The Indianapolis Colts' march toward a perfect regular season has some fantasy owners on the verge of panic. They are uncertain how much -- if at all -- Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James or Marvin Harrison, among others on the league's most feared offense, will play in the final three games if the Colts beat the Jaguars on Sunday and secure home-field advantage.
Coach Tony Dungy has not exactly been consistent on the matter either, first telling Sports Illustrated: "It's really kind of a no-brainer. As soon as the games aren't meaningful in the standings, [resting starters is] something we'll think about. They don't give out rings for 16-0. They give out rings for winning the Super Bowl. And everything we do will be with that goal in mind."
Then Dungy told reporters on Monday after a 35-3 victory over the Titans: "I don't think too far ahead, but I do everything I can to win. If we're fortunate enough to win, I'll do what I do every week. I'll ask for some wisdom from the Lord and pray that they don't get hurt."
Owners with any Colts skill player should note what Dungy did last season but not necessarily presume he will act in similar fashion should Indianapolis win this week. With the Colts ensured of a No. 3 seed last season, Dungy played Manning and James for one series in the final regular season game and pulled most of his starters for the second half.
This season is different because there are three games left after this weekend and two weeks after that before the Colts play again as the presumptive No. 1 seed. That means if Dungy decides to rest Manning, James and Harrison until the Colts' first playoff game, the big three will have been off for five weeks. No way he does that.
The more likely scenario seems for Dungy to play Manning, James and Harrison for at least a quarter, if not a half, in the final two games and perhaps a series or two in the final regular season game. That workload would keep his top players involved but limit their chances of getting injured.
That would not be the best news for fantasy owners counting on Manning, James and Harrison to win fantasy playoff games, especially those in leagues that go through Week 17. Consider though that the Colts are so efficient on offense that one half or even a quarter with Manning or James or Harrison could produce respectable to substantial fantasy numbers.
Sure, it would be ideal if Manning threw four touchdown passes and James rushed for 150 yards and a couple of scores, but that's not likely to happen in one half. Still, Manning, James and Harrison for one half generally are better than many fantasy starters for one game.
As for other Colts skill players, tailback Dominic Rhodes's fantasy value should get a bump in the final three weeks. James's understudy has 118 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries this season. Backup Jim Sorgi is not a bad pickup either, especially if Harrison, Reggie Wayne and/or Brandon Stokley are on the field with him for any extended period.