagles, you know, went on to win the Super Bowl.
This year, the Eagles find themselves in a divisional round matchup against a New Orleans Saints team that had previously clinched home field advantage and rested their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game. And so, since many have asked, let's go ahead and update the records of teams that earned the No. 1 seed playing in their first playoff game after resting their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game:
The record of those 10 teams in their first playoff game, as you can count above, was a surprisingly bad 4-6. Over that same span, teams with the 1 seed that played their starters, whether or not they needed to win that final game or not, had a combined record of 10-2 in their first playoff game.
Obviously, you can also see that the Sean Payton- and Drew Brees-led 2009 Saints rested their starters and won it all.
*To note, if going back 11 years seems like an arbitrary cut-off point, it's because I used a nice round number of 10 years when I did this research a year ago, and we're obviously just adding last year's results to that research.
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