INDIANAPOLIS — Tonight kicks off the NFL week as fantasy football owners hope that two well-balanced offenses give them a good head start in their matchups.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the Indianapolis Colts are in Texas to take on AFC South Division rival Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football. The Colts are without starting running back Marlon Mack this week, but they still have some firepower in the backfield after Jonathan Williams' breakout performance last week. They may also be getting wide receiver T.Y. Hilton back in the lineup after he missed the last three games with a calf injury.
What should you expect from the Colts players in your lineups this week? Let's take a look.
*Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring. Ranks as of Thursday of game week.
QB Jacoby Brissett
- Last game: 15-of-24 passing (62.5 percent), 148 yards, 2 carries, 12 yards, 2 total TD, 1 total TO — 16.2 FP
- Last three games avg.: 18.7-of-29.3 passing (63.6 percent), 225.3 yards, 4.3 carries, 17.2 yards, 6 total TD, 3 total TO — 20.4 FP
- FantasyPros Week 12 Position Rank: QB15
- Texans vs. QBs: 27th (21.6 FPPG)
Brissett had a career day against Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7, so we know he's very capable of performing at a high level against them. Plus, he won't have J.J. Watt breathing down his neck after the Texans defensive end suffered a season-ending pectoral injury recently. On top of all that, Brissett may also be getting his top target back in Hilton.
Houston has allowed five 300-yard passers this season, and seven opposing quarterbacks with multiple overall touchdowns, including five of the last six. Five of the seven multi-touchdown passers have had at least three scores, and three of those five have had at least four scores.
For what it's worth, on average this season, visiting quarterbacks on TNF average only 17.6 fantasy points per game. However, Brissett's stats are heavier on touchdowns than passing yards and overall volume, so he isn't quite as susceptible to poor fantasy performances.
Week 7 statline: 26-of-39 (66.7%) for 326 yards (8.4 YPA), 4 pass TD, 0 INT, 5 carries for 6 yards (1.2 avg.), 1 FL — 35.6 FP
RBs Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams and Nyheim Hines
- Last game: Wilkins (Week 10) — 3 carries, 20 yards (6.7 avg.) — 2.0 FP | Williams — 13 carries, 116 yards (8.9 avg.), 1 catch (1 target), 31 yards (31.0 avg.) — 15.2 FP | Hines — 3 carries, 11 yards (3.7 avg.), 3 catches (4 targets), 24 yards (8.0 avg.), 1 total TD — 11.0 FP
- FantasyPros Week 12 Position Rank: Williams RB26, Hines RB38 and Wilkins RB49
- Texans vs. RBs: 16th (18.5 FPPG)
With Mack out, the Colts' backfield is a bit of a mystery this week. I can't pretend to tell you definitively how the backfield touches will be distributed. Mack was their bellcow, but they have plenty of reason to give any amount of touches to Wilkins, Williams and Hines.
Some things that we do know: Wilkins and Williams will split the early-down work that was typically Mack's role. This likely extends to short-yardage and goal-line carries. Williams has the hot hand, and Wilkins is in his first game back from an ankle injury. However, Wilkins has been Mack's backup for two seasons now. Next, Hines' role as the passing-down back will likely remain the same, although he will likely still get some carries per usual. If you are in a PPR league, Hines seems like the safest bet, as he has at least three catches in 7-of-10 games this season, including three games with four catches and a game with six. He has also had at least two targets in every game.
The best source for information on the backfield is from the man who calls the offensive plays himself, head coach Frank Reich:
"Yeah, that is more than likely how it will play out. Jonathan and Jordan will kind of split that role (Mack's role). But we love Nyheim running the ball as well. You guys have seen, we are not afraid to leave him in there on first and second down. There are times that we do that and there are certain runs we want him in there on. So that is kind of a week-to-week play-by-play situation. We will miss Marlon obviously. He is having a great year, but I feel very confident in all three of those guys."
"..I mean everyone knows Marlon has been having this incredible year, but if you are going to lose him for however long we are going to lose him for it is nice we are coming off a game where Jonathan plays the way he played. Everybody knows how much confidence we have in Jordan and of course Nyheim, I mean we all love Nyheim and we know what he can do. So it is crazy to think that you can lose a player of Marlon's caliber and still feel like, 'Okay, we are going to miss him, but we're good.' We are good. These guys behind him are really good players."
The Texans have given up some big fantasy performances to running backs this season — and they've really struggled in this area since losing Watt for the year — including Alvin Kamara's 169 yards on 20 touches, Christian McCaffrey's 179 yards and a touchdown on 37 touches, Devonta Freeman's 70 yards and a touchdown on 16 touches, Mark Ingram II's 85 yards and two touchdowns on 16 touches, and Gus Edwards' 112 yards and a touchdown on eight touches.
Running backs are the way to go on TNF, as teams' lead running backs this season average 12.4 fantasy points per game (visiting running backs average 12.5).
