INDIANAPOLIS — Fantasy football is back!
The Indianapolis Colts open their season on the West Coast this Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Chargers. There are plenty of new factors to take into account when it comes to the fantasy football implications in this matchup, as the Colts have a new quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, and the Chargers appear to be without a few key players in Melvin Gordon III, Derwin James and Russell Okung.
What should you expect from the Colts players on your fantasy rosters in Week 1? We've got you covered here.
*Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring. Ranks as of Thursday morning of game week.
QB Jacoby Brissett
- FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: QB26
- Chargers vs. QBs (2018): 13th (16.6 FPPG)
This is obviously the biggest toss-up of the Colts' fantasy slate, because not only do we not know what to expect from Brissett statistically, but most other offensive players' stats will depend on his performance as well.
Going into this matchup, there are two things that I am confident in. First, this is a different Colts team than the last time Brissett started for it in 2017 — like, crazy different. And, Brissett himself is also more developed than back then after taking essentially all of the first-team reps last spring and this spring and summer. He is also growing in Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni's system for a second year.
If training camp and the preseason was any indicator, Brissett can spread the ball around to his targets, he can keep plays alive by moving around and escaping the pocket and he has a strong arm to make plays downfield. His current Week 1 QB rank of 26th is off-base if you consider the offensive line Brissett will play behind — which allowed the fewest sacks in the league in 2018 — the running game he has at his disposal and the wealth of pass-catchers around him.
The Chargers are a talented group on defense, absolutely, but the Colts have the tools to be able to move the ball in this matchup.
RBs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines
- FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: Mack RB25 and RB45
- Chargers vs. RBs (2018): 23rd (20.7 FPPG)
Just as the Colts' passing game has received no outside fantasy love going into this game, apparently neither has the run game. This already appears to be a big prove-it game for the Colts.
Third-year tailback Marlon Mack will look to continue on his impressive 2018 season after he compiled at least 80 scrimmage yards in seven of the 14 games in which he played (including playoffs). Overall, he averaged 84 yards from scrimmage per game and scored 10 touchdowns, including five 100-yard rushing games.
In 2018, the Chargers did surrender some decent performances, as 10 opposing running backs compiled at least 80 yards from scrimmage against them — all but one had at least 100 yards — and those players also scored six touchdowns between them.
The Chargers may begin the game by loading the box to make Brissett prove that he can hurt them with his arm. If the Colts can establish the passing game then it will open things up for Mack and an offensive line who can really punish defensive fronts.
Mack's running mate, Hines, is a high-volume pass-catcher as he nearly broke the Colts' record for receptions by a rookie in 2018. He had five games with at least five catches, and nine games with at least five targets. There should be plenty of opportunity for him to catch passes from Brissett out in Los Angeles. Last year, there were nine opposing running backs who caught at least five passes against the Chargers, and they averaged 47.7 receiving yards per game.
WRs T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess
- FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: Hilton WR24 and Funchess WR63
- Chargers vs. WRs (2018): 8th (21.0 FPPG)
Brissett has been throwing to T.Y. Hilton for periods of three seasons now, and that manifested in a bunch of big plays throughout training camp. Brissett and Devin Funchess took some time to develop their chemistry, but as training camp and the preseason progressed, so did their rapport. It became commonplace to see Brissett and Funchess connect downfield on back-shoulder throws and for Funchess to go streaking down the field on crossing routes.
In this matchup, it will be tough, however. The Chargers have one of the league's premier corners in Casey Hayward, who will likely be on Hilton for much of the contest when The Ghost is lined up outside. Los Angeles also has Michael Davis as an outside corner as well as Desmond King II, who is one of the better slot defenders in the league.
Last year, this secondary did allow some big performances, though. Seven opposing receivers had at least 80 yards against them, and four of them had at least 100 yards. The group scored five touchdowns in those games.
It bears mentioning that Funchess has been on the injury report this week with a back injury, but he's still been able to participate in a limited capacity. However, the Colts could still have an advantage when he is matched up on Hayward or King II, as he is 6-4 and they are both under six feet tall. Hilton can't fully be taken away with one-on-one man-to-man coverage, so he should be in fantasy lineups on a weekly basis. Head coach Frank Reich also mentioned they continue to try and get Hilton red-zone touchdowns, so be on the lookout for that as well.
The last time Hilton faced the Chargers back in 2016, he left a lasting impression on his current offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni when he was a member of the Chargers' coaching staff:
TEs Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle
- FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: Ebron TE13 and Doyle TE17
- Chargers vs. TEs (2018): 16th (7.4 FPPG)
A common misconception is that Doyle and Ebron playing together hurts each other's fantasy prospects. While it obviously opens up more opportunity for the other if there's only one of them, their fantasy value hasn't been hurt in the past.
In six games together last year (hip and kidney injuries cut Doyle's season short), Doyle averaged 4.3 receptions (5.5 targets) for 40.8 yards per game and scored two touchdowns. Ebron, on the other hand, averaged 3.0 receptions (3.7 targets) for 38.0 yards and scored eight of his 14 touchdowns in games with Doyle. These guys have roles, and they don't negate each other.
Specifically for this matchup, Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James (foot) being out is big for the Colts' tight ends. The Chargers were pretty effective against tight ends last year with James, as they only surrendered two 80-yard games to tight ends, and the position only scored five times all season.
However, the Colts are the best tight end group in the league, and that's something that is difficult to overlook.
Colts Defense/Special Teams
- FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: DST30
- Chargers vs. DSTs (2018): 12th (5.5 FPPG)
It's understandable that the Chargers' offense is probably going to get theirs in Week 1. Philip Rivers, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry? Yeah, that's a good squad.
However, defenses in fantasy football thrive on takeaways and sacks, and that is something the Colts 'defense might be able to take advantage of, especially without Chargers starters Melvin Gordon and Russell Okung expected to play.
With Okung out, the Chargers starting tackles appear to be Trent Scott and Sam Tevi. Scott''s career Pro Football Focus grade to this point is 59.6, with a 40.6 grade in pass blocking. Tevi's overall grade is 55.0 with a 56.1 in pass blocking. Facing off with them will be Justin Houston and an up-and-coming Kemoko Turay, among other talented pass rushers. The Colts should have the upper hand in the pass-rush department. If that disruption can jostle Rivers, who has a reputation as a bit of a gunslinger, then that could lead to some quick, perhaps poor decisions on his part.
Last year, the Colts became the final team for the season to have a turnover in every game, lasting 13 games, and forced at least one turnover in a league-most 15-of-16 games. It's one of the cornerstones of their defense, so you shouldn't ever expect that to stop.