With only two regular season games to go, the NFL playoff scenarios are really heating up. Chip Kelly and the Eagles find themselves in an interesting dilemma heading into their Week 16 matchup at home against the Chicago Bears. The Eagles have to make a decision if they want to play their starters against Chicago.
See, if the Dallas Cowboys beat the Redskins in Washington in Week 16, the results of the Eagles-Bears won't matter much for Philadelphia. At best, the Eagles will retain their one game lead over the Cowboys heading into the season finale. The one game lead isn't very meaningful however because if Dallas wins in the final week, the Eagles and Cowboys will finish the season with the same record. The Cowboys own the tiebreaker, so they would win the division in that case.
However, it's possible that the Cowboys lose to the Redskins considering Washington looked a little better with Kirk Cousins at QB in place of the benched Robert Griffin III. If the Redskins beat the Cowboys, the Eagles will have the chance to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Bears on Sunday Night Football. This scenario would make for a very meaningful game.
Fortunately enough, the Eagles will know what the Bears games does/doesn't mean before kickoff. Cowboys-Redskins starts at 1 PM EST (and ends around 4 PM EST) while the Eagles play late on Sunday Night Football starting at 8:30 PM EST.
According to Chip Kelly, the Eagles won't be waiting to make that decision. Kelly was asked about this issue in his Monday press conference. Here's what he had to say:
"I don't care what goes on with Dallas. We lost to the Vikings and that did not feel very good. [We] will not rest anyone if Cowboys win next Sunday [...] We have to get back on a winning track."
So is Kelly making the right decision? For now, let's just assume the Cowboys beat the Redskins and look at the arguments for/against playing the starters.
The Case for Playing the Starters: The game isn't exactly "meaningless". If the Eagles win their remaining two games, they clinch the third seed in the NFC. That means the Eagles would face the second wildcard team (6th seed) in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagle are coming off a letdown loss in a game they seemingly could have won. The team played poorly in all phases and the coaching wasn't great either. Maybe it's best for the team to shake off the rust and regain their confidence. If momentum exists, perhaps it's best for the team to prove they can play again.
The Case for Resting the Starters: Other than seeding, this game doesn't mean too much. Perhaps it's best for the Eagles to rest their starters and focus on the Cowboys game. The Eagles would have the advantage of a full week of rest over the Cowboys since Dallas still has to play their starters versus the Redskins in Week 16. It's best for the Eagles to just rest up and take time off after the letdown loss to the Vikings. It gives the Eagles time to learn from their mistakes. As an added bonus, resting the starters allows backups to get playing time they usually wouldn't have had.
Or maybe it's none of the above. Perhaps Chip Kelly's best decision is to play the starters for a limited amount of time, say, the first half, before sitting them the remainder of the game.
People are going to have their own opinions on what's right but as of now Kelly's mind is made up. Expect the Eagles' starters to play on Sunday Night Football against the Bears.