Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/27/12
The temporary loss of head coach Chuck Pagano early in the season is ever present in the minds of players and fans alike.Pagano will make his return to the sideline against the Houston Texans in Week 17.The team will certainly be emotional to once again play behind their ill-fallen coach.Thus far, each saga of Pagano’s illness has provided the team a positive lift.The most inspirational moment of all will certainly be when he returns to the field. It symbolizes much more than just a head coach, or the ‘Chuckstrong’ slogan that has taken over the Colts Nation. Pagano personifies the heart and fight of this young team. Or else the team has come to represent the heart and fight within their head coach.They have rallied around Pagano all year. Every week the locker room huddle breaks with a chant of “CHUCK!”It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the highly-energized Colts emerge from the game against Houston with a victory. Particularly after seeing the Week 15 matchup in which Indianapolis was defeated, only after committing errors that put the game out of reach.The Texans took the win, and in doing so locked up the AFC South. What they have yet to lock up is a first-round bye. They’ll be pressing hard for it (and home field-advantage) this week, and if the Colts were to stop them from getting it, they would be demoralized.So, why not go out and give it a college try?Because the Colts have shown that they have bigger fish to fry in 2012. Suddenly, after a string of solid performances, a playoff run is not out of sight for this young team.Let Houston have a Week 17 victory, first round-bye and home field advantage. None of the Texans’ accomplishments should be relevant to the Colts’ future.The injury report has been far too lengthy this season.Center Samson Satele, Linebacker Kavell Conner and running back Delone Carter have been ruled out by Pagano.Joe Reitz, who has missed eight starts this year has returned to practice but has not yet been cleared to play.Other big names that are questionable to play this weekend include Cory Redding, Winston Justice, Donnie Avery and Anthony Johnson.J.J. Watt is within reach of Michael Strahan’s single-season record, why force Andrew Luck to take needless hits from one of the league’s premier pass-rushers?Luck took plenty of pressure in the first go-around with Houston; it will only be worse now with a line that has continued to deteriorate.Forget about the injuries the Colts face now, it is still hard to say that the risk is worth the reward.Reggie Wayne was on the receiving end of a pair of nasty hits last week against Kansas City. The Colts can’t afford to have him shaken up in the playoffs.Other veterans like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea are both critical to the Indianapolis defense and injury prone.Sit these guys on the sideline, and carry Pagano’s energy to the first-round of the playoffs. If the Colts play their cards right, they will get their chance against Houston at a later date. 
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