FOXBORO, Mass. — A reporter began to ask Bill Belichick about the possibility of the Patriots resting starters in their Week 17 matchup with the Miami Dolphins before New England’s head coach cut him off.
“I don’t really understand that question,” Belichick said. “We have — I don’t know how many starters we have, but we have a lot more than — we can only inactivate seven players, so this isn’t like a preseason game where you have 75 guys on your roster. This is a regular season game, so I don’t really understand that whole line of questioning. I’m not saying I’m a great mathematician or anything, but the numbers just don’t add up for that type of conversation.”
Belichick certainly is correct in saying the Patriots can’t rest all of their starters. Nearly all 46 players on the Patriots’ gameday active roster can be considered starters on either offense, defense or special teams. And many players, like running backs Dion Lewis and James White, might not technically be considered starters, but they’re as important to the team as LeGarrette Blount, who’s atop the depth chart.
But the Patriots could potentially rest some key players, like they did with Matthew Slater and Dont’a Hightower in Week 16, and still hope to beat the Dolphins.
The Patriots do have something to play for in their 1 p.m. ET game against the Dolphins, as well. If they win, they lock up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they lose, they would need the Oakland Raiders to lose to the Denver Broncos at 4:25 p.m. ET. The Dolphins also could move up to the No. 5 seed with a win and a Kansas City Chiefs loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The Patriots, who are 13-2 this season, failed to clinch home-field advantage at the end of last season with a Week 17 loss to the Dolphins and ultimately lost the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos on the road. To avoid a repeat of that disappointment, it might be wise for the Patriots to go all-out to beat the 10-5 Dolphins, who won a close game against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday and are 9-1 in their last 10 games.
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