For the few teams heading into Week 17 already locked into playoff position, the lingering question is whether to rest starters for the playoffs or play for a win heading into the tournament.
Two organizations are providing examples of each approach. Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said the Jags will play to win Sunday against Tennessee. Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay is taking the opposite method, indicating he intends to rest some players in Week 17 versus the San Francisco 49ers.
The Rams already clinched the NFC West. At best they can be the No. 3 seed, at worst the No. 4 -- there is an argument that the lower seed might have a more desirable path through the NFC this season. At each spot, L.A. would host a playoff game on the Wild Card Weekend.
"Being locked into that third or fourth seed -- every single game is important -- but I think it will provide an opportunity for us to potentially get some guys healthier, rest them, give some other guys a chance to step up," McVay said Tuesday, via the team's official website. "How that affects the guys that are healthy that we want to be smart with is going to be determined as the week progresses. But it is one of those deals where I think you might see us rest some guys and use this week where, you don't ever take anything for granted, but knowing that you do have a home playoff game regardless of how things play out, this might provide an opportunity for us to get some guys healthy."
McVay added: "That's a luxury that we want to take advantage of. And everything that we do is what we think is best for our football team."
Todd Gurley is sprinting toward an MVP bid after becoming the third player in NFL history with 2,000-plus scrimmage yards, 10-plus rush touchdowns and 6-plus receiving touchdowns in a season, joining Marshall Faulk and O.J. Simpson. The power back would seem like an obvious candidate to take at least most of the game off to avoid injury. Will Gurley lobby for carries to keep his narrow lead as the NFL's top rusher and try to oust Tom Brady for league MVP?
McVay indicated that decisions on one player -- left tackle Andrew Whitworth, for example -- could have a ripple effect on decisions made about how much playing time others receive Sunday.
"You've still got 53 guys on your active roster, how do you get to those 46? Now, fortunately for us, we are fairly healthy. But how we determine, as far as getting to that 46, and then if you do go with a Whitworth and [center John] Sullivan, how does that affect a Jared [Goff] and a Todd [Gurley]? But those things are all definitely connected. And those are things that we're going to discuss as the week progresses."
McVay didn't sound concerned about how resting players could influence any perceived momentum heading into the postseason.
"I think we've got the right types of guys who can handle that the right way and understand how we need to practice and what we need to do in the meantime if it is a situation where they're not going to play this coming week," he said.