It really isn't an option: The Colts must play their starters from start to finish against the Texans in Week 17.
Let's nip this in the bud right now: Resting starters in the Week 17 match-up against the Texans is a BAD idea.
Like, stupid bad. The ugly sweater you got Christmas kind of bad.
It's taken the Colts three years, a front office purge, a coaching change, and punting Peyton Manning to Denver to fumigate the stench that was Bill Polian's edict to rest starters in a Week 16 game against the Jets back in 2009. So much bad blood erupted from that decision, and the subsequent douchebaggery that followed, that it has taken years for fans to get over it.
Today, there are fresh faces running the show. The Chuck Pagano story is such a beautiful tale that it almost sounds made up. Andrew Luck has come to town and broken some of the time-honored records that once belonged to No. 18. Ryan Grigson has made fans forget all about Bill Polian and his inept son, Chris. More importantly, the team is 10-5, coming off a 2-14 season last year where they started 0-13.
Why? Why, in god's name, would you risk undoing all that good by resting starters?
Thankfully, one of the team's veterans spoke up on the subject, and effectively stated that "rest" is not something management should consider:
So, how do the Colts, entrenched at No. 5, approach it? Full bore? Rest some of the front-line starters?
That was a line of questioning inappropriate for coach Chuck Pagano's emotional Monday news conference. He'll likely address the topic Wednesday.
Reggie Wayne saw no reason to delay the debate.
"We're too young to rest," the veteran receiver said. "We probably need to put everybody out there and have them continue to play. I don't think we can afford (to rest).
"I can't speak for everybody, but I'm built to play."
Reggie Wayne is 34. Age and injuries have cost him his speed, but he still finds ways to get open and make big catches. If anyone is entitled to taking a game off, it's him. So, when he says "I'm built to play," that should end the debate right there.
Starters play. The entire game. Period.
The injury boogeyman cannot and should not dictate what games are or aren't important. Bill Polian tried to control the uncontrollable, and it ultimately cost him his job and, in many ways, his legacy. Despite all the wonderful things Polian did as president (and later vice chairman) of the Colts, that December '09 decision to sit players against the Jets will always taint his resume.
If you're Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, you want no part of that.
The Colts aren't playing for playoff seeding. They are the No. 5 seed. They will play on the road in the Wildcard Round. The question is, where?
Lots of scenarios can take place on Sunday, including one that has the Texans fall from the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Houston has looked very dicey in recent weeks. They got blown out by the Patriots three weeks ago, barely won at home against the Colts two weeks ago, and got absolutely CRUSHED at home by the Vikings last week. What was once a given (Houston as the No. 1 seed) is now very much up in the air. Both Denver and New England can leapfrog Houston, leaving the Texans at the No. 3 seed and hosting the Bengals in the Wildcard Round, just like last year.
There is also the small fact that the Texans have never won in Indianapolis. Ever. They are 0-10, which is remarkable. They actually lost in Indy last year! There is something poetic and oddly fitting that, in some way, the Colts still own the Texans even though Indy is going through a rebuilding phase while Houston is, supposedly, "elite."
So, no, the game isn't "meaningless." Play to win. Play your starters from start to finish. Keep the good will chugging. Make life miserable for the Texans heading into the playoffs, because you never know. The Colts may face them down the road.