INDIANAPOLIS — This week's Indianapolis Colts fantasy football preview will be a bit compressed due to injuries. Seven players have already been ruled OUT, which includes two players normally on this list — wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle.
Be sure to check out this week's preview and set your lineups accordingly, as the Colts get their first shot at Thursday Night Football in 2018.
*Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring.
QB Andrew Luck
- Last three weeks avg: 28.7-of-44.3 passing (64.7%), 269.0 yards, 0.7 INT, 2.7 carries, 15.3 yards, 7 total TD — 23.5 FPPG
- Last week: 40-of-62 passing (64.5%), 464 yards, 3 carries, 11 yards, 1 fumble lost, 4 total TD — 41.1 FP
- FantasyPros Week 5 Position Rank: QB16
- Patriots vs. QBs: 16th (17.8 FPPG)
Luck has struggled historically against New England, throwing for 52.6 percent completions with a 9:11 touchdown-to-turnover ratio in five games, but he hasn't faced them since 2015. That last matchup was also his most productive against them, and both teams also happen to be much, much different since then.
Luck will be without his two main targets, Hilton (chest/hamstring) and Doyle (hip). He was without Doyle all game last week, and Hilton was in and out of the lineup. This caused Luck to spread the ball around, and it led to a career-best day for him.
Luck set new career personal bests in pass completions (40), attempts (62) and passing yards (464) as well as throwing four touchdowns.
His completions tied a franchise record while his attempts broke the record. His passing yards were also just nine short of breaking Peyton Manning's 472 set back in 2004.
There will be more of Luck spreading the ball this week against a similar-caliber defense, albeit one who struggles to get to the quarterback.
RBs Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines
- Last three weeks avg: Wilkins— 8.0 carries, 32.0 yards (4.0 avg), 1.3 receptions (1.7 targets), 1.3 yards (1.0 avg) — 4.0 FPPG | Hines— 4.3 carries, 11.7 yards (2.7 avg), 5.0 receptions (5.7 targets), 28.7 yards (5.7 avg), 3 total TD — 12.5 FPPG
- Last week: Wilkins— 8 carries, 16 yards (2.0 avg), 1 target — 1.6 FP | Hines— 4 carries, 10 yards (2.5 avg), 9 receptions (11 targets), 63 yards (7.0 avg), 2 total TD — 23.8 FP
- FantasyPros Week 5 Position Rank: Hines RB32, Wilkins RB49
- Patriots vs. RBs: 13th (22.2 FPPG)
We already know that Marlon Mack (hamstring) remains out and that Wilkins and Hines will likely be the primary members of the backfield. What we don't know if who will be behind them. It seems unlikely that they go into the game with just two healthy backs.
Robert Turbin is eligible to return from his four-game PED suspension this week, but must be activated by 4 p.m. ET Thursday to play this week. If he does play, he is likely to have a small role, head coach Frank Reich saying this week that it would likely be something he's already very good at.
Without knowing Turbin's status or role, you can only focus on Wilkins and Hines.
The past couple of weeks have shown that if the Colts are forced to abandon the run, Wilkins may be a bit left out. It's not by design, but Hines' abilities in the passing game keep him on the field. Last week, he saw double the snaps of any other Colts running back.
In these four games, Hines is averaging 10 touches per game for 43.3 yards and has scored three times. With Hilton and Doyle out and the Colts playing catch-up for basically the entire game last week, Hines was a big beneficiary, seeing 11 targets.
The Colts may try and establish the run with Wilkins early on in this game, as the run game has been lacking and it appears to be the Patriots defense's weak link.
TE Eric Ebron
- Last three weeks avg: 4.3 receptions (8.3 targets), 33.0 yards (7.6 avg), 2 total TD — 9.5 FPPG
- Last week: 5 receptions (10 targets), 40 yards (8.0 avg), 1 total TD — 12.5 FP
- FantasyPros Week 5 Position Rank: Ebron TE7
- Patriots vs. TEs: 1st (7.2 FPPG)
The Patriots are the No. 1 team against tight ends in fantasy, but I don't expect that to be a big issue for Ebron. He has scored all three of his touchdowns within the defense's 30-yard line and has proven to be a mismatch in the red zone.
If you're looking for volume, Ebron's also got it, being targeted 10-plus times in each of the last two weeks. He's not getting much competition for targets either, as tight ends not named "Ebron" or "Doyle" have only been targeted four times so far.
Ebron is averaging a modest 4.3 receptions for 37.5 yards this year, but has scored in three of four games. With how much of a mess the tight end position is in fantasy right now, Ebron is almost a must-play.
K Adam Vinatieri
- Last three weeks avg: 1.7-of-1.7 FGA (100.0%), 2.0-of-2.0 XPA (100.0%), 7.0 points
- Last week: 2-of-2 FGA (100.0%), 2-of-2 XPA (100.0%), 10 points
- FantasyPros Week 5 Position Rank: K17
- Patriots vs. Ks: 16th (7.8 FPPG)
He's averaging eight points per game and has multiple made field goals in three of four games. The New England defense is a middle-of-the-road unit that shouldn't deter anyone from using Vinatieri. If anything, you could view the absence of Hilton and Doyle as something that could create more field goal opportunities for Vinatieri.
Colts Defense/Special Teams
- Last three weeks avg: 393.0 yards allowed, 22.0 points allowed, 5.0 sacks, 1.3 takeaways
- Last week: 466 yards allowed, 37 points allowed, 7 sacks, 1 takeaways
- FantasyPros Week 5 Position Rank: DST27
- Patriots vs. DSTs: 14th (4.5 FPPG)
In general, you don't typically want to use a fantasy defense against Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. However, just playing devil's advocate, the Colts aren't the worst option.
For starters, they're second in the NFL in sacks with 17. They're also tied for ninth in takeaways (6). This is a group that harrasses the quarterback and is always trying to turn the ball over. We've seen in the past, those types of defenses can give Brady fits.
Now, the Colts defense makes plays, but they also give up plays, ranking 19th in yards per game (377.3) and 18th in points per game (25.0). The Patriots have plenty of playmakers in running backs Sony Michel and James White as well as receivers Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman as well, of course, but their status for Thursday night isn't yet known.
All of that typically evens out by the end of a game — yards and points zap a fantasy defense's score, but then sacks and takeaways build it back up.
Keep In Mind
With the amount of injuries the Colts are currently dealing with, the backups will obviously have a role.
We've talked about Turbin behind Wilkins and Hines in Mack's absence. If Turbin does play, again, it will likely be a minimal role.
Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson will be the wide receivers filling in behind Hilton. Last week with Hilton on and off the field, the quartet accounted for 21 catches (31 targets) for 229 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. There shouldn't be just one of these players dominating targets or receptions.
Behind Ebron with Doyle out, Swoope will likely be the pass-catching option at tight end. However, Mo Alie-Cox filled that role last week and caught just one pass for 17 yards. Swoope himself has just two catches for 20 yards this season.
There is opportunity for any of these players, and they will no doubt step up, but it is hard to guarantee any of them outperforming the other. This will be a total team effort, much like last week.