As we near the end of the 2018 regular season, it will be interesting to see what teams decide to rest their starters in Week 17. It will also be quite fascinating to see what teams might play their starters in Week 17.
With a division title secure or a playoff berth cemented, should a team rest certain starters to reduce their likelihood of injury? Or should said starters continue to play for fear of upsetting their rhythm? It’s an interesting thought process and one that may affect future betting habits.
The Partial Sit
In 2009, the Indianapolis Colts took resting players to a new level. After the first drive in the third quarter of their Week 16 game against the New York Jets, the Colts took out Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning and replaced him with Curtis Painter. The Colts had a 15-10 lead at the time and they were 14-0. One week later, Manning played into the second quarter before being replaced by Painter who recorded a 15.1 passer rating.
Despite the rest, the Colts would go on to advance to the Super Bowl (they lost). The point here is bettors should be wary of teams that may pull a starter in one of the final games of the season. Consider the New Orleans Saints, for example. They are currently 12-2 and have the NFC South wrapped up. Before their Week 16 game, they have not solidified is a first-round bye or home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. A victory over Pittsburgh in Week 16 would change that, and it did. In Week 17, maybe they pull QB Drew Brees after the first quarter. Week 17 bettors beware.
The Rust Factor
Last year, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay decided to rest some of his starters in Week 17. Running back Todd Gurley, QB Jared Goff, and DT Aaron Donald were among those who did not play in a 34-13 loss to San Francisco. The Rams entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed and hosted the Atlanta Falcons.
One week later, the Rams were sent packing in a 26-13 loss to the Falcons. Gurley rushed for 101 yards and Donald had 0.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss, but Goff struggled. It was his first playoff game and it showed. He finished just 24-of-45 and was sacked three times. Did the week off affect Goff’s game? Possibly. As a bettor, be careful. Younger players, especially quarterbacks, may not benefit as much as a veteran – like New England’s Tom Brady or Brees – would in having a week off.
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Speaking of the Saints
In 2009 when the Colts sat Manning and many of their starters in Weeks 16 and 17, New Orleans went into its meaningless Week 17 game with Carolina without Brees, Jonathan Vilma, and a few others. The Saints were 13-2 and had the NFC’s top seed locked up.
New Orleans had a bye in the first round of the playoffs and the time off didn’t affect them. The Saints hung 45 points on Arizona. New Orleans scored 31 in the NFC title game win over Minnesota and 31 more in the Super Bowl upset of the Colts.
For Brees, sitting out in Week 17 had no negative effects. While you might bet on Brees after sitting out in Week 17, you might not on Goff or say Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe even Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
Rest or don’t rest? It’s a question that is best left to coaches and their respective teams, but bettors should pay close attention, especially this upcoming NFL playoff season.