Jerry Jones Says Cowboys Will Play Starters vs. Eagles: 'We Plan to Play to Win'January 4, 2022
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed the team will play its starters in Saturday's regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"We plan to play. We plan to play to win," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan radio (via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com).
The Cowboys are all but locked into the NFC's No. 4 seed heading in to Week 18, while the Eagles have also clinched a playoff berth as a wild card and can move up a maximum of one slot to the No. 6 seed, so the game doesn't carry a ton of standings weight barring a string of favorable results elsewhere around the league.
"Obviously, the debate over the two ways to go is pretty obvious, but I like to play. In this particular case, we're going to have an extra day's rest between our last game and the first playoff game. I think we're better served by going out there and executing and having our team out there really playing like it's the playoff game we'll be playing the next week."
There are two schools of thought in the Cowboys' situation: rest the starters to ensure no major injuries occur that could diminish the team's Super Bowl hopes or play the game normally with hope of finding a rhythm that carries into the postseason.
Dallas is coming off a lackluster offensive performance in a 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It tallied only 301 total yards and had just seven points through three quarters before a couple of touchdowns during a fourth-quarter rally. Returning to form on that side of the ball is probably part of the equation for Jones and Co.
While the fear of injuries is understandable, recent trends suggest playing the final regular-season game as normal is the way to go.
Before last year's playoffs, Conner Christopherson of Sports Illustrated noted teams that rested their starters for the entirety of the finale were just 2-4 in their first playoff game over the previous 10 years, while those who played their starters were 28-6.
Although the sample size is too small rest-wise to draw any definitive conclusions, playing starters didn't appear to have a substantial downside. Of course, an injury to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb or Amari Cooper could change that viewpoint in a hurry.
Lamb and Cooper are particularly important after fellow wideout Michael Gallup suffered a torn ACL in the loss to Arizona.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday the coaching staff wants to make sure the team is playing at the highest possible level when the playoffs arrive.
"There are slight odds to potentially move up, so we want to make sure we take care of business on our end and finish off and make sure that we're playing with momentum going into the game," he told reporters.
Ultimately, it wouldn't be a surprise if Dallas pulls its starters if the score becomes lopsided in either direction, but otherwise it sounds like the Cowboys are ready to play everyone for all fourth quarters, if needed.