Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bet Welker thinks Indy's right

Patriot injury shows why cautious Colts are correct

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We've heard what seems like a million arguments as to why the Indianapolis Colts should have played their starters in these last two games in an attempt to pursue perfection. None of them hold water.

The ludicrous screed that the game was somehow fixed, the zealous fans that wanted a perfect season and finally those who believe a lack of momentum heading into the post-season will now hurt the Colts, are all wrong.

One name for you people.

Wes Welker.

The Patriots lost Welker on Sunday and likely for the remainder of the season and it's a huge blow. Welker entered the game with 122 receptions for 1,336 yards and four touchdowns. He's Tom Brady's security blanket and gives Randy Moss room by preventing consistent double coverage.

New England entered the game with far more to lose than to gain and those possibilities were realized when Welker went down. New England was guaranteed a home playoff game heading into the game and with a win could have moved up a seed. Big deal.

Now they have to play without one of their key offensive weapons and the word "crippling" was getting tossed around following the injury by the talking heads.

You cannot tell me, and if you did I wouldn't believe you, that fans would not have raged at Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell had they left Peyton Manning in these final two games and he'd been hurt.

The moaning coming out of Indianapolis would have lasted for years. Yes, Polian has a responsibility to his fans. Even when they're wrong and he has to make an unpopular decision. If every GM caved to the fans on coaching and quarterback decisions, nothing in the NFL would ever be accomplished.

The goal for each and every team in the NFL at the beginning of the season is to win the Super Bowl. That and nothing else. Everything, personal glory and team records, are all superseded by the pursuit of the Super Bowl. Polian and Caldwell made the hard decision but the right decision. It will bear out when Manning gets the ball for the team's first playoff game healthy and with the Colts in the best possible position to win. Momentum doesn't do a team any good with their best player on the sidelines. Neither does some notion of perfection.

Here's our look at Week 17 in the NFL:

 

"ö BLACK MONDAY: The NFL's annual coaching carousel could begin today with the firing of a number of head coaches. Some changes are a foregone conclusion (Washington) while some are still up to fickle owners (Seattle). On the hot seat are Jim Zorn (Washington), Lovie Smith (Chicago), Perry Fewell (Buffalo), Rasheed Morris (Tampa Bay), Eric Mangini (Cleveland), Steve Spagnuolo (St. Louis), Jim Mora (Seattle), Gary Kubiak (Houston), Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville) and Tom Cable (Oakland).

 

Who scares you

in the AFC?

Colts and Chargers

 

"ö INDY: They went 14-0 before benching their No. 1 units in favour of health and fresh legs for the playoffs over the pursuit of a perfect season. They have home-field advantage and a bye week to get ready for the second round of the playoffs. Say what you want, but the Colts have time to prepare and we believe they'll be ready and will advance to the AFC title game.

 

"ö SAN DIEGO: The hottest team in the AFC with wins in their last 11 games. Philip Rivers is playing the quarterback position as well as anyone in the league and has made a real push to be MVP. The Chargers have a top-end receiving corps and LaDainian Tomlinson is running right. We think San Diego is on its way to the Super Bowl.

 

Who doesn't?

Everybody else

 

"ö NEW ENGLAND: The best of the rest, and Tom Brady and Randy Moss can win any game but we don't think their defence can carry the day.

"ö CINCINNATI: A nice step forward by the Bengals after years of futility. Not quite a big-time contender just yet. They could win a game but we don't see them going into San Diego or Indy and winning in the playoffs.

"ö BALTIMORE: A one-dimensional offence and the defence is a little creaky these days.

"ö NEW YORK JETS: They backed into the playoffs but they made it. Too mistake-prone, however, to take advantage of their good fortune or...

 

Who scares you

in the NFC?

New Orleans, Dallas, Philadelphia,

Minnesota, Green Bay

 

"ö NEW ORLEANS: Top seed in the NFC with home-field advantage throughout. Winners of their first 13 games of the season and losers of their last three. The big question mark is whether they can regain their early form in the next two weeks. Maybe they peaked too early. Tough to tell because they've never been in this position before. Still, we like the Saints and would be surprised if they didn't find their way to the NFC final.

 

"ö DALLAS: Maybe they've fooled us. We haven't been fans of this Dallas group but they won three in a row to finish the season, including victories over elite teams in New Orleans and Philadelphia. They're big and physical and Tony Romo is playing his smartest football. We don't think they're the NFC's best but they can't be taken lightly.

 

"ö PHILADELPHIA: Up and down. Capable of big doings when they're hot but they have a tendency to take games off. Donovan McNabb has weapons and experience at this time of the year. Could easily be one and done or go all the way to the big game. Unpredictable and that makes them scary.

 

"ö MINNESOTA: Needed a win on the final week of the regular season and they got it to secure a bye and home field unless they meet New Orleans in the NFC final. That's big for the Vikes and Brett Favre, who does not have to worry about weather again this season. Favre can no longer win in the elements (0-6 in his last six cold-weather games) and it's all dome until the Super Bowl for Minnesota. The bye week gives Favre a chance to rest and the same can be said for running back Adrian Peterson. They're dangerous and could be a Super Bowl team.

 

"ö GREEN BAY: Look out. The Packers are peaking at the right time and go in hotter than any other NFC team with wins in five straight games. But they'll have to do it all on the road. Great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and a defence that can steal turnovers and score points. Not sure if they're ready but this could be their coming-out party.

 

Who doesn't?

The Cardinals

 

"ö ARIZONA: Inconsistent and porous on defence. If Kurt Warner is right they'll score points but they can't stop anyone. Too up and down to believe in.

 

"ö FAN RANT: Send us an email at the address below, keep it clean, lean and mean (by lean we're saying under or real close to 100 words) and we might print it in this space next week.

 

"ö CHANNEL YOUR INNER BOOKIE: Think you've got the jam to make a pick that deserves to be printed in our Thursday picks package? Follow the same rules as above and we might print it our Big Screen Big Mouth midweek edition.

 

"ö ROAD TRIP: Taking in an NFL playoff game? Send us a photo of you and your pals tailgating or hanging in the stands and we might print it in our Big Screen Big Mouth Thursday picks package.

How cool would that be?

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2010 C4

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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