With the No. 1 seed nailed down, the Eagles have nothing to play for on Sunday against the Cowboys. So the question is whether and to what extent the Eagles will play their starters.
“I’ll evaluate that tomorrow when we get in and see where we’re at injury-wise,” coach Doug Pederson said after Monday night’s win over the Raiders. “I might have more information for you tomorrow, but it will probably be more like Wednesday before I finally make a decision on who we play.”
Even with the Eagles unable to improve their branch position on the NFL playoff tree, the extra live reps could help quarterback Nick Foles, if he physically survives them. Besides, and as Pederson pointed out, he may have no choice but to use Foles.
“Right now with only two guys [at quarterback], I would assume he’d probably have to play some,” Pederson said.
Beyond keeping his starters healthy, Pederson needs to worry about them being rested to the point of rusty. With the bye week looming, they Eagles will go three weeks between meaningful games. And they’ll be facing a team that will have just won a potentially hard-fought wild-card win. And they’ll be carrying the weight of expectations that comes with being the No. 1 seed.
There’s no easy answer. If Foles plays and gets hurt, Pederson will be second-guessed. If Foles sits and stinks in the divisional round, Pederson will be second-guessed. It’s arguably a small price to pay for being the first seed in the NFC.