Sportsbook Online: Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills
After the Indianapolis Colts all but threw away their chance for an undefeated season — creating a swirl of controversy in the process — they have even less reason to play their starters in the regular-season finale.
Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts’ stars will almost certainly see an abbreviated afternoon of action in Sunday’s postseason tuneup against the host Buffalo Bills.
Leading 15-10 in the third quarter against the visiting New York Jets last Sunday, the Colts were in good shape to improve to 15-0 and win their 24th straight regular-season game until coach Jim Caldwell replaced Manning with rookie quarterback Curtis Painter.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai were also removed, and Painter turned the ball over twice as the Jets surged to a 29-15 victory.
Team president Bill Polian had insisted all season that the Colts’ lone goal is to win the Super Bowl, and with the top seed in the AFC already secured, they proved it by removing the three-time league MVP and his top weapons from harm’s way.
“The perfect season was never an issue with us,” Polian said. “We’ve said it time and time and time again. It’s somebody else’s issue, but not ours. That was of no concern. 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.”
The decision did not sit well with the team’s fans, who booed as it became clear the Colts (14-1) would not become the first team to finish unbeaten since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart,” Manning said. “That’s what we’ve done as players. We follow orders.”
Besides earning critics, Caldwell’s move also affected the AFC playoff race, giving the Jets the inside track on a wild-card berth following their victory. There won’t be nearly as much controversy about Manning coming out early against the Bills, who are guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season.