Rest or rust: Colts debate about to begin

So how will the Colts decide who to play and how much to play them before the playoffs? Do the Colts need rest for weary bodies? Or will that only lead to rust when the Colts need to be at their sharpest? The almost annual Indianapolis December debate is about to begin again.

While most teams in the NFL are fighting for their playoff lives in December, the Colts are once again heading toward Christmas about to have all their NFL holiday shopping done well before the postseason begins. A win today over the Broncos will give the Colts the top playoff spot in the AFC, meaning a week off when the postseason begins plus indoor games at Lucas Oil Stadium all the way to the Super Bowl in Miami.

That would mean three games left in the regular season with nothing to gain in the standings. So how will the Colts decide who to play and how much to play them before the playoffs? Do the Colts need rest for weary bodies? Or will that only lead to rust when the Colts need to be at their sharpest? The almost annual Indianapolis December debate is about to begin again.

Here’s a startling fact. The Indianapolis Colts have NEVER won a playoff game after a bye week. That has nothing to do directly with resting starters. But it supports those who say teams need to keep playing, and playing their best players to carry momentum in the playoffs.

Coach Jim Caldwell has already hinted heavily that he will follow the plan used by Tony Dungy in the past. Which means Peyton Manning will keep his streak of never missing a start alive. But he will also be holding a clipboard and wearing headphones instead of a helmet for much of the rest of the regular season. Any starter who is nursing any kind of injury will likely not dress. The Colts may have a hard time finding 45 players they actually want active for the last three games. 

I hear all the concerns about taking the foot off the pedal. I know the Colts have sputtered in the playoffs after resting starters at the end of the regular season. We could go back to each season and find reasons why. But I want to go back to the preseason for some perspective on this issue.

No team plays starters less or cares less about preseason wins or losses than the Colts. I’ve said it before. The Colts organization does a great job of knowing who to play and when to play them in the preseason. Lousy preseason records with little live game action by the starters have led to incredible starts: 5-0, 13-0, 9-0, 7-0 and currently 12-0 in the Dungy/Caldwell era. 

So not over playing or risking injury to starters in meaningless games has worked pretty well for this team, the winningest team this decade. I think it’s a formula that makes sense when everything is wrapped up for the playoffs as well.

The Colts have to play on Thursday this week in Jacksonville, with just three days rest. If the top playoff spot is clinched, I would definitely rest starters against the Jaguars. Let Curtis Painter star in primetime on the NFL Network.

But what about the perfect season? That’s a whole other debate that’s worth having in another blog entry.

-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter

TheSportsGuy13 at

26 thoughts on “Rest or rust: Colts debate about to begin”

  1. All you have to do is look at the Colts’ past playoff history when they rest key players at the end of the season. They lose! Not just once in awhile but every year. How can Polian even be contemplating doing it again?

  2. I find it interesting that no one has talked about the fan. We’ve paid a certain amount of money each week to watch the Colts and now late in the season we pay the same ticket price for a PRESEASON performance. I don’t think it’s fair to the FAN. I think the fan support is the reason the team is here in the first place? If you have to rest or fear injury during a season maybe they need to play a different sport?

  3. As much as season tickets cost, I don’t want to pay that kind of money to see the 2nd and 3rd team take a beating. The starters get paid enough and get enough rest to play every game. They should try a real job that requires you to work 12 hours a day.

  4. First of all, I am very proud of what they have accomplished. They have a week off after the seasons end. Now is way too soon to rest. Go after it all, this oportunity may never happen again to go perfect, and win a Super Bowl. Free agency, and the fact that it is hard enough to win in the NFL as it is. It should be up to the players who got us here in the first place. GO COLTS!!!

