Here we are, at the end of Week 16 in the NFL schedule, and have nothing to gain in Week 17. This is a perennial problem for teams in the league. You enter the final game of the season and win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t affect your playoff standing in any way. The Chiefs are locked in at the number 4 seed. Lose next week and they are still the 4 seed, by virtue of being the division winner with the worst record. Win next week and they may tie the Jacksonville Jaguars record, but lose the tie breaker and end up the number 4 seed.
So, this creates that question. The one where you ask if the first team players should play or not. The one where you question the risk of injury versus the loss of momentum. The NFL is a tough league with grown men flying all over the field. It is a constant risk that someone gets hurt. Why risk your best players in a game that cannot in any way help or hurt them? On the flip side, what happens to the starters mentally from not playing? Do they lose some rhythm? Do they lose their edge or timing or some intangible? It seems like an obvious choice to me, but let’s take a look at some history to see what we think.
2013 – Indianapolis
In 2013, the Chiefs rested the starters in their Week 17 game versus the San Diego Chargers. The backups played a nice game and almost came out with the win. They got some good experience at game speed and almost beat an opposing first team. The first team, obviously had an extra week to rest up, heal injuries, study the opposition, and focus on the playoffs.
In the first round of the playoffs, we lost to the Indianapolis Colts. The team put up 44 points, so you might think the week off helped. However, the team also gave up 45 points. I am not really wanting to get into a debate on who lost this game, I do hope we can agree there was a serious defensive breakdown. It might have been play calling or injury or something else, but the defense did not stop Indy.
So, did the week off help? Perhaps it helped the offense heal and prepare for the Colts. Or, did it hurt? Perhaps the defense lost their edge.
2015 – Houston
In 2015, the Chiefs played their starters in Week 17. They were playing for a shot at the AFC West crown, so gave it their best shot, winning that week. Although some other teams didn’t cooperate, the Chiefs entered the post season with a win. They traveled to Houston to take on the Texans.
The team went into Houston and from the opening kickoff owned the Texans. It started with an opening kickoff returned for a touchdown to ending the game 30-0. Although the offense wasn’t particularly explosive, the group racked up the points needed. Add to this the fact the defense pitched a shutout and you must admit the team was ready.
In the second round, KC faced the Patriots. The team played a close one in Foxborough. The result was 20-27, but seemed like it was even closer than that score would say. No real standouts and the offense seemed kind of vanilla, but not a fatigued team.
So, did the week off help? Perhaps it helped the offense/defense heal and prepare for the Texans. Or, did it hurt? Perhaps the team only had 1 more big game?
2016 – Pittsburgh
In 2016, the team played the starters in the final week of the season. There was still some meat on the bone that week. We were playing for the division title, so starters needed to be on the field. In addition to the division title, this was also for a first round Bye. The Chiefs ended up defeating the Chargers, earning the division and the first round Bye.
So, the starters didn’t get their rest in Week 17, but they did get it with the first round Bye. Last year wasn’t a pretty story either, though. We lost to a team that did nothing but kick field goals. The offense was flat. The defense was flat. Special teams weren’t special.
Summary of Results
My conclusion is that a week off seems to hurt us. This isn’t strict science, but simply correlation of results to inputs. When the starters play, we win the following week. When the starters don’t play, we lose the following week. What is tough for me is that is counter to what I would think would be the case. One would think the extra week would allow more preparation and healing of nagging wounds. What is looks like is that we lose the edge, slow down, over think the game, or some other reason for losing.
I am a proponent of resting the guys whenever possible. I am also a proponent of keeping the momentum. In my opinion, the best plan in this case is like preseason game 1/2. The starters need to go into the game like they are going to play the full 60. They need to prep for the playoff team, in terms of film study and play calling. They need to do the pre game warmups and go through maybe 1 quarter of game play. After that, ride the pine. It is more about the process than the results.
I also see value in getting the 2s some game reps. So, let them study the opposition game film. Have them run the reps on field to prepare. And, once the 1s hit the bench, let the 2s get some experience and see what they can do.
I hope we let the 1s play some this game. Keep with the program of getting game ready. Then sit them after a series or a quarter. I know we risk injury, butI think the risks are worth the reward in this case.
What do you guys think? Do we rest the guys? Or, do we keep the rust off?
Until next week, there’s The Rub!
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