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:
|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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