  5. PLAY THEM!! Dungy was an oustanding coach, but if recent Colts history has shown us anything, it’s that rest equals rust! I know this is a short week, but the Colts need to play each of these last 3 games like they count, not only for the possible perfect season, but to keep all the starters sharp. Now, in these last 3 games, if the Colts have built a comfortable lead by half-time, then yes, rest some of the starters & let the 2nd & 3rd stringers play in the 2nd half. BUT – if they start blowing that lead, then get the starters back in there & save the win. The Colts deserve to have a 16 – 0 season; & there’s just as much a chance of a starter being hurt in the 1st play-off game as there is in the last regular season game. I vote GO FOR IT! Thanks – Bruce Secor in Fishers

  6. Polian does this every year. Does he get a kick back from SD or NE if they rest. It’s simple REST= 1 and done.

  7. i am by far not a colts fan.GEAUX SAINTS!!! a week of rest would be the worst move for many teams including the COLTS-

  8. Bill Polian started this trend in Buffalo. His choice to rest players has backfired his whole career when will he learn?

  9. I am sad because we lost. You win as a team and you lose as a team. I can’t believe how everyone is reacting about coach Cardwell taking the starters out. People We ARE 14-1. If he had left Peyton in and he had gotton hurt all of you that are complaining about him taking the starters out would have been complaing about why did he leave Peyton in for so long.You don’t only cheer for the Colts when they win but also when they lose. A perfect season doen’t mean anything without a Super Bowl Title. Just ask the New England Patroits.

  10. We had season tickets for the 1st 18 yrs. the Colts were here.
    For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed by this “give it up”
    attitude from the front office!! I could not watch the players and
    the PAYING FANS watch this pitiful game. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!
    Play to win or don’t play at all!!!

  11. I have been a colts fan and this year have been to all the home games but after this game i do not care if i watch them anymore or not. The media starts in about resting the players or not that is all we heard about for the last week well i now hope the media is happy.
    Those players are paid millions let them earn their pay check.

  12. How could the Colts think this was a good decision at the last home game? I am throughly disapointed in the money I paid to see a great win and no brainer to see us win. I will be hard pressed to pay to go to another home game. This makes me seriously question the Colts competence in the playoffs.

  13. I attended the game this afternoon…My parents live in Florida and are HUGE Colts fans. They have not been inside the stadium so I got tickets to take them while they were in town for Christmas. I am probably not the only one who did this. I don’t EXPECT for the Colts to go undefeated. I mean if they are going to lose a game I would much rather it be during the season than during the playoffs, but for them to pull the starters (especially Manning) while at home…was a definite disappointment to ALL the fans. I mean we are in Buffalo next week and then have a bye the following…for crying out them then…or lose then, but not in front of a home Christmas crowd who are pumped up to see their team win their last home game of the season. I wasn’t one of the fans who booed the decision, but I GUARANTEE I wasn’t alone in my disappointment of the loss we suffered at home. I hope and pray that this so-called “resting” period does us good. However, if I remember correctly it has done us more harm than good in the past. GO COLTS !!!….Let’s make it to the Super Bowl !

  14. There goes our super bowl hopes in my opinion. Do we still have a chance? Yes. But has our chance been dramatically reduced? The answer is also yes. Look at recent history. The year we won the Super Bowl, were we resting our starters at the end? No, we were fighting for a better playoff spot. The momentum was kept and our starters were not rusty going into playoffs and the result was super bowl victory. Now we’re most likely going to have to play San Diego in the conference championship and based on the past two years, I say we’ll lose again. In ’07 we rested our starters once we had everything clinched and guess who beat us in the divisional round. San Diego. If Polian would grow an open mind he would realize that resting players who are not injured does absolutely nothing at all. If he was gonna risk injury playing them in the first half, why not play to win in the second half as well?? It just makes no sense

  15. Long time fan. We have tried this strategy several times before and it has never worked, not one time. The structure of the colts offense is such that timing is everything. When Manning doesn’t play he seems to lose rhythm and timing with our receivers. Also, you can not go into the playoffs in the NFL on a losing streak of any kind. Momentum is everything, and we just gave that up! We have done this in the past and it has bitten us every time!! Players play if they are not hurt. Manning has no injuries and he was pulled for what the organization calls the big picture. I submit that the big picture has been damaged by the decision to let an obviously inferior team give us our first loss of the season. Love the colts, hate this decision!!!

