This weekend will bring a lot of decisions for the teams heading into the post season. Teams with nothing to gain by winning will be faced with deciding how much time if any their starters will see on the field.
It happens every year at this time. Teams that are solidly in the post season and especially those who have won their divisions have to decide how much time to let their starters spend on the field in a meaningless end of season game. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Texans, 49ers among others all face this dilemma this weekend.
The Patriots have their division and a first round bye and they are playing division rival Buffalo this weekend. In years past when the Pats have made the post season, they tend to play their starters well into the last game. I don’t think they are big believers in giving them too much time off as they already will have 2 weeks with the bye week. It’s always interesting to see what they do with Tom Brady in the last game going into the post season. The Pats can clinch home field advantage throughout with a win though, so that might figure into their decision.
The Packers also have their division and a first round bye and will face off with the Lions who are also playoff bound. So both teams are faced with the post season dilemma. Both teams would really like to win this game and both teams would really like to have all their starters healthy for the playoffs. It becomes a really tough decision especially when the fans have looked forward to this game all season.
The Texans seem to have stopped playing as soon as they won their division. They have lost both games since clinching and I would bet they don’t play their starters hardly at all…if any this weekend. They just are not interested in these last few games apparently and are now completely focused on the playoffs. In the past, I have seen this type of strategy fail. It will be interesting to see how it works out for the Texans.
The 49ers have the Rams on tap for this weekend. But the 49ers have something to play for this weekend. If they win, they get a first round bye. So they definitely have more to play for than some of the other teams and may be playing their starters most of the game. Should they build a considerable lead, then they might start sitting them later in the game. The Saints can also clinch a first round bye with a win and a 49ers loss, so the Saints are another team that may need to play their starters more.
The Steelers and Ravens are still playing to see who wins the division and gets the first round bye. Word has it that Big Ben “may” play for the Steelers this weekend but that is a huge dilemma for the team. Do they risk further injury or a set back to him just to try and get the division crown or do they let him sit and take their chances with Batch this weekend? It is a great risk to play him this weekend maybe too great a risk. I look for the Ravens to play their starters and try and get the division and the first round bye.
The last regular season game of the year is always interesting for the playoff bound teams. Who will sit and who will start? Just a few more days until we all find out.