INDIANAPOLIS -- They haven't lost a game this season. In fact, they haven't lost one of their last 22 regular-season games, an NFL record, and they're on such a roll now that they have home-field advantage for the playoffs locked down with three weeks to play.
Yet there is one thing the Indianapolis Colts can't do, and that's figure out what to do next -- and I think you know what I'm talking about. Now that they can cruise into the playoffs, the question is: Will they? Do they rest their starters down the stretch, or do they continue to play them?
I know where Peyton Manning stands, and I think I know where most of his teammates stand, too. Though Manning was non-committal when asked directly about playing through the next three weeks, he indicated he didn't want to sit -- and it's easy to see why. The last time the Colts won their first 13 games, they lost to San Diego, then coasted -- with then-coach Tony Dungy resting his starters the last two weeks.
The plan seemed logical, but then the Colts lost their only playoff game to Pittsburgh and suddenly second-guessers were off the bandwagon. Well, now they're back, and this time they may have an ally in Manning.
"Believe me," Manning said after Sunday's 28-16 defeat of Denver, "I never enjoyed losing a game and have never gone into a game saying, 'I really want to lose this one,' or 'I don't care if we win this one.' That's what preseason is for. Every game I ever started I wanted to win.
"I haven't liked starting a game and playing a series and then coming out. You still get the loss. Every guy that starts the game gets the loss -- all of our players. I'm not just saying me, but it's [center] Jeff Saturday and [wide receiver] Reggie Wayne ... all those guys who take pride [in winning], and we'd like to continue. Winning sure is a lot better than losing."
The Colts haven't had to worry about losing for a long time. They haven't lost a regular-season game since last October to Tennessee, knocking off an astonishing 22 opponents in the process -- nine under coach Tony Dungy and 13 under new coach Jim Caldwell. That, as tight end Dallas Clark said, "is impressive," but legacies are not built on regular-season wins. They're built on playoff runs, and the Colts didn't have much of one the last time they gained home-field advantage and rested their stars.
"That was 2005," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "Different year, different team. We did not lose that [Pittsburgh] game because guys rested."
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Maybe, but it's hard not to think one might have led to another. While home-field advantages are nice to have, they don't mean a whole lot -- especially in the AFC. In fact, four of the last five teams to gain it -- including Indianapolis -- did not make it to the Super Bowl. Tennessee was aced out in one playoff game last season. San Diego went down in one in 2006. Indianapolis was one-and-out in 2005. And Pittsburgh bowed out in the championship game in 2004.
I think you get the idea. The Colts' greater accomplishment Sunday was running their winning streak to 22. That is rarified air, with Indianapolis overcoming New England, generally considered the Team of the Decade, to get there.
The Patriots are the guys who won all 16 in 2007, and that was heady stuff then, too. Plus, they never rested their starters and went all the way to the Super Bowl. But they lost there, and they lost to a New York Giants team that refused to sit its starters the last week of the regular season when common sense said they should.
I'm sure you remember the situation: The Giants met New England in a game that was bigger -- and I mean much bigger -- for the Patriots than the Giants, who had qualified for the playoffs and would enter as a wild-card. Still, coach Tom Coughlin played his starters and nearly beat the heavily favored Patriots. Later, the Giants would insist that the experience proved to them that they could beat the Patriots if they met again.
"Obviously, it's a great, huge topic for analysis and different opinions," Manning said. "I don't think there is a right answer. I think whatever plan Coach Caldwell gives us that will be the right plan because that's what he decided and what we will carry out.
"But either way you're opening self up for second-guessing, right? I think every competitive player wants to be out there playing. That's what we'll plan to do, and whatever direction he wants to go in -- and I don't know anything else -- we'll go from there and play to win.
"I will say this: One thing we have done in the past which I haven't really liked is revealing our plan. I don't think it's Jacksonville's business or anybody's business what we're going to do before we get out there Thursday [their next game]. I thought that was kinda between our team."
OK, that's one opinion. But soon it will be subject for public discourse. Caldwell said he won't make a decision on his next move until Monday but intends to consult some of his team's leaders -- with Manning front and center.
Frankly, I can't imagine the Colts resting Manning -- or anyone else, for that matter -- in a nationally televised game, but I wouldn't be so sure what happens after that. They have the Jets here and finish with Buffalo in Buffalo, and if you listen to owner Jim Irsay it sounds as if there might be some selective furloughs coming up.
"You take it a game at a time," Irsay said. "If guys have an injury you rest them -- especially if it's something that could be a lingering injury where playing could get them hurt. It's not a question -- and [team president] Bill [Polian] and I both believe this -- of not being ready or losing momentum. For us, it's getting them rested.
"We have a smaller team -- very athletic guys -- and we want them to be in top form. I think we will rest them, but it will be a player-by-player situation, and we'll take it a game at a time."
That is their choice. No, it is Jim Caldwell's choice. If I were to guess, I'd say he rests his starters -- or, at least, some of his starters -- for the Buffalo game, but Caldwell offers no hints, and fair enough. There should be some mystery left to this year's Colts.
And there's plenty of it.