  16. It’s a real shame that a Head coach and a owner thinks a team is good enough to pick and choose what games they want to win or lose.

    They talk about it not about the fans feeling on this but who is paying the salaries through ticket prices etc.

    I have a great idea … let make Payton not start next week so we can break his streak as well.

    A perfect season is somthing that comes with playing well not a goal!!!

    If the owner does not like to hear the fan maybe it time for the colts to leave indy and indy can get a team who likes to win.

  17. very disappointed, what is management thinking, oh guess they are not thinking, FAN WERE NOT BOOING CURTIS PAINTER, IT WAS ALL CALDWELL,,,

  18. I understand the reasoning. I understand the fans booing (the decision, not Curtis Painter). I understand that history says they have lost when resting players. The bottom line is that in order for things not to backfire on Caldwell, Polian, and Irsay, the Colts HAVE to win the Super Bowl! Anything less will bring about questions, and a host of “I told you so” statements! Additionally, I think it was VERY clear that several of the players were unhappy with the decision.

  19. I grew up a Colt fan when they where in Maryland and that team didn’t have a ON OFF SWITCH. Not easy watching all the hard work dedication and class act our team has displayed go to the wind, I think the choice to bench the starters was selfish on the behalf of Colts Organization and our Rookie Coach Calwell it shows they didn’t believe in what they’ve been blessed with. It’s a super job over all but, winners never quit quiters never win in this case everybody looses. Finally how do you throw a chance to be perfect away, when that is why you practice so hard for the BIG PICTURE perfection. I’m praying for the whole organization. WOW,WOW,WOW A ON OFF SWITCH ?

  20. I was so embarrassed… no other team in the NFL would have threw a game. You had the chance to make history… every Super Bowl winner the game has seen would have given anything to have a perfect season behind their ring as well.

    It makes no sense to bench someone who never gets sacked.

    You also had the opportunity to do what the Pats couldn’t.

    So many reasons this was a botched call.. but the only one that matters is that Caldwell was scared to go into the playoffs with the extra pressure

    I’m boycotting the rest of the season and will be seriously looking to following a new team who isn’t afraid of their success.

  21. why did they even come to the stadium? if they were going to quit on us they could have stayed home and called the league to concede the last two games. the colts org. has shown a complete lack of respect to the league, their own players, and the fans. you know that it is now possible for the Jets to come here for a play off game and it would serve polian and ersay right if they beat us which is entirely possible since everytime they have given up on their players and fans they lose.

  22. what next,the colts cheated the fans, the players, & nfl history!so why bother to even make the trip to Buffalo? why not just forfeit now. I (a former Bears fan) have been a colts supporter since they came here, even used to save my money so I could go to at least one game a year. Never again, got more important things to do with my money than spend it on Quitters!

  23. It was not fair to football or the fans. I want a refund on my tickets for the Jet game. Kept Peyton in there till he got hisw 50,000 yard game but the hell with all the fans.

  24. would like my money back. I didn’t pay to watch football be disgraced. I wish all of the fans would boycott the first playoff game. I could care less if the colts win the superbowl or not. The season has been disgraced. I could care less if the colts were 9-6 or 14-1. The records mean the same. Going in to the playoffs 16-0 did mean something. Losing the game is not the point. Giving up is the point. The second string did try to win, but taking out the starters is giving up. I will never go to lucas oil again. The journey to the championship is just as important as the championship. The colts have disgraced the journey. Any success now will be bitter.

  25. Maybe we should have our own goals, since the colts have no respect for the fans. It would really be something to see and hear about on the news if the stadium would be completely empty. Huh! That is a decision we all should make and stick to it one time on the next home game. How much money would be lost on their part?, but look how much the fans would save, alot. I am done backing the colts, to me all games our already chosen and there is no real honest competion. I will be saving my money for a real cause. The decison was a cowardly decison.

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