Colts Beat Jags Stay Undefeated Behind Star Players
Last night the Colts did not look like a team that was going to let up and had nothing to play for, as pundits had been saying all week. Yes they might have the number 1 seed locked up, but they are taking nothing for granted. Last night’s game marked the 7th time this season the Colts have come from behind in the 4th quarter to win the game. While it might not be their number one goal, a perfect season seems to be reason enough to not rest their stars, and I tend to agree with them.
Perfect season or not, I always think its a mix bag to rest your stars and starters so much at the end of the regular season (and not just because of fantasy reasons). Teams that do so, already have a bye lined up in the first round, so you are talking about giving them two or more weeks off compared to the usual one bye week. A number of times in recent memory, those teams then subsequently get beat at home in their first playoff game. The Giants last season, and the Cowboys and Colts the year before, were 1st or 2nd seeds that rested their players for at least a half of their final regular season game, only to lose in the divisional round (those are only the most recent examples). What’s even more troubling is all three of these teams lost their final regular season game as well. Its not as though they were resting players because they were up by a couple of touchdowns. By resting a few star players (especially your quarterback) on offense, I think it screws up the timing and crispness of the of the offensive attack. It just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me when you are a team that has won 12 or more games, why would you want to concede a win at the end of the season? I think that can take away the fire and drive of team, and resting for two weeks only compounds that.
Now I know what proponents for resting players say, about avoiding injury and keeping players fresh, and I get that. If you have everything wrapped up, I wouldn’t send out a player who’s not 100% to play in a game. But outside of that, I fail to see how you are avoiding injury. We see players get injured every year by doing non-football related activities or in practice, are we going to put these players in protective bubbles? Players could also get injured on the first play of their first playoff game, there is no predictive factor on when someone is getting injured. Yes, I understand that by resting them, players aren’t taking hits that could cause an injury. But remember if a running back or any ball carrier goes a couple of weeks without taking a major hit in a game, then he could be more likely to fumble the first time he is hit in the playoffs.
I think what’s more intriguing than the injury issue, is that proponents of resting players will say there is no real evidence that resting players in week 17 causes them to lose in the playoffs. Now I get that there is some truth to that, obviously in the playoffs the competition is tougher so its easier for a 13-3 or 14-2 team to falter, because they are playing another quality team. And there are also cases of teams who do rest players in the regular season, who do go far into the postseason. While both of those points are true, they completely ignore the one or more teams each season who do fall victim to the time off. What’s more is this experience isn’t just a football phenomenon. While the circumstances may be different, we see in every sport teams that have a large amount of time off between playoff series come out completely flat and lose the next series. Now in other sports its not by choice, but rather they sweep their earlier opponents, but it seems to be a chronic issue. I think its pretty well a given that in football the one sport where you can avoid too long of a layover, you should.
I thought what the Colts did last night was the right way to play it. They rested some of their defensive stars for the majority of the game. And were extremely cautious with anyone who has a nagging injury. In the end though their big time offensive stars played the whole game and looked really good. Manning was more or less perfect, and Wayne and Clark were unstoppable when they needed to be. Right now this is a team that is running on all cylinders, and I hope they stay that way. I don’t see why you mess with a good thing. And as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.