Do they tend to rest their good players so they don't have as many injuries going into the playoffs? Basically, I'm wondering if I should bet against teams with playoff locks if the matchup is close...
If depends mostly on the mentality of the head coach and his stance on team-specific concepts:
- Whether he thinks his players need a full game to maintain momentum heading into the playoffs, and that resting them may add a wrinkle which isn't needed.
- Whether he's spoken to team leaders who feel strongly one way or the other
as well as player-specific questions:
- Whether certain players have minor injuries which would benefit from a week off
- Whether some players are so good that they can't risk them being on the field (i.e. a franchise quarterback).
and also miscellaneous factors:
- Whether the team has already earned a 1st round-bye and therefore giving players another week off would have minimal impact.
- If the team is playing in bad conditions which could increase the chances of injury.
- Whether the team has clinched the playoffs, but may still might be playing for home-field advantage.
As far as whether you should gamble on this type of scenario, remember that the odds-makers know the same information you do, probably much more. So, it isn't like knowing this information will give you ad advantage, rather it would put you closer to having even odds.
Depends on the situation:
- If they have already earned the conference title then they will not play their key players. For example, Aaron Rodgers didn't play the last regular season game of 2011 for Green Bay Packers (they finished regular season with the record of 15-1).
- Another situation is that whether or not you win, you will have to
play a wild card game and the output of the game will not change
whether you will be playing at home or not. Then the coach will
probably decide to rest his key players and save them for
postseason. Kansas City Chiefs for example, pretty much played
their second team during the last game of the regular season in 2013
against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers，however played all
their main players and won in OT to reach the postseason.
Notice for both of the scenarios explained above the result of the game wouldn't change anything going to postseason (except the club record). This strategy is used to make sure that the players will stay healthy for more important playoff games.
- In almost all other cases when the team has already reached the playoffs, main players will play to keep the momentum going for post season. The team might practice some special moves however, in case if needed for postseason game. Many times the backup QB will play significantly longer in these games.
- Another thing to notice is that if a player is injured but has been playing through the regular season, coaches will usually sit him out to avoid any further injuries which could result in missing playoff games.