The debate over whether playoff-bound teams should play their starters in the final regular-season game has been going on for decades. The Philadelphia Eagles have traditionally erred on the side of caution and benched them.
That practice started during the Andy Reid era. And, judging by the way Nick Sirianni handled the preseason, that trend should continue in 2021. While a win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday could move the Eagles up to the No. 6 seed, is it worth the risk of re-aggravating Jalen Hurts’ hobbled ankle? Or re-popping Jason Kelce’s knee out of place? Probably not.
“Again, things that I haven’t really thought too much about yet,” Sirianni said when asked about resting his starters. “Again, we came in here, we watched the tape of our game, then we started getting ready for Dallas. So, everything is on the table to talk through all those things.”
Meanwhile, Dallas owner Jerry Jones sounds like a man determined to finish 12-5. The Cowboys intend to give it their best effort in Week 18, including throwing their starters out there for four quarters. Ditto for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.
“We plan to play,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “We plan to play to win.”
Those comments echo what Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott told reporters after a 25-22 loss to Arizona on January 2.
“I plan on playing,” Prescott said, via CBS Sports. “Period.”
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Eagles Only Thinking About Dallas
The Eagles’ coaching staff was quick to dismiss any questions about potential playoff opponents on Monday. They have an 80% chance of taking on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round, but a date with the Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals aren’t off the table. For now, all their focus is on beating Dallas in Week 18.
The Eagles were embarrassed by the Cowboys 41-21 in Week 3, although both teams are different versions of themselves now. Also, there is an outside shot that Philly and Dallas could meet in the wild-card round.
“So, we will use that game and look at it and see what we didn’t do well and what we did do well and how we have to play better to get ourselves in a chance to do our part to get ourselves to be able to be competitive and win that game,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said of that Week 3 game. “They did some things that were good I thought, and we have some answers for. I think we’re a better football team and they’re probably a better football team, too. It’s going to be a big-time challenge because they’re loaded.”
Eagles Activate Craig James, John Hightower
One day after the Eagles placed a mind-numbing 12 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the team got two guys back. Cornerback Craig James and wide receiver John Hightower were activated to the practice squad. Hightower hasn’t seen game action since November 7 against the Los Angeles Chargers when he fumbled a kick return. And James has yet to see a snap in 2021.
That leaves receiver KeeSean Johnson and tight end Noah Togiai as the lone members of the practice squad still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Jason Kelce, Rodney McLeod, Genard Avery, Fletcher Cox, Dallas Goedert highlight the 12 players from the active roster in the league’s health and safety protocols.