Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Resting starters versus Pats is sane and sound
By Jeffri Chadiha ESPN.com
When the Patriots face the Giants on Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the Pats will be motivated by the chance to complete the NFL's first 16-0 regular season. The Giants, meanwhile, have little to gain, having already clinched a wild-card playoff spot in the NFC. So should the Giants rest their starters, or should they go all-out in hopes of denying the Pats their place in history? Mike Sando and Jeffri Chadiha take opposite sides.
Chadiha's view: Rest 'em. For Sando's viewpoint, click here.
The Giants did what they had to do this past weekend by beating the Buffalo Bills and securing an NFC wild-card playoff spot. Now they need to do the right thing this coming weekend, which is to avoid focusing on ruining the Patriots' run at the record books.
Michael Strahan and the Giants need to be healthy for the playoffs.
If the undefeated Patriots want to risk their stars in pursuit of a perfect season, that's their business. But it's wrong to think the Giants should field their top players in a game that means nothing. In fact, the very notion borders on insanity.
The bottom line here is that the Giants need to limit drama in their lives. They started the year with two straight losses that fueled speculation that coach Tom Coughlin was going to be fired. They then won six straight games and made people think they ranked among the NFC's elite.
Now, after pulling out four wins in their past seven games, they've finally convinced us that they wouldn't collapse at the end. After traveling as rocky a road as that, it's time they took a much-needed break.
If you want one more reason for New York to rest its starters against New England, just look at the Giants' overall health. Three key players -- tight end Jeremy Shockey, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka and running back Derrick Ward -- have fractured their fibulas this season.
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress also has been nursing a nagging ankle injury all season. Even running back Brandon Jacobs, who has missed five games because of injuries, left the Buffalo game with his own sprained ankle.
Why put a team that is beaten up in even more jeopardy in a game that has no significance?
Believe me, I understand the appeal of this game. Even the Giants' players were thumping their chests after that Bills victory and thirsting for a shot at the Pats. This is what athletes do. They compete. They seek opportunities to prove themselves. The emotion that came with making a third consecutive playoff appearance under Coughlin -- a feat that surely saved his job and guaranteed him an extension -- likely had the Giants believing they could face any challenge right now.
The reality, however, is that they don't hand out trophies for shocking upsets. The only thing the Giants can gain from beating the Patriots is a small measure of pride, but that really isn't going to mean much if they lose Burress, Eli Manning or Michael Strahan in the process.
What they should recognize is that the playoffs started for them as soon as they left Buffalo with a 38-21 win. And if they want to be remembered for anything this year, it should be for how they fared in the postseason, not how they did against a team chasing history.
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.