Christmas was on Tuesday but on Wednesday – Boxing Day in Canada – there was some very good news from Indianapolis that might turn into a gift for the Patriots and their fans.
The returning Chuck Pagano – who will be coaching his first game since successful cancer treatment – told reporters that he intends to play all of his starters who are physically cleared to play, despite the fact that the Colts are slotted at the No. 5 seed in the AFC and that won’t change, win or lose.
It seems only fitting for a coach that just battled leukemia for the past three months.
‘It’s just not in our DNA. It’s not in our makeup,’ Pagano said Wednesday of playing his players to win. ‘These kids deserve it, their families deserve it. Our fans in this city deserve our best every game regardless of the situation and regardless of the circumstances.’
What’s at stake? If the Colts beat the 12-3 Texans and the 11-4 Patriots beat the Dolphins, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Colts also know that the Texans are playing for their playoff position, as a Houston win clinches the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs, as well as a first-round bye for the Texans.
Pagano ruled out running back Delone Carter (ankle) and center Samson Satele (ankle). The status of at least four others are likely game-time decisions.
‘Whether you agree with it or not, I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going and still going out and working on your craft,’ Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney  said. ‘Guys who can play, should play. I don’t know if it’s going to be a whole game situation scenario, but that’s up to the coaching staff to decide. You are risking getting hurt, but that’s just part of the nature of this game.’
Pagano believes playing to win, whether Week 1 or Week 17 is still the main objective.
‘They’re going to roll a ball out there and it’s our job to go out there and try to win a football game,’ he said. ‘You want to win. You want to win at home. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum.’
And the Patriots would love that momentum to rest a week.