A Preemptive Strike – To Rest or Not to Rest?

I realize that nothing has been set in stone, but some fans are already angst ridden over the prospect of the Colts resting their starters next week.  We’ve long held that this is the only smart thing to do, but some idiots like to exercise a very selective memory to cherry pick situations where it didn’t work out.  Let’s review the last 10 years of Colts playoff history to see how resting players vs not resting players has worked out.

1999:  Colts don’t rest players versus Buffalo.
Result:  Cornelius Bennett gets hurt.  Eddie George rips off the longest run of his life, and the Colts lose.
Verdict:  Should have rested.  Hurt players make it tough to win.

2000:  Colts can’t rest and sneak into the playoffs
Result:  The defense is exhausted in the fourth quarter and blows a big lead, ultimately losing in OT.  Colts lose.
Verdict:  Rest would have been nice.  Maybe the D holds up late.

2002:  Colts can’t rest and sneak into the playoffs
Result:  The defense is blown off the field in the first quarter and the Colts lose
Verdict:  Rest probably wouldn’t have mattered.  The D just stank.

2003:  Colts can’t rest and win the South at the 4th quarter gun in the last game
Result:  Manning goes nuts and the Colts go to the AFC Championship
Verdict:  Rest haters will claim the O kept it’s rhythm.

2004:  Colts rest the last week in Denver and set up a rematch in Indy
Result:  The Colts annihilate Denver.
Verdict:  Rest wins.  By not showing Denver anything, they were lulled to sleep.

2005:  Colts rest the last three weeks

Result:  Pittsburgh defensive scheme wreaks havoc on the O line.  Colts lose.
Verdict:  This is the game the rest haters love to cherry pick.  I’d say the rest factor wasn’t nearly as important as the tragedy of Dungy’s son was.  I’d also say that if Nick Harper’s wife doesn’t stab him in the leg the night before, Indy probably wins this game anyway.

2006:  Colts have to play to the wire in week 17.

Result:  Indy’s D gels, and the Colts win 4 in a row.
Verdict:  Rest haters are happy.  No rest, and the Colts win it all.  Oddly enough, the Colts offense struggles in the first two games despite the fact they should have been ‘in rhythm’.

2007:  Colts rest vs Titans in week 17.
Result: 
Colts dominate the first quarter, but the defense collapses in the second half due to a lack of pressure.
Verdict: Rest haters are morons.  The Colts came out hot, scoring on their first drive, and picking off Rivers.  Indy was driving for a 14 point lead when Harrison’s fumble altered the game.  The Colts didn’t come out flat or not ready to play.  They didn’t have anyone to rush the passer with a banged up Mathis and lost because of it.

Final Score:

Rest works: 1 (2004)
Rest fails: 1 (2005)
No rest works: 2  (2003, 2006)
No rest fails: 2 (1999, 2000)
Probably didn’t matter: 2 (2002, 2007)

There are lots of reasons teams win or lose playoff games.  Injuries, matchups, luck, strategy, and most often: HAVING THE BETTER TEAM.  Resting players or not resting players is at best a wash.

Honestly, I think resting is the better strategy in most circumstances.  I don’t think the 2005 or 2007 games had anything do with rest or rust or rhythm or any other R word.  So the next time someone you know freaks out over resting players, remind them of 1999 and 2000 or of 2004.

Links:  Here are bodoglife.com‘s MVP odds:

Who will be the 2008 Regular Season NFL MVP?

Adrian Peterson (MIN)                3/2

Peyton Manning (IND)                2/1

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)             5/1

Tony Romo (DAL)                      10/1

James Harrison (PIT)                  10/1

Drew Brees (NO)                        12/1

Kurt Warner (ARI)                      12/1

Matt Cassel (NE)                       20/1

DeAngelo Williams (CAR)           20/1

Kerry Collins (TEN)                    20/1

DeMarcus Ware (DAL)               25/1

Matt Ryan (ATL)                        25/1

Demond Sanders:  Big Ben is way too high on this list.  I know people fall in love with him every time he wins a big game, but he is not the MVP of his own team.  Also, I’ve done a lot of thinking and I’d be shocked if Manning and the offense didn’t play the first half of the Titans game.  They won’t play the entire game, but because of the Thursday night game they would be off for 2.5 weeks.  That’s probably too much rest for an offense. 

Mort has an MVP vote.  He’s voting for Manning.

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