One team rested its starters at the expense of supposed momentum. The other team played to win an essentially meaningless game and risked possible injury.

Next week’s playoffs may tell if the Eagles or Cowboys chose the correct strategy — or there may not be any bearing at all — but the result in Saturday night’s season finale considering their disparate approaches was predictable.

Dallas steamrolled over a cast of reserves and practice squad call-ups, 51-26, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles hung around into the second quarter, but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense overwhelmed the mistake-prone second unit defense.

» READ MORE: Eagles-Cowboys instant analysis: Birds’ reserves blown out by Dallas’ starters

While coaches Nick Sirianni and Mike McCarthy didn’t offer definitive plans heading into the meeting, indications were that the Eagles would sit quarterback Jalen Hurts and most of their regulars, while the Cowboys would play it straight with their first units.

“Coach McCarthy’s got to do what’s best for his team, and I got to do what I think is best for our team,” Sirianni said. “No concern. We didn’t know all week what they were gonna do, and I don’t think they knew exactly what we were gonna do.”

Nevertheless, when a dozen Eagles landed on COVID-19/reserve on Monday after the game had been pushed up a day, it seemed all but certain that Sirianni would rest key players with his team locked into the sixth or seventh seed and a road first-round postseason game.

He said the decision to bench Hurts was made early in the week and that backup Gardner Minshew took all the practice snaps. The second-year starter has played on an injured ankle the last three games, but it’s not as if the 23-year old couldn’t have used the additional game reps, especially against a playoff-caliber opponent.

“He’s done a really good job these last three games playing within the pocket. And we’ve done a little bit less running with him,” Sirianni said. “We just thought this was an opportunity to get him back to 100%.”

The Eagles won four straight and six of their last seven heading into the finale. Their six victories came against foes with a combined 35-62 record as of Saturday, however. The 12-5 Cowboys would have offered them the chance to see how they stack up against one of the NFC’s heavyweights.

There is also a slight chance the Eagles could face Dallas next week, so perhaps Sirianni wanted to avoid revealing too much. But the Buccaneers are the most likely matchup, with the Rams and Cardinals well behind in likelihood, but also still ahead of the Cowboys.

The better argument for playing the starters might have been on the defensive side. Jonathan Gannon’s unit hasn’t come close to stopping a top-tier quarterback all season. They’ll face one next week, whether it’s Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, or Prescott. A little prep might have helped.

Or not, if Prescott had success. He torched Gannon’s backups. The Dallas quarterback completed 21 of 27 passes for 295 yards and five touchdowns. The Cowboys punted only once, and scored two rushing touchdowns even after Prescott left early in the fourth quarter.

Dallas’ offense has struggled of late. McCarthy may have thought that some success could carry over into the postseason. But how much could be gained from throwing to wide open receivers?

The Cowboys, who are essentially locked into the fourth seed, did avoid significant injury. They were without five starters, four on defense, because of COVID-19. The Eagles offense was able to move the ball effectively on the ground in the first 25 minutes. Running backs Kenneth Gainwell and Jason Huntley rushed for a total of 129 yards.

But Minshew struggled to throw the ball downfield, and his receivers, aside from Quez Watkins (five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown), weren’t always reliable.

Rookie DeVonta Smith was one of the lone starters to play, but his involvement was merely to get him the franchise rookie mark for receiving yards, which he accomplished late in the first quarter. He topped DeSean Jackson’s 912 yards and finished with 916, although he had an extra game to get the record.

Smith had said last week that he wanted to play for momentum’s sake. But he was yanked after he eclipsed Jackson.

“Whatever the coaches decide, I’m going to go with it,” Smith said. “Like I said, a momentum thing, I wanted to go out there and stay in the routine that I’ve been doing the whole year and keep getting better every day.”

Jason Kelce was one of the 12 originally on COVID-19/reserve, but he came off on Friday and was thus able to keep his consecutive game streak alive at 122 games. The center had one snap and jogged off.

“Some of the record stuff means a lot to me, it means a lot to the guys,” Sirianni said in explaining why Kelce played. “And I want to make sure when you can reward them and not put them at risk.”

The Eagles did suffer several injuries, most of them to reserves who are typically active on game days. Tight end Tyree Jackson (knee) and linebacker Shaun Bradley (shoulder) were the most prominent to leave and not return. Tackle Andre Dillard, center Brett Toth, and cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. also got dinged up.

Hurts wasn’t the only player not at 100 percent, whether listed on the injury report or not. Tackle Lane Johnson (knee) and guard Landon Dickerson (thumb) were questionable coming in, although it’s likely they would have played under different circumstances.

Kelce’s return seemed awfully convenient, but Sirianni wouldn’t say if the Eagles took advantage of the NFL’s loosening on COVID-19 protocols and had key players voluntarily test on Monday as to get a possible positive test out of the way.

“They got COVID,” Sirianni said. “They weren’t feeling good.”

The coach still called around to his NFL buddies to weigh his choices. In his 12 previous seasons in the league, he had never been on a team that had the chance to rest before the playoffs.

Sirianni mentioned his team’s recent slow starts as an area he wants to improve upon, but he also said that he believes the way the Eagles practice and their leadership will offset any potential loss of momentum.

“I promise you I didn’t leave any stone unturned,” Sirianni said.

Aside from Smith, Watkins and receiver Jalen Reagor were the only other starters to play and they went the distance. Reagor finished with two catches for 19 yards and ran three times for 10 yards.

“It was a good opportunity for them to be ‘the guy,’ ” Sirianni said of Watkins and Reagor, “and work on some things we wanted to work on.”

Defensive tackle Milton Williams was among the other regulars to stand out. He had two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. But the defensive line struggled to pressure Prescott and the coverage was porous.

The good news: Most of the back seven won’t see the field on defense in the playoffs, barring injury. The bad news: punter Arryn Siposs may have a case of the shanks after back-to-back boots off the side of his foot.

But if the Eagles’ main objective was to avoid injury to their starters, they came away unscathed. Of course, it helped that they took that possibility out of the equation.

“I felt like in this scenario we had some guys who were dinged up. Some of the decisions were made for me,” Sirianni said. “But I really wanted to make sure that we got some guys back to full speed, back to full health, to be able to do what we want to do in the playoffs.

“The goal is not to just make the playoffs.”

The Eagles and Cowboys have the same ultimate goal. Their performances next weekend may be influenced by how they approached the season finale. Or not. But it makes for good fodder.