What a difference a year makes.
The final week of the regular season for the Philadelphia Eagles is inconsequential, just like it was in 2020.
Of course, last year the finale didn’t mean anything because the Eagles had won just four games in a season that was one of their worst in two decades. This time around, it’s because their sights are firmly set on the playoffs after clinching a sport last week with a victory over the Washington Football Team.
The Eagles can’t move out of their current standing as a Wild Card team, though they could move up to the No. 6 seed depending on their results on Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys (8:25 p.m.). The NFC East belongs to the very same Cowboys who are locked into the No. 4 spot of the conference’s playoff picture.
It immediately cast the question of whether or not the Eagles were going to play their starters — instead opting to rest them for an extra week before the playoffs begin.
Now, it appears that this will happen out of necessity.
On Monday, the Eagles placed 12 players on the COVID-19 list: defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, center Jason Kelce, tight ends Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll, running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, safeties Rodney McLeod and Marcus Epps, linebackers Genard Avery and Alex Singleton, cornerback Avonte Maddox and guard Nate Herbig.
The Cowboys have also been hit by COVID, announcing on Wednesday that star rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has been placed in protocols, too.
Granted, there is an opportunity for each of the impacted players to get back on the field for Saturday night’s game. The NFL and NFLPA changed their return-to-play policy that increases the likelihood for vaccinated or asymptomatic players to return to the field sooner rather than later. But with the priority being the health of the team going into the playoffs, a Week 18 rivalry game will be an opportunity for the lower ranks of the depth chart to see some playing time.