There might be a preseason feel hanging over the NFL’s 2022 Thursday Night Football finale.
Both the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) and Tennessee Titans (7-8) have been weighing the risk of using banged-up players on a short week with the playoffs looming, leading to a flurry of decisions that have more backups than usual taking the field.
For the Cowboys, running back Tony Pollard will be inactive Thursday evening, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported. For Tennessee, with eight Titans already declared out and Derrick Henry (hip) also not expected to play, the team has elected to start quarterback Joshua Dobbs, Pelissero and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Pollard was unable to practice all week due to a thigh injury. He’s been electric for Dallas in his fourth season, spelling the team’s traditional workhorse, Ezekiel Elliott, with 186 carries for 988 yards and nine TDs, plus another 371 yards and three scores on 39 catches.
Malik Davis figures to receive the bulk of Pollard’s vacated workload as he slots in alongside Elliott in the backfield.
The Cowboys need a victory on Thursday to force the Eagles to play to win in their game versus New Orleans on Sunday. A loss would cede the NFC East to the 13-2 Eagles before they even take the field in Week 17.
It’s important for Pollard to rest up, but it’s also not out of the question that Dallas feels more comfortable practicing caution due to its opponent’s approach to tonight’s contest.
The decision to start Dobbs over rookie Mailk Willis comes with the knowledge that the Titans cannot improve their playoff standing no matter the result tonight. Instead, Tennessee is prepping for a Week 18 showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars that will decide the AFC South.
Dobbs joined the Titans off Detroit’s practice squad on Dec. 21, and the unique situation of a meaningless Week 17 matchup preceding a Week 18 game that means everything has resulted in him making his first career start eight days later.
Since entering the league in 2017, Dobbs has thrown just 17 passes, completing 10 for 45 yards and one interception.
With so many pieces rotating in and out of both lineups, the Thursday Night Football finale is sure to be an unpredictable affair to kick off the regular season’s penultimate week of games.