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Hobson's Choice: Rest the story

Q: If the Patriots win next week against the Texans earlier in the day and the Bengals don't have anything to play for because no matter what they will be the fourth seed, will they rest their starters?
--*Walker M., York, Pa.

WALKER:Any time we get a note from the home area of University of Connecticut mastermind Randy Edsall of Glen Rock, Pa., it goes right to the top of the list and, after all, it is the question of the week.

The way Marvin Lewis sounded Monday and what he went through in 2005, it is not really a question of if, but how long will he rest the starters if New England wins. A quarter? A half? The entire game?

At the very least, you figure the banged-up guys (Domata Peko, Chris Crocker, maybe Tank Johnson) don't play at all and guys like Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Dhani Jones and the two corners hardly play. If they play at all.

If the Pats win, to even dress Palmer would be a risk. How do they play him at all with the seed already set? Like we said here Monday, Lewis is 0-1 in the playoffs with a backup quarterback, and after going through that I think it would be hard to play him in a game when you've already got a home playoff game in your pocket.

The interesting thing is if the Pats lose in Houston. Lewis made it sound like he wants that third seed because he indicated he's waiting to see what happens Sunday afternoon before they play.  The thinking is the third seed would put them in the bracket with San Diego, a team the Bengals nearly beat on the road. Plus, you'd probably open with a team that you've already beaten twice in Baltimore.

But that could change and is there much difference between the three and four seeds?

You're going to have to play in Indy, anyway, at some point and with the way Baltimore can score that's not exactly a great matchup for a team that is struggling to score. Plus, how much do you want to show the Jets if you get in a tight game, lose and have to play them again the next week?

If the Pats win, you'd think nobody plays, and if they lose, it may even be the same thing.

Q: So, how will they do in the playoffs? I think it is time to let Carson take over. Yes we need to run it but let's score some points first. Winning the North with smashmouth football is one thing but winning the Championship is going to take more. I think we need to look more like we did on that last 98-yard drive, especially in the beginning of games to try to build some kind of a lead and then pound them with the running game. In the end, a 50-50 to 60-40 pass/run percentage should do us well. So what do you think?
--*Bob G., Mount Pleasant S.C.

BOB:Of course. Balance is offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's goal. And that's what they were doing earlier in the season. Getting a lead and sitting on it with the run.

But I think you have to realize why they are being so cautious with the passing game. They don't have the same offensive line Palmer had in his Pro Bowl passing days and they don't have the same tight ends and they don't have the same receivers that were so steeped in the playbook. They want to throw it, but he simply doesn't have the same weapons at his disposal to make plays and to protect him on every single snap.

We'd all like to see Carson take over. But they've got to make sure he stays upright and they keep the turnovers at a minimum. They're four wins away from winning the big game. With this team, they've got a better chance with Palmer picking his spots instead of taking them all.

Q: What are the chances that Hall and Joseph make the Pro Bowl? I mean they both are No. 1 corners who get the job done week in and week out and are the main pillars to this defense. And Cedric Benson, although he isn't flashy should go provided that with him we now have a legitimate rushing attack. --*William R., Lawton, OK.

WILLIAM: If players didn't vote by reputation, I'd say Hall and Joseph have a pretty good shot because they have been the best defensive players on a division champion.

But players (and coaches) always seem more swayed by past deeds and Joseph and Hall already have in front of them Pro Bowlers Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha. Plus, since they are from the same team, they may split their votes.

Benson probably has the best chance, but there are only three spots and you wonder if the 10 quarters he missed with a hip ailment are going to hurt him because he's only fourth in AFC rushing behind Chris Johnson, Thomas Jones, and Maurice Jones-Drew. To me, Benson is the Bengals MVP.

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