The Indianapolis Colts are 11-0 and just a couple of wins away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
And if the Colts are still undefeated once they’ve clinched home field, the questions will start to be asked: Should Indianapolis keep playing hard in essentially meaningless games, and attempt to finish the regular season 16-0? Or would they be better off giving Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and other key players plenty of rest, and coasting into the playoffs healthy but not necessarily unbeaten?
First-year Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has never faced that decision before. But he told Peter King in the Monday Morning Quarterback column at SI.com that if he does have to make the decision, he’ll likely follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Tony Dungy, who always said the Colts would rather be healthy than undefeated.
“It’ll be somewhat similar to what we’ve done,” Caldwell told King. “Going undefeated was always a secondary goal. I don’t think we’ll put too much emphasis on that.”
Not putting too much emphasis on an undefeated season makes sense: The goal for every team is to win the Super Bowl, not to run the table. At the same time, sometimes it’s hard for teams that slow down in December to get back to full speed in January.
As Mike Florio noted in the Week 12 Morning Aftermath, the Colts clinched home field early in 2005, then took it easy in the last couple of weeks, and came out flat in their first playoff game, losing at home to the Steelers.
Even if the Colts don’t consider 16-0 a primary goal, they might look sluggish in the postseason if they don’t play hard for all 16 games of the regular season.