Of all the Week 18 outcomes that can impact NFC playoff seedings, very few of them would allow the Dallas Cowboys to improve their current standing as the No. 4 seed. Nevertheless, the club has no intention of resting starters ahead of the first round of the playoffs when they close the regular season Saturday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"We plan to play. We plan to play to win," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday on his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
It's a timeless question for teams like the Cowboys, who've clinched a playoff spot before the end of the regular season, as to whether resting some starters is a smart move. For teams whose playoff standing is completely cemented, it's even more debate-worthy. That's not quite the case with the Cowboys, but it's close. Per NFL Research, among 32 possible Week 18 scenarios that don't involve ties, the Cowboys will keep the NFC's No. 4 seed in 28 of them. Two scenarios -- a Cowboys win combined with wins by the 49ers, Seahawks and Buccaneers -- would put Dallas in the No. 3 seed. In two others, a Cowboys win combined with wins by the 49ers, Seahawks and Panthers, Dallas would get the No. 2 seed.
Jones didn't mention the team's improbable rise in the seedings, but did note the Cowboys will already be getting a bit more rest anyway, due to the Saturday scheduling of the Eagles game.
"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," Jones said. "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."
Beyond that, it's not as if the Cowboys enter the Eagles game operating at peak performance. Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, whom the Cowboys could very well see again in their playoff opener, wasn't pretty. There are some things to clean up.
And that can't be done with a starting lineup loaded with backups.