Eagles won’t rest their starters this week… but the Bears might

Eagles won’t rest their starters this week… but the Bears might

Chip Kelly was adamant that the Philadelphia Eagles would play their starters this Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, regardless of the game’s influence in the standings. His opponent, on the other hand, is not so sure.

Turns out the Birds aren’t the only team that might not have that much to play for this week. If the Detroit Lions lose and the Green Bay Packers win earlier that afternoon, the Bears will be facing the same scenario no matter the outcome in Philadelphia. The final game of the year would determine whether or not they make the playoffs.

This mirrors the Eagles’ situation. If the Dallas Cowboys beat Washington, the NFC East champion will be crowned in Week 17 regardless of what happens Sunday night.

While Kelly insists his team still has something to play for—“We’ve got to be ready to play winning football”—Marc Trestman believes resting players is at least worth considering. For now, Chicago’s head coach plans to play his starters, but unlike Kelly’s plan, it’s not etched in stone. Via Adam Hoge of CBS Chicago (per ProFootballTalk):

“Could that change? Certainly. But right now, we’re focused on winning a game and there’s nothing else to discuss at this time. And at 7 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday night, if the situation needs to be re-evaluated again, it’s open for discussion.”

Obviously, making the playoffs comes before seeding, and that’s going to be much more difficult to do accomplish if a star player is injured the week before a play-in game.

At the same time, this week’s tilt between the Eagles and Bears is not “meaningless.” Whichever team wins on Sunday night will be guaranteed the third seed should they both go on to make the playoffs. That may seem minor, but it would delay a trip to Seattle, where the fourth seed will meet the Seahawks should it advance.

The Seahawks are 6-0 at home this season. Of course, any NFC team that has Super Bowl aspirations better count on playing there eventually.

It’s an interesting debate, and we could see two different philosophies at work this week. On one hand, having a healthy and well-rested roster is important. On the other, both squads could use the extra work to hone their skills, plus it can send the wrong message to the players.

Personally, I’d love to see both teams go into the game with a chance to clinch the division, and really create a high-stakes, playoff-like atmosphere at the Linc. Then we’d really get a sense as to whether the Birds are playoff-ready.

>> Trestman Leaves Door Open To Resting Starters [CBS Chicago]

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.