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Rams and Lions took different approaches with their players in Week 18

Rams chose not to suit up certain players, and Detroit had key starters going throughout their Week 18 matchup.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions were both guarenteed playoff spots regardless of their outcomes in Week 18. Yet each team chose to approach that final game of the season differently. The Rams rested some of their stalwarts, like Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Ernest Jones and others. LA even took certain players out of the game as the contest wore on. The Lions on the other hand played their starters like Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta and more throughout the contest.

How will this stark difference in approach impact their upcoming playoff matchup?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

We know that Sam LaPorta, the breakout rookie tight end for Detroit, was injured. The Lions had some other injuries including Kalif Raymond, and one could assume that many of the players came out of this one with the usual “bumps and bruises” of an NFL game. I wonder if Dan Campbell and the Lions were hoping to bury the Minnesota Vikings early, so they could get their starters out of the game, and ready for their next matchup. Whatever the plan was the Vikings hung around, and Detroit had to leave their players in to ensure the victory.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams went with a different strategy going into their game against the San Francisco 49ers. LA used the opportunity not to focus on seeding, but instead giving their players a chance to get healthy (and give Puca Nakua every chance to break the rookie receiving records, which he did). They even gave Carson Wentz, and some other players a chance to showcase their abilities, and Wentz led the team to a vcitory. LA did have some players get banged up, but by resting their key players they avoided risking a major injury.

Which strategy will pay off? Both teams are going to have to wait and see.

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

You could argue that Kupp, for example, has been seemingly hurt and banged up throughout year. The time off hopefully gave him a chance to heal for this next game, but what if LA comes out rusty instead of recovered?

You could also make the case that the Lions had a solid performance, including from their running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, so perhaps Detroit can ride that winning momentum into the playoffs. However what if Goff, Gibbs and Aiden Hutchinson playing in Week 18 did more harm than good? We saw what happened to LaPorta. Who else will be wounded and worn out coming into the wild card round?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps this isn’t being discussed right now becuase no one knows what the outcome will be. Was LA resting players the right move? Only if they win on Sunday. Was Detroit trying to ride momentum into the playoffs the right move? Whereas the Lions did take some hits, if they win on Sunday that will be what matters most. It’s anyone’s guess as to what the outcome will be, and there certainly will be plenty of factors deciding that outcome beyond how these teams approached their Week 18 finale.

Until we have definitive answers the debate on resting players vs playing players will rage on. Every team is different and every situation is different. There may be nothing universal to learn when Sunday’s prime time game reaches it’s conclusion, but there will be plenty to speculate on. Including the differences in how these two franchises approached ramping up for their respective postseason runs.

Which team, the Rams or Lions, prepared for Super Wild Card Weekend the “right way?” Whichever team wins.