It’s that time again in the NFL season, time to play the “should ____ rest their starters in this meaningless Week 17 game?” Heading into this week, there are exactly two spots remaining for the playoffs, but there’s plenty of work left for seeding. Here’s where it stands.
In the NFC, Dallas is locked into the No. 1 seed. Atlanta and Seattle have won their divisions and are in. With a win Sunday, Atlanta would wrap up the two seed, followed by Seattle, the NFC North winner (Packers or Lions), the Giants in the fifth spot, and a frantic finish for the sixth spot between the loser of the NFC North and Washington, with Tampa having less than a 1 percent chance of making it.
In the AFC, the six spots are secured. Division winners New England, Pittsburgh (third seed), and Houston (fourth seed) are in, as well as Oakland and KC, and Miami. The only drama here is the first seed and the AFC West. If the Patriots win, they are the first seed. The winner of the AFC West will secure the second seed and a first-round bye. If Oakland wins and New England loses, the Raiders get the top seed.
So there are four teams who have the option of resting starters: the Cowboys, Giants, Steelers, and Texans. As usual, with any important decision, there are plenty of factors to take into account. I’ve been a part of two games, one with a team that was resting and another playing against a team resting its starters. I’ll get into my experiences as well.
After a weekend where two starting quarterbacks, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, broke their legs, it would scare any team that this could happen to them. However, there is no evidence that injury likelihood goes up in Week 17. Injuries are always a risk and part of the game, but I get where this would be the top factor.
How well the is team functioning on either side of the ball is a harder thing to judge because it’s on a team-by-team basis. If you’ve made the playoffs but are struggling on one side of the ball, getting reps in Week 17 may help correct some issues.