Let’s say the Carolina Panthers get to 15-0 and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs secured. Would coach Ron Rivera rest starters such as quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart at the potential cost of a perfect season?
“The goal is not to go 16-0 or undefeated," Rivera said Monday. “The goal is to win the Super Bowl."
Having said that, Rivera wasn’t ready to say -- hypothetically speaking -- that he would sit key starters in the above scenario.
He did recall being an assistant coach with another team that held out starters down the stretch with a division crown secured.
“I wasn’t the head coach then, but I went along with it," Rivera said. “Unfortunately, I felt we were rusty coming out of it.
“To me we’ve got to do it smart, we’ve got to be judicious about how we do it, hypothetically speaking. But that’s my thought process now. We’ll do it as we need it."
Newton took several hard hits in Sunday’s 41-38 victory over the Saints, after learning the Panthers (12-0) wrapped up the NFC South title prior to kickoff because of a Falcons loss. The last thing Rivera wants is to go into the playoffs with his quarterback injured. The Panthers have a two-game lead over the Cardinals (10-2) for the best record in the NFC. The quicker the Panthers would wrap up home field, the more Newton owners will have to worry about him possibly not finishing games.