Colts president Bill Polian has been on a mission lately. His goal? To make the case for resting starters after the Colts lock up home-field advantage for the playoffs, even if it means blowing a shot at a 16-0 season.
Polian has again explained his position, in a visit with NFL Network.
“I don’t know how you get rusty when you practice four times a week. It’s pretty hard to be rusty in that situation,” Polian said. “Secondly, momentum is an overrated situation. We didn’t have a lot of
momentum going into the playoffs the year we won the Super Bowl.”
And that’s where the flaw arises in Polian’s argument.
The Colts had no momentum after the 2006 season ended. Despite a 12-4 regular-season record, it widely was believed that the Colts would be steamrolled in the playoffs, given their inability to stop the run.
But they acquired momentum via the wild-card round, during which they manhandled a Chiefs team that many believed would ride Larry Johnson to a road win. Then, the Colts went to Baltimore and used the momentum flowing from the win over the Chiefs to knock of the Ravens.
Of course, it’s not as if the Ravens had coasted down the stretch. They needed a Week 17 win over the Bills to lock up a first-round bye. But that perceived blessing might have been a curse, given that the rested Ravens’ reward was a game against a revved-up Colts team.
Though it’s still better to have a bye week, despite the fact that AFC teams that earned a bye are 3-5 in the divisional round over the past four years, an extended stretch of practices without meaningful game action puts a team at a distinct disadvantage when facing a team with soaring confidence and a fully-sharpened saw.
So the presence of the bye week should make the elite teams even more inclined to keep pushing through to the finish line. It’s one thing to rest starters for two quarters of the third preseason game and most of the last one; every team does that. When a team that has had tremendous success by going all out during each week of the regular season suddenly assumes a preseason posture at a time when future playoff opponents are still scratching and clawing and doing everything in their power to play for another week, the stage is set for a fall.
The fact that Polian doesn’t see that despite his own team’s experiences over the past several years should be deeply troubling to every Colts fan.