To play or not to play your starters — that’s the question a handful of NFL teams face entering Week 18.
While 11 teams have locked up playoff spots, nine have yet to clinch their seed entering the final week of the regular season. The Dallas Cowboys are among them, possessing a chance to win the NFC East and an outside shot of grabbing the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Skip Bayless asserts Dallas should play its starters against the Washington Commanders for another reason: Tom Brady. That is, to potentially avoid facing him the following week. The Cowboys, currently the No. 5 seed, would face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the opening round of the playoffs if they lose to Washington on Sunday, or if the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants.
After seeing what Brady did against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17, Bayless wants no part of the seven-time Super Bowl winner — even if Brady and the Buccaneers are just 8-8 this season.
“You can stat me to death. You can paper me to death, but they’re not going to play it on paper,” Bayless said on Wednesday’s “Undisputed.” “I just watched the ‘GOAT’ goat Carolina. I don’t know what it is about him, he can stink it up for the whole year and then he can say, ‘It’s time. We can do this.’
“It was 432 [passing] yards. It was his masterpiece. It was by far his best game of the year in the biggest game of the year, albeit in the NFC going south. But it was a hat and T-shirt game. It was effectively playing for a bye kind of game, because you wouldn’t have to play against Atlanta. He just said, ‘OK, watch this.’ Mike Evans came back from the dead and it’s like, there he is — he hadn’t caught a touchdown in 11 games and he caught three.”
Tom Brady scores four touchdowns and Buccaneers clinch NFC South
Tom Brady had himself a day, scoring four times in the Buccaneers’ 30-24 victory over the Panthers in Week 17.
If the Cowboys win and the Eagles lose on Sunday, Dallas’ first playoff opponent might not be a walk in the park, either. There’s a very real possibility that they’d face the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round. The Cowboys, of course, have lost to both the Bucs and Packers earlier this season.
Even though Aaron Rodgers has defeated the Cowboys in both of their playoff matchups, Bayless would rather take his chances against him and a Packers team he views as better than the Buccaneers just because of Brady’s past success.
“I’ve seen enough for 20 years,” Bayless said. “I know what happens to him. He’s psycho. He goes playoff psycho Tom.”
Bayless also thinks that the Cowboys’ starting unit can use the extra playing time to help get right before the playoffs following what many perceived as a lackluster 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 17.
“They were highly unimpressive against Joshua Dobbs, [the Titans’] third-string quarterback,” Bayless said. “I’m fine with them playing with their players. It’s almost a good thing that they’re forced to play their players.”
Jerry Jones on playing starters in Week 18: ‘There’s so much to play for’
Skip Bayless believes that Cowboys owner is taking the right approach going into the regular-season finale.
As for the Buccaneers, Brady has said that he wants to play Sunday against the Falcons even though Tampa is locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Bucs coach Todd Bowles told reporters earlier in the week that he plans to play his starters on Sunday, too.
Bayless is confused by their approach.
“I don’t get what they’re doing here,” Bayless said. “They can get healthier, and that to me is more precious right now than a practice game, a scrimmage game against the Atlanta Falcons.”
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