Week 17 Could Change History

Last December, the Indianapolis Colts were chasing perfection.

With 14 wins on the season, they only needed two more victories to finish undefeated. Of course, until football logic came into play – the Colts may have had a shot at a historic season, but injuries could not be risked. With a top seed in the playoffs secured, the Colts sat their starters in the second half and ended up losing to the New York Jets. The chase for perfection had ended.

Bill Polian, president of the Indianapolis Colts, supported the decision to rest players: “Football logic has to come into play, and that logic is it makes no sense to have guys out there with the potential for injuries. We played for 16 weeks, sharp as any team in football. The good thing is that none of this mattered in the standings.”

Much to the dismay of fans, resting starters in the final weeks of the regular season is common practice for playoff-bound football teams. And the logic behind it makes sense; why risk injuries to key players in a meaningless football game?

Fans don’t like it. Especially the ones who pay for tickets and expect to see star players like Peyton Manning on the field.

Gamblers stay away from it. Week 17 matchups are never safe bets. Are the Colts the same offensive team without Peyton Manning? Nope.

Fantasy football geeks hate it. Assuming the league championships occur in the final weeks, how can the top teams compete when their fantasy studs are on the bench?

The National Football League wants to change it. The league is looking at making subtle changes to the schedule that would make matchups during the final weeks more important.

Apparently, the league’s idea is to move rivalry games to the end of the regular season. For example, the Seattle Seahawks would face the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals in the final two weeks of the season.

Interesting? Sure. Meaningful? Probably. But would it really prevent a playoff-bound team from resting its starters? I doubt it.

There isn’t a perfect solution out there, but local radio personality Mike Gastineau brought up a unique idea earlier this week. Gastineau, better known as the “Gas Man”, thinks that the National Football League should reward teams who win during the final weeks with draft picks. With even a late-round pick at stake, teams would surely compete and entertain in games that are otherwise meaningless.

Even better, coincide the draft incentive with rivalry matchups; not only would the Seattle Seahawks be playing hated division rivals, but a draft pick would be at stake. It would be bad if Seattle lost the opportunity to gain an additional selection in the NFL Draft, but even worse if a team within their division obtained one instead.

But the NFL Draft is supposed to assist less-competitive teams by rewarding them with higher selections. In the Gas Man’s scenario, the system would reward winning football teams. Even if the rewarded picks are late-round selections, the less-competitive football teams are being punished.

Losing teams aside, it would definitely ensure teams like the Indianapolis Colts would reconsider resting their starting players in the final weeks of the regular season. Teams with secured playoff bids would face a dilemma: play it safe and rest for the postseason, or finish strong and obtain draft picks for the future.

If Peyton Manning plays  the second half against the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts probably win and finish the season undefeated.

Because of the loss, the New York Jets fail to clinch a playoff spot and their miraculous run to the AFC Championship Game never happens. Mark Sanchez is an average Joe to most people and Rex Ryan is still an unproven head coach in the NFL.

The Colts’ streak continues into the postseason, where they steamroll opponents and possibly defeat the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. Achieving what the New England Patriots couldn’t, the Indianapolis Colts finish the season undefeated and Super Bowl champions. Peyton Manning is the considered greatest quarterback ever – even more so than now – and the Colts are the greatest team in NFL history.

History was changed, and it was all because of meaningful football games at the end of the NFL regular season.

Shaun Dolence: dolencesm@gmail.com
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Tags: Indianapolis Colts Mike Gastineau National Football League NFL NFL Draft Peyton Manning Regular Season Regular Season Schedule Schedule Change Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl The Gas Man Undefeated Week 17

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