Unbeaten Colts coach unsure over resting starters

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Indianapolis Colts, unbeaten at 14-0, have yet to decide whether to play a full strength team for the final two games of the regular season or rest their top performers before the playoffs, coach Jim Caldwell said.

But, in what is becoming a major debating point in the NFL, Caldwell said that having his players in the best shape for the playoffs was more important than carrying an unbeaten record into the post-season.

The 35-31 win over Jacksonville on Thursday made the Colts just the third NFL team to win their opening 14 games of a season, following the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots.

With home field advantage already secured for the playoffs there is nothing but the 'perfect season' 16-0 record to play for in the final games against the New York Jets and Buffalo.

"We know what the most important thing is -- being in the best possible condition to do well in the playoffs," Caldwell told reporters.

"That is what we think about and we will adjust and move along game by game like we have done all year. We will make an assessment about how we are going to play this next game some time in the future."

"It still doesn't, obviously it is a great conversation for those that love our sport and it should be but it doesn't necessarily mean that engulfs and encompasses everything that we think about," he said.

Prior to Indianapolis securing their home field advantage Colts owner Bill Polian had declared himself to be in favor, in principle, of resting players, dismissing the notion that players could get rusty during a break.

"I don't know how you get rusty when you practice four times a week. It's pretty hard to be rusty in that situation," he said.

"Secondly, momentum is an overrated situation. We didn't have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs the year we won the Super Bowl.

"The fact is that at this time of year, you have very many players who are injured, playing hurt, who need rest because they have nagging injuries through which they've been fighting. That's your first and most important consideration."

Caldwell said he was unsure about the momentum factor.

"Whenever an unbeaten record on the road or at home makes any difference going into the playoffs I am not certain," he said.

"Playoffs are their own separate entity and what we want to make sure of is that we are functioning well and are at the top of our game when it is time to get going."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said after the win over Jacksonville that the players were not lobbying to play a first choice team but that he "personally" favored playing.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Sonia Oxley)