A look at teams that rested starters after clinching home field, and how they fare in the playoffs

Last December, with the Philadelphia Eagles about to wrap up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, we wrote that the Birds might be wise not to rest their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game, as recent history had shown that that strategy can — and more often did — backfire.

Doug Pederson didn’t listen. He had several key starters as healthy scratches, and pulled Nick Foles after about a quarter. And then the Eagles, you know, went on to win the Super Bowl.

This year, the Eagles find themselves in a divisional round matchup against a New Orleans Saints team that had previously clinched home field advantage and rested their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game. And so, since many have asked, let’s go ahead and update the records of teams that earned the No. 1 seed playing in their first playoff game after resting their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game:

Year  Team  End result 
 2007 Cowboys  Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Giants 
 2008 Giants  Finished 12-4, lost first playoff game to the Eagles 
 2008 Titans  Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Ravens 
 2009 Saints  Finished 13-3, won the Super Bowl 
 2009 Colts  Finished 14-2, lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl 
 2010 Patriots  Finished 14-2, lost first playoff game to the Jets 
 2011 Packers  Finished 15-1, lost first playoff game to the Giants 
 2014 Patriots  Finished 12-4, won the Super Bowl 
 2016 Cowboys  Finished 13-3, lost first playoff game to the Packers 
 2017 Eagles  Finished 13-3, won the Super Bowl 

The record of those 10 teams in their first playoff game, as you can count above, was a surprisingly bad 4-6. Over that same span, teams with the 1 seed that played their starters, whether or not they needed to win that final game or not, had a combined record of 10-2 in their first playoff game.

Obviously, you can also see that the Sean Payton- and Drew Brees-led 2009 Saints rested their starters and won it all.


*To note, if going back 11 years seems like an arbitrary cut-off point, it’s because I used a nice round number of 10 years when I did this research a year ago, and we’re obviously just adding last year’s results to that research.

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