Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy never made any secret of his intentions in regards to playing time for starters if his team secured the highest playoff seeding and was undefeated.
The stoic Dungy never wavered from his ideology that did not place an emphasis on personal or team records. If a regular season game had no playoff implication, Dungy would sit starters to avoid unnecessary injury.
Indianapolis clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Titans on Sunday and now rookie head coach Jim Caldwell faces the same dilemma.
Caldwell said on Monday that the Colts are going to “play ball”, but didn’t specifically address the topic of starters playing the entire game.
"We're going to approach the 14th game exactly like we did 1 through 13,” said Caldwell. “We're going to look at this game and prepare just as hard. We've got a great rhythm in terms of our preparation and we're going to go out and play just like we have done in the previous 13.”
The Colts face the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Thursday and the majority of offshore books have not released a line on the game due to the uncertainty of playing time for starters like Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai.
Pete Korner, founder of the Sports Club in Las Vegas, said they released a spread of 7-even to its members with a total of 43. Korner was quick to mention that their number was based on the assumption the team’s starters would be playing.
“It’s a major adjustment if they have multiple starters out,” he said. “We think it’s a legitimate 7, but if they’re resting starters like Manning this could go down to a pick or even Jacksonville favored because they need the game.”
Korner also pointed out that Indianapolis continues to be a “play against” team among bettors despite accruing a 9-3-1 against the spread record this year.
“Even though these guys have a winning streak going, the play is against them,” said Korner. “They’ve had some close calls, including this last weekend, but the plays have been against them.”
The Saints will be the second team afforded the opportunity to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they face the Cowboys in the season’s first Saturday night showdown.
If New Orleans defeats Dallas, and the Vikings lose to the Panthers on Sunday, the Saints would secure playoff games at the Superdome until the Super Bowl.
“We are well aware that the Saints have played a lot of close games recently, they are just asking to lose,” stated Korner, who sent out a spread of 7 in favor of the Saints with a total of 51. “But we want to be high on the favorites and try to avoid underdog money.”
The Cowboys are 19-36 since 1997 in games after November and didn’t look like a playoff team in the loss Sunday to San Diego. When asked if he could see the line growing higher than the key number because of Dallas’ recent inefficiencies, Korner did not believe it would.
“The Saints play of late has prohibited a line like this one from running,” he said. “We know that Dallas is a highly visible team and they have their certain followers that just won’t let their numbers go to certain areas.”
Another team that hasn’t played up to par in recent weeks is New England. The Dolphins and Jets are nipping at their heels in the AFC East, both lurking one game behind the Pats.
Randy Moss looked like his old self on Sunday, taking plays off and not running routes with precision. Tom Brady’s lingering injuries, Bill Belichick’s scrutinized fourth-down and tardiness decisions and Moss’s attitude have Patriots backers thinking twice before laying large numbers.
The Sports Club installed the Bills as an 8-point underdog against the Patriots although most shops are currently offering a 7-point spread.
“New England is obviously not the powerhouse they were two years ago,” Korner said. “I could see the line coming down before it goes up.”
While Buffalo is clearly not an offensive juggernaut, the opening total of 41 seems strangely low for a game involving the Patriots.
“If there is bad weather in Buffalo and it’s windy, then scoring becomes very tough so 8 points could be a lot,” added Korner. “I think movement will be predicated on the weather. If it’s clear, I think New England could open this up, but if it’s cold, windy and snowy I think the play will be on the Bills.”
Other Week 15 NFL lines: Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1); Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens (-10); Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-1); Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers (-7); Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-11.5); Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks (-7); Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers (+7); New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+3).
Pointspreads for the Dolphins-Titans, Cardinals-Lions, 49ers-Eagles, Falcons-Jets and Texans-Rams games have not been released as of Monday.