Cowboys plan to play starters Saturday night

After Sunday’s 25-22 loss to the Cardinals, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he wanted to see the team’s starters play Week 18 regardless the stakes.

“I want to see them play,” Jones said. “Yeah, we need [to see them play]. We need to play a playoff-type game, and this is what gets you ready to go.”

The Cowboys have clinched the NFC East. They were the No. 2 seed going into Week 17 but now sit No. 4 and aren’t likely to improve that. So the Cowboys could give Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott and some of their other key players a week off before beginning the postseason.

Prescott was adamant after the game that he was playing against the Eagles, and Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that is the team’s current plan.

“Our full intention as we started the game plan today was to play our guys, to build a game plan to win the game,” McCarthy said. “The thing that people need to recognize [is] you only have 48 players to play the game. Going up there and then you start pulling players, you’re really putting stress on other players that particularly haven’t played, that maybe haven’t had reps at that many positions. You have to be cognizant of that. I’m talking about special teams and so forth. We put a lot of time into the potential playtime reports for projected play for each player each and every week. I think you clearly have to go into the game with the 48 guys that you feel are going to line up for four quarters to go win the game.”

If the Cowboys start with their usual lineup, then the question becomes: How long will those key players play? It seems likely the Cowboys will sit at least a couple starters who otherwise might have played and have a quick hook for some others.