The Dallas Cowboys have the first seed locked up, meaning they’ll have home field advantage as far as they go on their way to the Super Bowl and have nothing to play for on “Monday Night Football” against the Detroit Lions.
In the leadup to the game, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and team owner Jerry Jones have insisted that they’ll treat the game normally. After the Eagles defeated the Giants on Thursday night to clinch the first overall seed in the NFC for the Cowboys, Garrett firmly said, “We anticipate everyone being in the same roles they've been in.”
Jones was a little more enigmatic with his answer, rhetorically asking “It's an age-old question and certainly deserves to be a question: ‘how much do you want to be playing well, how much edge do you want to have?’”
However, he followed that up by drawing upon experience in 2007, when then head coach Wade Phillips decided to rest most of their starters in the second half because they already had the one-seed wrapped up. Despite an impressive 13-3 season, the Cowboys were bounced in their first playoff game against the Giants.
"That's going to bear heavily, our experience there with Wade in 2007, will weigh heavily on any thoughts I have about who plays,” Jones said in a radio interview this week.
But this was all before Saturday’s slate of game, which saw a few key player—most notably Raiders quarterback Derek Carr—go down with season-ending injuries. Certainly that has given the Cowboys some pause. Not according to Garrett:
#Cowboys Jason Garrett tells us he plans to play Dak, Zeke, starters as normal. "We like the rhythm of our offense and how Dak is playing."— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) December 26, 2016
There are plenty of valid arguments as to whether this is the right move for Dallas. Two weeks of rest plus a bye week seems overly precautious for the Cowboys, but if they were to suffer a big injury on Monday night, the coaching staff would rightfully be under fire as they head to the postseason.
Sadly for Lions fans, it appears they won’t get any extra help from the Cowboys on this front and will have to earn the win—and their playoff spot—on their own.