By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) On a warm winter’s evening on a train bound for Philly, I met up with the gambler…
I don’t know if Bears head coach Marc Trestman is a fan of Kenny Rogers or his song “The Gambler.” When it comes to Trestman’s hair, he seems unsure about knowing when to fold ‘em, at least.
But Bears fans have certainly come to know the first year conductor as a one who is willing to take risks. He has shown his “Tresticles” (copyright Jay Zawaski) on fourth downs this year, choosing more than once between two possible starting quarterbacks, and calling for a field goal to be kicked on second down and 47 yards away, just to name a few. He has lost big on bets that were seemingly sure things, and he’s gone all Cool Hand Luke on us for surprising wins.
Sunday night’s game versus the Philadelphia Eagles could pose an opportunity for another big wager. As Adam Hoge explains:
If the Lions lose to the Giants and the Packers lose to the Steelers, the Bears could win the NFC North Sunday night with a win. But if the Lions lose and the Packers win, the division will come down to the Week 17 matchup with Green Bay at Soldier Field no matter what.
Under that scenario, the only meaningful outcome of Sunday night’s game against the Eagles would be seeding, as the NFC East and NFC North winners will take either the No. 3 or No. 4 seeds in the playoffs. So is that enough incentive for Trestman to risk injury to key players that he’ll certainly need against the Packers in Week 17?
It’s a pretty rare and strange situation in the NFL to possibly have a Week 16 game have next to zero impact on your fate and Week 17 have everything to do with it. But, hey, Trestman’s first year with the Bears hasn’t exactly been a run of the mill one. And while the odds are against such a scenario happening—there is really no way the Detroit Lions should lose at home to the New York Giants… but then again we’re talking about the Lions—the weirdness of this 2013 season almost begs for it.
Add to that the meatball gravy of a narrative of having the final game of the season be against the Packers and actually significant beyond rivalry pride that Trestman is very aware of (but cleverly puts more on fans than game participants).
Oddly enough, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly could also have a decision to make on resting key players. If the Dallas Cowboys win earlier in the day Sunday over Washington, Philly’s playoff hopes ride on Week 17 in Jerry Jonesville. Hilariously—and I find this funny because screw the suits of the NFL—the league may have flexed into prime time a game that both teams are largely apathetic to.
Kelly has said that he will be playing his starters, but this is another guy who has saddled up to the felt table before with a few chips of his own. (I hate myself for that play on words. I apologize.) As another first year coach looking to really impress the football world by taking his team to the playoffs, especially after dealing with a QB change himself and some unpleasant extracurricular stuff, he would almost be foolish to risk throwing it all away on a Nick Foles or LeSean McCoy injury just for the sake of prime time cameras. Right?
And does then Kelly’s choice affect Trestman’s? If by, say, an hour before kickoff Kelly has told some usual starters that they’ll be sitting, do the Bears take that as an opportunity to give Lance Briggs, expected to play his first game since being injured Week 7, and some other achy but capable guys a chance to heal up for the Green Bay matchup and hopefully beyond? Is the Bears JV Team superior to the Eagles JV Team? What if one coach is bluffing and after one series the backups go in? Does a corresponding move on the other sideline follow? Did I just ask six consecutive questions?
It would seem like a slam dunk decision to rest guys, but it has potential drawbacks. Sunday night at the very least still plays a factor in potential NFC playoff seeding. A Bears win puts them in position to get the 3 seed instead of the 4 seed. Either seed means hosting a first round game, but the road of the 3 seed looks a little less frightening. Whoever is the 4 seed will likely host San Francisco, who has won five of its seven road games so far and is a completely different team now than the one that lost by a combined 46 points in Weeks 2 and 3. Winning that game would mean then traveling to Seattle, and nobody wants to do that until the NFC Championship if at all.
As a 3 seed, the Bears would likely host either Carolina or Arizona, both inferior to the 49ers in my opinion and both warm weather teams playing then in the cold. Trestman, while certainly wary of the immediacy of Week 17 strikes me as a guy who thinks a few moves ahead, too.
Sunday night may just come down to two poker faces. Putting the best team on the field might be the necessary gamble, but maybe this time showing nothing could be a real cool hand.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). Got a comment for Tim? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.