Every season at this time, at least several teams find themselves preparing for the final week of the regular season with their playoff position written in ink. Nothing they do in Week 17 can change that fate, a fact that raises one of the most hotly contested topics for NFL fans: Should teams with nothing to gain sit their top starters — particularly quarterbacks — in preparation for the playoffs?
That’s right … start ‘em or sit ‘em?
The two teams with “nothing” to play for — other than maintaining normalcy and building momentum — are the Patriots (locked in as the AFC’s top seed) and the Eagles (NFC’s No. 3 seed). The Bears could be in a similar position if the Falcons win, which would lock Chicago at No. 2.
In Boston, however, Bill Belichick will do what he always does: Whatever “is in the best interests of the football team.”
Belichick has a long track record of playing his starters, many of whom said this week they want to be on the field. Among them is Wes Welker, who suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale against Houston in which the Patriots also had nothing to gain.
Regardless of the odds of injuries, that’s the ugly flip side to this conversation.
Perhaps no other player is at the core of said debate more than Tom Brady. The frontrunner in the two-man race for NFL MVP, Brady is playing arguably the best football of his career. And the über competitive one has never been one to come out of any game, regardless of the score, and take the clipboard from Brian Hoyer or Matt Cassel or Rohan Davey.
The outcome at Gillette Field on Sunday won’t change the certainty the Patriots will host a playoff game in two weeks.
So, it’s time to throw this topic over to you: Would you rest your starters? Where would you like to see Brady on Sunday, on the field or watching comfortably from the owner’s box?