No one seriously thought Atlanta coach Jim Mora, Jr. rested many of his offensive starters as a favor to good friend Jim Haslett last Sunday. But there is no doubt Carolina and St. Louis were on the short end of the stick when the Saints beat the Falcons to stay alive in the NFC playoff race.
Atlanta and Philadelphia were the lone two playoff teams with nothing to
gain and nothing to lose by resting many key players in Week 16. But with
home-field advantage and most of the playoff positions settled heading
into the final weekend of the regular season, the NFL actually had to
respond Tuesday to rumors that it sent a memo to playoff-bound teams
saying they must try to win.
NFL spokesman Steve Alic said there is "no language" in league bylaws
about playing starters and added that, "It's assumed clubs will play to
The Eagles and Falcons clearly didn't play to win in Week 16, and while
Mora has said he intends to play his healthy starters this Sunday,
Philadelphia coach Andy Reid is again expected to take the safe rout.
Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy have had to
fend off questions all week about their plan for key starters this week.
Although neither coach's team can move up or down in the AFC playoff
picture, each is playing in a game with implications for other teams.
The Steelers face Buffalo, which is trying to leapfrog Denver or the New York Jets for a wild card spot. Cowher has said he intends to play his
healthy starters, but it's uncertain for how long, and rookie quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger is not expected to play because of sore ribs.
Meanwhile, the Colts take on the Broncos, who desperately need a victory
to hold off the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville and Baltimore. If the
Broncos lose, New York automatically secure one wild card spot, but Jets
coach Herman Edwards isn't counting on good friend Dungy to play
quarterback Peyton Manning for four quarters in Denver.
"We don't want any help, we really don't," Edwards said. "Charity is for
people that need it. We don't need charity. We need to go win. We can do
that. We have to do that and that's got to be our mind set. If we don't,
we don't deserve to get in."
A day of rest
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