INDIANAPOLIS –In the past few weeks, Colts players have spoken about the importance of reaching the playoffs with momentum on their side.
Sunday, they have a chance to do something about it when hosting Houston.
The problem is Houston needs it, too.
While the Colts won in Kansas City last Sunday to nail down the AFC's fifth playoff seed, the Texans were being beaten at home by Minnesota, 23-6, failing to score a touchdown in a game for the first time this year.
Sunday finds the return of Head Coach Chuck Pagano for the Colts. Pagano's approach is that the Colts will play to win, despite having a playoff seed set in stone.
Resting players, as the team did on five occasions in the past while approaching the playoffs, is out for a number of reasons. Possible momentum loss is just one reason.
"That's another great point (for not resting players)," said Pagano. "You want to win. You want to win at home. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum.
"Regardless of how this team has gotten to the point that it's at right now being 10-5 and made the playoffs, we want to keep the momentum going."
The Colts rested players near the end of the 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons, and Reggie Wayne is one of a few veteran proponents of mixing it up on Sunday.
"We're too young to rest. We need to put everybody out there and have them continue to play. I don't think we can afford to (rest)," said Wayne. "I can't speak for everybody, but me I'm built to play."
Antoine Bethea does not want the team's foot off the pedal. Along with two Super Bowl trips, Bethea has seen three first-game playoff exits. A fourth would be painful.
"We are going to go into this game like every other game this year," said Bethea. "We still want to go into the playoffs playing our best football. Everybody is banged up right now, but we want to go out here and try to get (victory) number 11."
Freeney sat with other veterans when that decision was made in the past near the playoffs. He wants to keep honing the approach for this year.
"I've been in this situation a lot, and we've taken it different ways," said Freeney. "I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going, still going out there and working your craft. I think guys who can play, should play. I know for me definitely, it's to stay sharp."
Houston's last win came over the Colts two weeks ago, 29-17. It was a six-point game entering the last quarter, and the outcome was in doubt.
Last week, the Texans lost the lead early and never threatened. Houston was out-rushed by 140 yards, lost the turnover battle and converted one-of-11 third downs. The Vikings converted nine and rushed for 11 first downs.
Houston sews up home-field advantage with a win this Sunday. A loss and a New England win pushes the Texans into the third seed and into the Wild Card round.
A great deal is at stake, and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison knows re-gaining momentum is urgent.
"(It's) very important. The point has been made year in and year out – the team with the most momentum going into the playoffs tends to win the entire thing," said Dennison. "Certainly, you don't want to be faltering into the playoffs. We're going to go back to the grindstone. We're going to work hard this week and put our best efforts in this weekend and work for that momentum for us."