Prior to Week 17 of the 2015 season, the franchise had never been in a position to rest key players entering the postseason.
“We will approach this game as if it were Game 1 of the season,” Arians said Monday, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “We don’t want to set a pattern of different behavior.”
The Cardinals still have a chance at the NFC’s top seed should the Carolina Panthers stumble for a second straight week versus a lesser opponent. Both NFC superpowers tee off at 4:25 ET, which means Arizona won’t know the stakes when they take the field.
Arians has no plans to pull his starters at halftime. In fact, he insists the decision is based on his guiding philosophy — not the opportunity for the No. 1 seed.
“We are playing so well right now,” Arians explained. “I don’t want to change any way we prepare. We know we will get a week to rest anyway. We’ll get plenty of rest.”
Arians believes some players “get very stale quickly,” which is a concern Panthers coach Ron Rivera has shared in previous weeks.
The Indianapolis Colts of the Bill Polian-Tony Dungy era created a stir last decade for resting their stars late in the season. The NFL has since created flex scheduling to discourage the practice.
“We’re here to play,” veteran defensive tackle Cory Redding said. “We signed up for 16 games at the beginning of the season. We didn’t sign up for 15, sign up for 12. We signed up for 16.”
Wide receiver Michael Floyd sees this week’s showdown with the NFC West rival Seahawks as a “statement game.” Similarly, Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell doesn’t want to upset the flowing momentum of a 78-25 point differential over the past two weeks.
It’s no surprise, then, that he’s willing to risk injuries to win a game that has been on his team’s schedule since early last offseason.
“I’m never going to line up to lose,” Arians emphasized. “If we rested three starters, I would expect to win no matter who they were. So why rest them?”