It’s hard to fathom but despite a 2-5 start, the Eagles clinched a playoff berth with one game remaining in their season.
And it sets up an interesting decision for Nick Sirianni.
Because this game against Dallas on Saturday night won’t mean much for playoff seeding, he can rest a large group of his starters and begin to prepare for their wild card playoff matchup. Or he can play his starters and try to carry some momentum into the first round.
As of Monday afternoon, the Eagles’ head coach claimed no decision had yet been made.
“We’ll keep everything on the table,” Sirianni said. “Not quite sure what we’re going to do yet.”
You can make valid arguments on both sides. But it’s important to remember that this is a team and a head coach that has prioritized player safety and freshness all season, dating back to short training camp practices and up to recently when they stopped practicing on Wednesdays in favor of walkthroughs.
If you follow that line of thinking, it’s reasonable to assume the Eagles are going to take it easy in Week 18.
And that decision might be a little easier after the Eagles placed 12 players, including several older starters like Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Rodney McLeod, on their Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday evening. Even if those guys clear the COVID protocol, there’s a good chance a handful of them don’t play.
Meanwhile in Dallas, the Cowboys have already made up their minds. They’re playing to win, head coach Mike McCarthy said:
Sirianni recalled that during his career, he has been in seven play-in games to make the playoffs but has been in a similar situation to this just once when he was an assistant on Todd Haley’s staff in Kansas City. Back in 2010, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West title in Week 16.
That next week, the Chiefs played most of their starters, including Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe on offense and Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and others on defense. The Chiefs still lost 31-10 to the Raiders and then got bounced out of the playoffs by the Ravens the following week.
Sirianni said maybe he’ll call Haley and some other coaches this week to get advice.
As of Monday, though, he said no decisions had been made.
“We’re talking through all that still. We haven’t decided anything yet,” he said. “We don’t have to decide anything now. We’re preparing like we would normally prepare on a Monday for a game. Really it’s like a Tuesday now that we got flexed to Saturday. We’re trying to get our plan ready, we’re trying to rip through that.
“Like I said, we don’t have to make that decision quite yet. I know there’s a thing about resting and there’s a thing about staying sharp. No doubt we’re taking everything into account and we’ll discuss that later on today.”
As a reminder, the Eagles could end up in the No. 6 or 7 seed, but either way their most likely playoff opponent will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite that, Sirianni claimed the Eagles aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“The same response I had last week with all that,” Sirianni said. “You don’t look too far ahead, you don’t look too far behind. You think about each day, what you have to get done that day. That’s been our model all year. That’s been what we’ve done all year. Keeping it one game at a time. We have to be able to go out and put our best foot forward and be ready to win this football game against a good football team in Dallas.”
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