Week 7 statline: Wilkins — 2 carries for 9 yards (4.5 avg.), 1 catch (1 target) for 6 yards — 2.0 FP | Hines — 1 carry for 3 yards, 1 catch (2 targets) for 13 yards — 2.1 FP | Williams — DNP
WR T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal
- Last game: Hilton (Week 8) — 2 receptions (6 targets), 54 yards (27.0 avg.) — 6.4 FP | Pascal — 2 receptions (6 targets), 17 yards (8.5 avg.) — 2.7 FP
- Last three games avg.: Hilton (Weeks 5-8 [with bye]) — 4.0 receptions (7.0 targets), 55.0 yards (13.8 avg.), 1 total TD — 9.5 FP | Pascal — 3.0 receptions (6.3 targets), 39.7 yards (13.2 avg.), 1 total TD — 7.5 FP
- FantasyPros Week 12 Position Rank: Pascal WR40 and Hilton WR65
- Texans vs. WRs: 28th (26.1 FPPG)
Hilton is already a must-start any week he plays, but that is put into overdrive while in Houston. In eight career games in Houston (a half-season) he has 46 receptions for 1,018 yards (22.1 avg) and seven touchdowns. That comes out to an average of 5.8 receptions for 127.3 yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game. He's the type of player who plays well while injured, so if he's on the field then you don't have to worry about his performance.
(Hilton, though, is questionable heading into tonight's game. He was labeled as an estimated full participant in Wednesday's walkthrough and made the trip to Houston, which are good signs, but one would assume he'll be a gametime decision after missing the last three games with a calf injury.)
Pascal's production has slowed down a little bit lately, but that can partially be attributed to quarterback injuries as well as a heavy run attack by the Colts' offense last week. He is startable as a flex this week, especially considering what he did to the Texans' secondary last time around.
Opposing receivers who have had big performances against Houston this week: Michael Thomas (10 catches for 123 yards), Ted Ginn Jr. (seven catches for 101 yards), D.J. Chark (seven catches for 55 yards and one touchdown), Keenan Allen (13 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns), Calvin Ridley (five catches for 88 yards and one touchdown), Mohamed Sanu (five catches for 42 yards and one touchdown), Tyreek Hill (five catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns), Hunter Renfrow (four catches for 88 yards and one touchdown) and Tyrell Williams (three catches for 91 yards and one touchdown).
Week 7 statline: Hilton — 6 catches (11 target) for 74 yards (12.3 avg.) and 1 TD — 16.4 FP | Pascal — 6 catches (7 targets) for 106 yards (17.7 avg.) and 2 TD — 25.6 FP
TEs Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle
- Last week: Ebron — 4 receptions (4 targets), 27 yards (6.8 avg.) — 4.7 FP | Doyle — 0 receptions (0 targets) — 0.0 FP
- Last three weeks avg.: Ebron — 3.7 receptions (6.0 targets), 33.0 yards (9.0 avg.) — 5.1 FP | Doyle — 2.0 receptions (2.7 targets), 22.0 yards (11.0 avg.), 2 total TD — 7.2 FP
- FantasyPros Week 12 Position Rank: Ebron TE11 and Doyle TE13
- Texans vs. TEs: 12th (6.8 FPPG)
While their production is inconsistent, the Colts' tight ends remain playable this week given their target frequency and the Colts' ability to score in the red zone (eighth in NFL, 63.2 percent). Ebron has had at least four targets in 8-of-10 games, and Doyle has had at least four targets in six-of-10 games.
The Texans have given up solid performance to opposing tight ends Austin Hooper (six catches for 56 yards), Travis Kelce (four catches for 58 yards), Darren Waller (two catches for 11 yards and one touchdown) and Mark Andrews (four catches for 75 yards and one touchdown).
Week 7 statline: Ebron — 4 catches (5 target) for 70 yards (17.5 avg.) and 1 TD — 15.0 FP | Doyle — 3 catches (5 targets) for 21 yards (7.0 avg.) — 3.6 FP
Colts Defense/Special Teams
- Last week: 308 yards allowed, 13 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 takeaway, 1 two-point conversion return
- Last three weeks avg.: 270.0 yards allowed, 18.3 points allowed, 6 total sacks, 5 total takeaways, 1 safety, 1 two-point conversion return
- FantasyPros Week 12 Position Rank: DST23
- Texans vs. DSTs: 11th (6.6 FPPG)
You normally wouldn't want to start a defense in fantasy against an offense featuring Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, but the Colts have a quality track record against them. In Week 7, the Colts' defense held Houston to 4-of-12 on third downs (33.3 percent) and 2-of-5 in the red zone (40.0 percent).
The Colts' pass defense hasn't allowed 300 net passing yards in a game since Week 3, and they have 16 sacks and five interceptions in their last six games. Individually, Colts defensive end Justin Houston has a sack in each of the last six games (7.0 total in that time). It's not just that pass defense that's performed at a high level, either. Since Week 5, the Colts are only allowing 73.0 rushing yards per game, and they've allowed 100 yards to opposing teams just twice in that time.
The Texans' offense currently allows the 10th-most sacks per game in the NFL (3.2), allowing at least three sacks in six games. In four games since last year, the Colts have sacked Watson 18 times and hit him 33 times.
Week 7 statline: 391 yards allowed (291 passing and 100 rushing), 23 points allowed, 3 sacks, 2 takeaways, 1 safety
- OUT — WR Parris Campbell (hand), RB Marlon Mack (hand), CB Shakial Taylor (ankle), S Khari Willis (concussion)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — TE Mo Alie-Cox (thumb), TE Eric Ebron (ankle), WR T.Y. Hilton (calf), CB Rock Ya-Sin (ankle)
- OUT — S Mike Adams (concussion), CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. (ankle), S Justin Reid (concussion/shoulder)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — WR Will Fuller V (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson Sr. (back), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring)