The current NFL season has brought us a scenario never seen before in the history of American football.
Two undefeated teams from two different conferences, with an MVP-caliber player at each quarterback position.
Oh, not to mention that one of these undefeated team’ coaches is in his first year as the head man.
The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are the first pair of undefeated teams which have each gone 13-0 in the 90-year existence of the National Football League. It’s sort of ironic as well when considering that both teams won their thirteenth game on the 13th day of December. And I thought 13 was an unlucky number.
This is nothing new for the Colts, though. Peyton Manning and company have been in this position before, and their win over the Broncos Sunday set an NFL record with 22 straight regular season victories. They are also on the verge of achieving more victories in one decade of play than any other team.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Saints have never achieved such great success. It wasn’t until Drew Brees signed with New Orleans that the entire franchise turned around, becoming a contender year in and year out. With an offense that can score at will and an opportunistic defense, the Saints could very well represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
But at this point in the season, questions begin to surround undefeated teams. Will the coach rest the players? Do they talk about going undefeated? Does it mean anything to them if they go undefeated during the regular season and lose in the playoffs?
The Saints have partially addressed the topic in terms of responding to media inquiries. They seem more inclined to keep playing their stars and winning each and every game, even if they do wrap up home-field advantage and the NFC has to go through the Big Easy in the postseason.
The Colts are being quite a bit more hesitant. First-year coach Jim Caldwell seems to be following the lead of his predecessor, Tony Dungy, and wants to rest players down the line. He recently said that “healthy” players will play, although how long each player will be on the field is uncertain. Hmm, sounds like he’s not all about achieving history.
But should he be? I say yes, to a degree.
Let’s go back to the last few seasons. The Colts have had hot starts under former coach Tony Dungy, winning 10 games year in and year out. However, once the team had locked up its playoff spot, Dungy started resting big-time players like Manning and Dwight Freeney. And you could only guess what happened next-the Colts lost their first playoff game after a lengthy layoff.
It’s interesting to look at how the Saints are handling being in this unique position as opposed to the Colts, but such reactions are expected. Indianapolis has been here before and has had the same core of players for years now, while players like Brees and Reggie Bush are still relative unknowns to the postseason picture.
When it all comes down to it, the Colts and Saints should go all out and play to stay unbeaten.
I say this because it’s no easy feat to win every game in the NFL, a league of unpredictable parity and amazing talent across all positions. Imagine if both teams won out and ended up 16-0; the league would be presenting a situation never before seen in decades of competition, while fans across the country would be see up close and personal a feat which very well may never happen again.
I’m not saying Manning should play a full game if his team is winning by 14 or that Bush is better off playing every snap in a meaningless game against Tampa Bay. What I am saying is that keeping players fresh is what translates into postseason success.
Sure, rest after a long season is warranted, but both of these teams will have first-round byes anyway. And if you think back to the league’s last undefeated regular season squad—the New England Patriots—they took it easy against a New York Giants team that they eventually met in the Super Bowl. We all know what happened in that monumental game.
Point is, if a team gets the opportunity to enjoy a season of limited injuries, great play and some lucky draws, why not continue to play the same way once the playoffs roll around?
The 1972 Miami Dolphins enjoyed an undefeated regular season and won the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t 19-0. The Colts or Saints could end up going 19-0, becoming one of the best teams not only in NFL history but in sports. That’s got to mean something to historians of the game like Manning or top-caliber players like Brees.
The only thing better than one of these teams playing for a chance to go 19-0 is if they wind up facing each other in the Super Bowl. Such a contest could drive television sets to implode with record-setting ratings.