A FEW HOURS OF reflection after the Eagles' despicable loss to the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday night did not soothe the beast, but Andy Reid was a bit more reasoned.

In the moments after the Birds' 24-14 loss that locked them into the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, Reid snapped that his team was not "good enough" to rest players for a now meaningless regular season finale against Dallas.

Yesterday, however, Reid seemed far more open to the idea that it might be in the Birds' best interest to rest some players against Dallas and get them healthy for the playoffs the following weekend.

"As far as how we play the guys and who we play this week, I haven't finalized that," Reid said. "I'm looking at that now.

"You've got to look at what's at stake injury-wise if you play them. Some guys need the play time and some guys need the rest time. I've got to look at who those guys are and what situations I put them in."

I admit that I have never been a big proponent of resting guys to get ready for the playoffs.

I think football is a game of rhythm.

It is a risk to assume that a large group of players will instantly be cohesive again after sitting out a game.

I did not like it in 2001 when the Eagles were locked into a home playoff game against Tampa Bay in the wild-card round, and Reid sat virtually the entire starting unit for a season-ending game in Tampa Bay.

I really didn't like it in 2004 when the Eagles had clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with two regular-season games to go.

Reid sat out several key players for those final two games - both losses.

It wasn't that the Eagles basically gave away a chance to post a remarkable 15-1 record.

It was because with a bye in the playoffs, several Eagles didn't take a meaningful snap for nearly a month.

Obviously, Reid made the correct call since the Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game in 2001 and the Super Bowl in 2004.

This time, I would be all for the coach sitting out whoever he wants against Dallas.

In fact, if I'm Reid, Kevin Kolb is starting at quarterback for Michael Vick - who was, again, beat up in the loss to Minnesota.

Kolb will be throwing to tight end Clay Harbor and receivers Riley Cooper and Chad Hall.

He'll be handing off to running back Jerome Harrison, who will be hoping that offensive linemen Nick Cole, King Dunlap and Reggie Wells can open some holes for him.

On defense, linemen Trent Cole and Mike Patterson, cornerback Asante Samuel and safeties Quintin Mikell and Kurt Coleman (even though he could use the experience as there is nobody behind the rookie) will be in street clothes so that no coach is even tempted to slip them in for a series or two.

Heck, if I had another kicker and punter, I wouldn't play David Akers or Sav Rocca, either.

This is a legitimate "need the rest" situation for the Eagles.

They are a beat-up football team without the depth to compensate for losing another starter.

This is about as fragile as a Reid team has been entering the playoffs.

It has the potential to make some noise, but it has to have all the pieces in place.

Reid knows first-hand the risks of playing starters of a playoff team late in the season.

In 2003, the Eagles had a chance to beat out the St. Louis Rams for the No. 1 overall seed going into the final game against the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles went for it and won, but running back Brian Westbrook got hurt and missed the playoffs.

As the No. 2 seed, the Eagles, sans Westbrook, lost the NFC Championship Game at home to the Carolina Panthers.

In 2004, the Eagles were 12-1 but had not yet secured the No. 1 seed when they played Dallas.

The Birds won but lost receiver Terrell Owens to an injury that kept him out of action until they reached the Super Bowl.

Owens' injury likely swayed Reid to sit the starters the last two games.

Frankly, this Eagles team isn't nearly has solid as the ones in 2003 and 2004.

In all honesty, it could use some real-game work in several areas before the playoffs start.

But the cost associated with an injury is too high to risk it.

The NFL fixed the schedule so that division rivals would be playing each other at the end of the regular season to add meaning to games and, hopefully, prevent teams from sitting starters.

That will be the case in a number of games this weekend.

The Eagles happen to fall out of that loop. They personally have nothing at stake and should take advantage of the chance to rest some starters.

There is nothing to be gained against Dallas, but a lot can be lost. *

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