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Colts may risk perfect record for healthy players

Colts may risk perfect record for healthy players

The Indianapolis Colts are willing to jeopardize their perfect record by resting key players for the NFL playoffs instead of playing them against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday.
Having already locked up the AFC South division title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Colts coach Jim Caldwell is considering resting several key players with three rounds left in the regular season. Caldwell has declined to divulge his plans, saying "healthy" starters will play.
"It's what's best for us in terms of getting us ready to play well down the line," Caldwell said. "Obviously the most important games are the playoff games, and obviously we're fortunate enough to be there, so we've just got to keep trying to get better and stay sharp and keep playing hard."
The Colts have won all 13 of their games this season, and extended their NFL-best winning streak in the regular season to 22 games. Star quarterback Peyton Manning, for one, would prefer to be in the huddle on every play.
"I always want to be in there playing and that's what I expect to be doing," Manning said. "Just because there's a lot of speculation and analysis on what we're supposed to do or what the (unbeaten New Orleans) Saints are supposed to do, all we know to do is do what we've been doing every single week and to go out there and play as hard as we can and try to execute."
The Jaguars have been struggling to execute lately, especially since running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been bottled up. But Caldwell said he hasn't noticed a difference.
"He looks the same to me," Caldwell said. "He's just as dangerous, just as explosive. He's tough, he's determined. He can be a real tough individual to handle, as you can see from when we've played them previously."
Jones-Drew has 1,136 yards rushing and a league-leading 14 touchdowns, but the last four weeks have been far from normal for the 5-foot-7, 208-pound (1.7-meter, 94-kilogram) wrecking ball. He's averaged 69 yards on the ground and 3.4 yards per carry in the last month, a huge concern for the Jaguars heading into what looks like their biggest game of the season.
The Jaguars believe they need Jones-Drew back on track if they're going to upset the Colts and maintain control of the final AFC wild-card spot.
"He's the guy that we're built around," coach Jack Del Rio said. "Everybody knows that, and when they overload to limit his ability to be effective, we've got to be able to strike through the air. We haven't done it well enough lately. Over probably the last month, we've been pretty stagnant in that area.
"We need to get him going. We need to create more room, more opportunity, so we look to do that."