Analysis: Resting starters is an easy decision in the NFL

By Rob Maaddi

Resting starters to prevent injuries ahead of the playoffs is an easier decision in the NFL.

Football is too violent to worry about a long layoff causing rust.If coaches have an opportunity to give key players, especially quarterbacks, a game off with playoff seeds or positioning locked in, most are going to take it. And, they should.

The Dolphins lost edge rusher Bradley Chubb to a season-ending knee injury in the final minutes of a 56-19 loss to Baltimore last week. Coach Mike McDaniel said he regretted keeping Chubb in the game with the outcome already decided. It served as a reminder for other coaches going into the final game of the regular season.

There’s too much risk in a physical sport. Just look at all the QBs who sustained significant injuries this season from Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins to Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.

That’s why QBs Lamar Jackson, Brock Purdy, Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco are among several starters sitting out Week 18.

Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford (9) calls to sideline during game against the New York Giants, Dec. 31, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

But, coaches can’t rest everyone. They still need 48 players to dress for the games.

“What’s unique about this time is that different than the preseason, your numbers are a little bit limited and so I don’t think you can go into a game without feeling like, hey guys are going to go play,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “You have to be able to continue to take steps in the right direction. The fortunate thing for us is that because. … we’re already in the playoffs, you can look at it possible six or seven seed, it does offer an opportunity to be able to rest some guys.”

Carson Wentz will start at quarterback instead of Stafford for Los Angeles when the Rams (9-7) visit San Francisco (13-3). Running back Kyren Williams, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, tight end Tyler Higbee, tackle Joe Noteboom, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and linebacker Ernest Jones also won’t play.

“I’m excited about Carson’s opportunity. Obviously, a guy that’s had a lot of success in this league,” McVay said. “He’ll have the full offensive line and some really good players around him. Just excited to be able to see him go compete, do his thing. But when you look at the totality of it, just balancing what do you think is best and there’s not a perfect solution, especially when you’re talking about, alright, 53 guys, 48 active.”

“It’s not about the rusty, it’s about one, how you pull off a game,” he said. “Rusty isn’t always about the game. Rusty is how you treat the week. The game is how you treat the week. The game is 3 1/2 hours of, to me, what unfolded throughout the week and then you just get to cut it loose. So, that you’ve got to play accordingly. You’ve got to watch how the game’s going and be as smart as you can. I also think people win in playoff games because you’re a team.”

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes celebrates following game against Cincinnati Bengals Dec. 31, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)


Jackson and star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are among the guys sitting for Baltimore along with several players dealing with injuries.

“Just all things considered, it seemed to be the right thing to do,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about resting Jackson.

No Jackson benefits Baltimore’s opponent. The Steelers (9-7) need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and will face backup QB Tyler Huntley instead of the MVP favorite.

Spoiling another team’s playoff hopes is fun. Staying healthy is the priority.



Read original Associated Press article.

The Associated Press is an independent, non-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Our teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. We provide content and services to