Adam Kilgore, Patriots beat writer for the Boston Globe, joined Nick Scurfield of Houston Texans.com to preview the Texans- Patriots Week 17 matchup at Reliant Stadium. Here's an excerpt of the interview.
Nick Scurfield: The big question on everyone's mind this week is what the Patriots are going to do with their starters – are they going to pull guys early, are they going to play guys like Tom Brady at all? Bill Belichick has been very coy about his plans. What do you think is going to happen?
Adam Kilgore: Yeah, he has been coy, and if I knew, then I'd be a pretty popular guy around here, too. But no one really knows for sure. I think the prudent thing and the smart thing would probably be to hold off Brady, especially after the season he's had. He's been beat up. He's still fighting through a rib injury and he's had a finger injury that seems to be better now, but for quite a few games, I think three or four games, he's had that right ring finger kind of wrapped. And that's something that going into the playoffs, there's really no reason to risk Brady. A pretty good reason for that or evidence of that would be in a Texans defensive backfield where Bernard Pollard plays know, which is kind of an interesting symmetry that Brady will face him the last week this season. Obviously, Pollard is the guy who knocked Brady out in the first week last year.
But getting back to your question, I guess because my gut tells me that just because it's smart, maybe Brady plays a quarter to keep sharp. The school of thought in the other way would be that the Patriots, even when they beat the Panthers and the Bills before they just crushed the Jaguars, they really hadn't been playing well. They played probably their best game of the season against Jacksonville. So I guess you could say that the argument for playing the guys would be to keep it rolling and kind of keep that momentum going for the playoffs, but I'm not so sure of the trade off of risking Brady and (Wes) Welker, who's caught 122 passes and taken a lot of hits this year returning punts as well, is worth that sort of momentum gathering.
The short answer: My guess is that you don't see a whole lot of the Patriots' starters, but whatever Bill Belichick thinks is right, he's going to do. Just because it's sort of the run-of-the-mill decision doesn't mean he's going to make it."