INDIANAPOLIS — This Sunday brings a highly critical matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, both of whom are either trying to establish themselves as a top playoff seed or just trying to make the postseason in general. However, this is also a huge matchup for the game beyond the game — fantasy football.
As most fantasy leagues are either in the semifinals of their playoffs or beginning them this week, the likes of Amari Cooper, Eric Ebron, Ezekiel Elliott, T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck and Dak Prescott are likely to affect teams' outcomes. There is certainly a lot to absorb from this affair at Lucas Oil Stadium.
*Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring.
QB Andrew Luck
- Last three weeks avg: 30.0-of-43.3 passing (70.1%), 330.0 yards, 5 total TD, 4 total TO — 20.9 FPPG
- Last week: 27-of-41 passing (65.9%), 399 yards, 2 total TD, 1 total TO — 26.6 FP
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: QB6
- Cowboys vs. QBs: 7th (16.7 FPPG)
- It's the playoffs; don't outsmart yourself.
- Luck is fantasy's QB4.
Dallas is a tough matchup for any fantasy quarterback, no doubt — they've only allowed just three to pass for 300 yards, and it's only happened once since Week 5 — but Luck has been relatively matchup-proof this season, averaging almost 27 fantasy points per game.
In the last five contests, Luck is averaging 314.4 passing yards per game and has 11 touchdown passes. In fact, he is second in the league in passing touchdowns (34) and fifth in passing yards (3,759).
Luck has had multiple touchdowns in all but two games and has thrown for at least 300 yards in 6-of-13 games. At home, he's deadly. He averages 310.7 passing yards and 3.2 touchdowns (19 total) at home compared to 270.7 yards and 2.1 touchdowns (15 total) on the road.
RBs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines
Last three weeks avg:
- Mack — 35.0 snaps (50.0%), 12.3 carries, 48.3 yards (3.8 avg), 1.0 reception (1.3 targets), 5.7 yards (5.7 avg), 1 total TD — 7.9 FPPG
- Hines — 33.0 snaps (46.2%), 5.3 carries, 11.3 yards (1.6 avg), 4.7 receptions (5.3 targets), 29.3 yards (7.3 avg) — 6.4 FPPG
- Mack — 40 snaps (59.7%), 14 carries, 33 yards (2.4 avg), 1 target, 1 total TD — 9.3 FP
- Hines — 28 snaps (41.8%), 3 carries, 1 yard (0.3 avg), 3 receptions (5 targets), 16 yards (5.3 avg) — 3.2 FP
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: Mack RB25, Hines RB44
- Cowboys vs. RBs: 7th (20.8 FPPG)
It's been tough for those who have shares of Colts running backs as of late, so there is likely some trepidation when considering whether to start Mack or Hines. This is in part due to how games have flowed for the Colts, but we have seen very few big performances from running backs recently. After surpassing 200 yards rushing in Weeks 7 and 8, the Colts have run for 100 yards just twice in the five games since then.
Any way you slice it, this is a tough matchup for the Colts' backs against Dallas, who rank seventh against the position in fantasy. The Cowboys are third in the league in total run defense (86.8 YPG) and are tied for first in yards per carry allowed (3.6 avg).
There are several injuries to running backs across the league right now, so you may need to rely on either Mack (preferably) or Hines in a starting RB or FLEX spot. You can find solace in the fact the Colts began using Mack in the red zone again last week, as he scored on a four-yard carry, and Hines averages 4.0 receptions (5.0 targets) per game.
WR T.Y. Hilton
- Last three weeks avg: 8.0 receptions (11.7 targets), 133.7 yards (16.5 avg) — 17.4 FPPG
- Last week: 9 receptions (12 targets), 199 yards (22.1 avg) — 24.4 FP
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: WR15
- Cowboys vs. WRs: 2nd (28.6 FPPG)
The Ghost has been outstanding lately, leading the NFL in receiving yards (556) since Week 11. In fact, since Week 10, 77 is the fewest amount of yards he's had in a game.
