In the season of their Super Bowl defense, the Indianapolis Colts have not disappointed in providing their fans much to be thankful for.
As if remaining one of the NFL’s top teams is not enough, the Colts not only gift wrapped at least one home playoff contest and a first round bye up before Christmas, they practically ensured a healthier squad come post season play.
In this season of giving, the defending champs have in turn received the following gifts as their regular season comes to a close:
Rest with continuity: Entering their final regular season match up, the Colts are in a mode that will allow starters to rest, while reserves and youth gain valuable game-time opportunities for their playoff run.
Entering their final regular season contest versus the Tennessee Titans, the status of safety Antoine Bethea, defensive linemen Raheem Brock and Robert Mathis, and of course receiver Marvin Harrison remains up in the air, though their services are not essential for another few weeks.
Colts head coach Tony Dungy said his team familiarity with this scenario is an added benefit, and expects his team to find the right mix without compromising play on the field.
“I think our guys are really well set on the task at hand,” Dungy said. “We talked about improving and playing better than we did last week. Hopefully we’re going to do that and play well at home and get a little continuity in how we play.
“I envision some guys playing the whole game, other guys getting rest,” he added. “I envision some of our younger guys and second team guys in there with the first team I don’t think it will be just wholesale substitutions. We want to get some guys in the heat of battle with guys that they may be playing with in the playoffs.”
Pro Bowl recognition: Though linebacker Gary Brackett should be on a short list of pro-bowl snubs, five Colts will be headed to Hawaii in February. For second year running back Joseph Addai, joining Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and Bob Sanders as pro bowl selections is bittersweet, but an honor that speaks to his achievements in a short but promising career.
“It’s kind of like last year in the Super Bowl, a lot of great players that deserve to go don’t make it,” the thousand-yard rusher said. “It’s kind of hard, but at the same time I’m not taking it for granted, I’m really happy. I’m only in my second year, and I’m able to play with some of the great players in the league so that says a lot.”
More time “under the radar”: With as meaningless a regular season finale as is possible in the NFL, the Colts will no doubt continue to fly under the national radar until the AFC divisional playoffs.
All season, the Colts have been as obscure as a defending champion can be. But ask them, and they will tell you to keep the attention on the New England Patriots or other teams still fighting to solidify their playoff position.
“Maybe it’s just us being in Indiana, but we kind of like it that way,” Dungy said of the team’s national status. “Last year at this time, we had lost a few games so people weren’t focused on us and we were just able to concentrate and do our job. I think it will help us.”