Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday that he plans to play his starters on Sunday against the Texans in the two teams’ regular-season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts have clinched a Wild Card playoff berth are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC, regardless of whether they win or lose on Sunday. But Pagano, who returned from a 12-week leave of absence for leukemia treatment on Monday, plans to play his starters anyway.
“It’s a 16-game season, and this is the last game of the season,” Pagano said Wednesday on a conference call with Houston reporters. “We set some goals for ourselves a long time ago, and watching what this team has done in my absence for the last three months, at this point, we owe it to ourselves, this community, our fans and our city – it’s just not in our DNA, in these kids’ DNA, to go out and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna rest this guy or that guy.’
“I know we’re where we’re seeded and all that stuff, but we want to go in (to the playoffs) with some momentum. Like every game, it doesn’t matter who it is, we’re going to try to win the football game.”
Asked if he had wrestled with the decision to play his starters on Sunday, Pagano said, “We knew exactly what we were going to do. It was a lay-up.”
The Texans will clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they beat the Colts on Sunday. If they lose, they could end up as low as the No. 3 seed, which would mean they don’t get a first-round bye and would have to play in the Wild Card round of the playoffs next weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak was not surprised to hear that Pagano does not plan to rest his starters.
"Obviously, you’re trying to play your best football," Kubiak said Wednesday. "The rest idea, it gets overblown a little bit. You only have so many players. Obviously, if you have some guys that have been hurt or something and you’re in situations, you may think about it, but you only have 53 guys, 46 guys that have to go play and compete, so it’s really, really difficult to rest guys, per se, unless there’s really a reason to back them off or not suit them. There’s just a limited amount of players in the league.”