Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Starters: In or Out?

Over the past several years, the Patriots have been faced with the age-old question facing coaches in week 17. If you've locked up a postseason bye, do you rest your starters?

Different coaches take very different approaches. Back in 2007 when the Patriots were on the cusp of going 19-0, Belichick played his starters in week 17 and ultimately made it to the Super Bowl. Most recently, in 2010, the Patriots had secured a playoff berth going into a week 17 matchup with the Houston Texans. Belichick played his starters again, and consequently Wes Welker tore his ACL. His injury, some may argue, was a major factor why the Patriots were decisively thrashed by the Ravens the following week.

In other circumstances, coaches have taken the conservative approach and simply rested their starters in week 17, having already secured a buy and/ or home field advantage. The most recent example that comes to mind was in 2010 when the Indianapolis Colts were 14-0 and rested their starters in week 16 and 17 to make sure they were healthy come playoff time. They were seemingly rewarded as they advanced all the way to the Super Bowl before they were thwarted by the New Orleans Saints.

The question I raise is this; Bill Belichick has clearly shown a tendency to play his starters in week 17, and I understand that the Patriots are playing for home field advantage throughout the entire postseason. However, he has seen how devastating injuries in week 17 can be with little to no time to prepare the backup and on a team that is already banged up/ thin on the defensive side of the ball...will he risk it for a  couple home games?

I personally would love to see Brady and company in there for two quarters and then hand the reigns over to Brian Hoyer. As much as I value home field advantage, this team cannot risk losing a valuable starter that is simply irreplaceable (Gronkowski, Welker, Mayo, Wilfork, Brady). What do you think? Will Belichick change his philosophy and lean more towards rest or will he persist with his mantra of playing the starters in a seemingly insignificant week 17 matchup? I feel like he will play the starters the duration of the game, but if someone gets injured I think it's seriously time to question his philosophy on this topic.

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