Results are of course what you're looking for in fantasy, but opportunity is just as important, and Hilton is seeing both. Over the last three weeks, he has seen 35 targets (11.7 TPG), which he has turned into results.
As for his matchup this week, the Cowboys are stingy against wide receivers to say the least. Dallas yields the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the position, allowing just three opposing receivers to reach 100 yards this season. Could Hilton be four? Even if not, he could very well break his three-game touchdown-less streak, as the Cowboys have allowed a wide receiver touchdown in each of the last four games. Hilton is due for one, as he's scored five of his six touchdowns on the season at Lucas Oil Stadium.
TE Eric Ebron
- Last three weeks avg: 6.3 receptions (10.3 targets), 63.7 yards (11.1 avg), 3 total TD, 1 total TO — 14.6 FPPG
- Last week: 4 receptions (8 targets), 65 yards (16.3 avg), 1 total TD — 14.5 FP
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: TE3
- Cowboys vs. TEs: 26th (15.0 FPPG)
Tight end is a position that the Cowboys actually aren't near the top against; they're seventh-worst. Three talented opposing tight ends — Evan Engram (7 catches for 67 yards and 1 TD), Jordan Reed (8 catches for 118 yards in two games) and Zach Ertz (19 catches for 183 yards and 2 TD in two games) — have had solid performances against Dallas. Therefore, why wouldn't the league's leading tight end in touchdowns (13) be a good bet?
Like Hilton, Ebron is seeing a good amount of both opportunity and ensuing results. In seven games without Jack Doyle (kidney, injured reserve), Ebron averages 5.7 receptions (10.6 targets) for 60.9 yards and has scored five touchdowns.
K Adam Vinatieri
- Last three weeks avg: 1.0-of-1.3 FGA (83.3%), 2.0-of-2.0 XPA (100.0%), 5.0 points
- Last week: 1-of-1 FGA (100.0%), 3-of-3 XPA (100.0%), 6 points
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: K13
- Cowboys vs. Ks: 7th (6.8 FPPG)
This could be a good opportunity for Vinatieri to score some points. Dallas is fourth in overall red zone scoring defense (48.7 percent), which weighs percentage of red zone trips resulting in touchdowns, and they rank first on the road (36.8 percent). That means if the Cowboys defense holds the Colts offense out of the end zone while inside their own 20, the opportunities will go to Vinatieri for field goals.
Colts Defense/Special Teams
- Last three weeks avg: 280.0 yards allowed, 17.0 points allowed, 3.0 sacks, 0.7 takeaways
- Last week: 315 yards allowed, 21 points allowed, 5 sacks, 0 takeaways
- FantasyPros Week 15 Position Rank: DST20
- Cowboys vs. DSTs: 20th (6.3 FPPG)
This is a toss-up. We've seen the Cowboys' offense look very good, and we've seen it look very underwhelming. The same can be said for the Colts' defense at times. However, both the Cowboys offense and Colts defense have been high-quality as of late. The Colts' defense is actually the No. 10 over the last four games.
Although the Cowboys have been hot in the last five games and Elliott especially has been on fire — averaging 31.0 touches for 171.6 yards from scrimmage and scoring five touchdowns — the Cowboys have struggled in several areas.
Offensively, Dallas ranks 23rd or lower in scoring (21.2 PPG), passing (218.3 YPG), pass plays of 20-plus yards (33), red zone scoring (46.3 percent) and sacks allowed (48).
Over the last seven games, the Colts defense has allowed just 17.2 points per game. And against teams like Dallas who rank near the bottom of the league in sacks (they're last), the Colts have feasted. In 10 such games, the Colts have 31 sacks (3.1 sacks per game).
The Colts have also only had one game this season in which they have not forced a turnover — last week against the Houston Texans — so the likelihood is that the Colts pull together multiple sacks and at least one takeaway.