Let's ponder the question of the week in the NFL.
Better yet, let's have the Eagles do it.
If they were in the New York Giants' situation and had a playoff seeding locked up and were about to end the regular season with a game against undefeated New England, would they want their coach to rest the starters or would they want a crack at beating the Patriots?
For the record, coach Andy Reid said yesterday that he would continue to do what he had done in seasons when the Eagles clinched a playoff seeding.
"I've rested my starters before, and so I would probably do the same thing," he said. "Once we clinched a spot and you couldn't go up or down" in the seedings, "I'd give the guys an opportunity to rest."
When they play the Giants tonight in East Rutherford, N.J., the 15-0 Patriots will try to become the first NFL team to complete a perfect regular season since the Miami Dolphins went 14-0 in 1972. Miami went on to win the Super Bowl to finish 17-0.
The Giants' playoff matchup next week with Tampa Bay is set, so all they have to gain by playing their starters is becoming part of NFL history. Otherwise, they risk injuries that could jeopardize their chances in the much more meaningful playoff game.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has indicated that he will play his starters, which should please the viewing audience and the NFL brass, which agreed to allow CBS and NBC to simulcast the game. Originally, the NFL Network, which reaches less than half the country, was going to televise the game exclusively.
"Our objective is to win," Coughlin said. "That's what we work for. That's what we prepare for. That's what we practice for. This week will be no different."
After giving the question some thought, Eagles guard Shawn Andrews said he would rest his players if he were the coach.
"I'm the kind of guy who believes in my investments, and if I had some thoroughbreds I needed for the playoffs, I would rest them," he said. "It's about trying to get to the Super Bowl. So you win and they end up 15-1. What's that going to do for you? So why not rest your guys for the big, big games that really mean something? I wouldn't want to run the risk of getting hurt and taking the chance of ruining our playoff shot."
Otherwise, Andrews believes the Giants have a chance to pull off an upset. The Eagles came closest to knocking off the Patriots when they lost, 31-28, on Nov. 25.
"I think they have a shot," Andrews said. "Seeing how close we got - not that it matters at this point - you know they're a beatable team. If you game-plan well and the guys execute . . ."
Cornerback Sheldon Brown said he would not want to be rested for such a game.
"As a player, you want to play in that game," he said. "And I know most coaches would want to win that football game, because that's what they preach. Besides, you don't really want to take a week off and lose that chemistry."
Cornerback Lito Sheppard was conflicted. At first, he said he would be selective about whom he rested, such as players who were banged up, players at vital positions. Then he said he might play all his starters and see how the game evolved.
"I'd play them at least the first half, and if things are going well, then you'd probably keep them in," he said. "But if it's getting out of control, then you definitely back off and look at the bigger picture. But I would definitely give it a shot initially.
"Now, if you're the coach and you normally rest your players in that situation, you shouldn't change because you want to beat the Patriots. You might beat them, but is that going to be the best thing for your team? Just to stop somebody else from partying?"
Sheppard said he would want to start.
"But if it gets out of hand and you have no chance anyway, there's no sense in getting beaten up and then have to play another really tough game the next week, when it really counts," he said. "It's a give-or-take thing."
Sheppard and safety Brian Dawkins were listed as doubtful for tomorrow's season finale, against Buffalo, at Lincoln Financial Field. Dawkins has a sprained foot and Sheppard a bruised knee. Tight end L.J. Smith (knee) will not play. . . . Running back Brian Westbrook did not practice yesterday because of a swollen knee, but Reid said he expected him to play. "He was on the turf a little the past two days, so we backed off on him today," Reid said. "He should be fine." . . . Two pairs of brothers will be on opposite sides tomorrow. Eagles fullback Thomas Tapeh and Bills reserve tight end Tim Massaquoi are brothers. They have played against one another only once, in college, when Tapeh was at Minnesota and Massaquoi at Michigan. Aaron Schobel, brother of Eagles tight end Matt Schobel, is a defensive end for Buffalo.