Dallas Cowboys: Colts Might Go Easy On Sunday


The Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts both sit at 10-4. However, the two teams couldn’t be in more different playoff scenarios. The Cowboys, although having one of their best seasons in recent years, are still fighting for their playoff lives. They currently lead the Philadelphia Eagles by one game, but will need to maintain that one game lead if they are to win the NFC East. With Dallas holding almost zero tiebreakers for an NFC Wild Card berth either, it seems as if their only path to the playoffs is winning their next two games. A matchup with the Colts would seem to be a big obstacle to those hopes.

However, fans should consider that the Colts don’t have much to play for this Sunday in Arlington.  Indianapolis has already clinched the AFC South division with two games remaining, and it is almost impossible for them to improve their seed. The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos both have a one game advantage over the Colts at 11-3, and both teams hold a head-to-head victory over Indianapolis as well. The Patriots or Broncos would have to lose both their remaining games, combined with two Colts’ victories in order for them to launch themselves into a top-two seed and secure a first-round bye.

Sure, this scenario is possible, but the Patriots can secure a first-round bye with a win over the lowly New York Jets by the time the Cowboys and Colts kickoff Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CST. The Broncos will have their chance to do the same Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. Would it be wise for Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to rest all of his starters? Probably not.

With two weeks remaining, Pagano could run the risk of taking his team out of sync if he rests them this far out. However, does it make sense for him to put players with nagging injuries like wide receivers T.Y. Hilton or Reggie Wayne at risk in a potentially meaningless game? The answer to that question is also probably not.

Although Pagano insists that the Colts will view this game just like any other, he certainly understands the magnitude of this game will not reach that of a playoff game. A couple hits to star quarterback Andrew Luck  or Dallas opening up an early lead might not result in players coming out of the game, but it certainly could alter the game plan of the already playoff bound Colts.

"“We’re going to prepare to try and win this football game,” Pagano said at his press conference Monday. “Forget being in the playoffs or not. That’s just our mindset. That’s how we roll.”"

Last season, the Colts wrapped up their division in Week 14–regardless, they won their final three contests. They did not rest any healthy starters despite having the division wrapped up for three full weeks. Still, the Colts’ top receiving threat Hilton sustained a hamstring injury last Sunday against the Texans.

His running mate, Wayne, has been dealing with an elbow injury for the better part of the season, and could badly use the rest. Shutdown corner Vontae Davis has been fighting a groin injury all season–managing to play some weeks while sitting out others.

The Colts are a team that is coming of age. They will be in the playoffs for the third straight season, and perhaps Pagano can reward his team’s veterans with some much needed rest as they appear to be real contenders for the first time since drafting Luck. On the other hand, the Cowboys won’t be as fortunate. Their injured players like running back DeMarco Murray, guard Zack Martin, and tackle Doug Free are fighting to play in this game.

For a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009, a quarterback whose reputation correlates directly to postseason success, and a head coach that is desperately fighting for his job–an Indianapolis team that takes it easy on Sunday would be a welcomed sight to the Dallas Cowboys.