The Indianapolis Colts host the Denver Broncos this week on Thursday Night Football. After all of Indy’s fantasy hopes were dashed in the snow in Buffalo last week (thank you), things look better this week.
In order for the Colts’ passing game to have any fantasy success this week, here’s Objective No. 1: Don’t let Von Miller murder Jacoby Brissett.
We'll use a simple rating scale for each player, grading each from A-F:
- "A" is a 'must start'
- "B" is a 'recommended start'
- "C" is an 'if needed start'
- "D" is 'don't start'
- "F" is simply not a fantasy option at all this week.
QB Jacoby Brissett: C
Last three weeks average: 16.3-of-29.0 passing, 146.3 yards, 4.91 YPA, 0.7 TD, 0.7 INT, 4.0 carries, 20.7 yards, 0.0 TD per game
I would encourage you not to decide on Brissett’s status in your lineup based on his averages over the last three weeks. One game was in a blizzard, and another was against the Jaguars, so there’s basically two throw-away games there.
With that said, Brissett’s not a solid start this week, but he is an option for those of you in Super-Flex/two-QB leagues. Although they have the second-best overall pass defense (191.1 YPG), the Broncos have given up the most touchdown passes in the league (26).
The Broncos give up 15.70 FPPG to QB’s, and Brissett averages 16.34. That’s about the range of points that you can expect from him this week.
RB Frank Gore: C
Last three weeks average: 39.0 snaps, 22.0 carries, 84.3 yards, 0.3 TD, 1.0 catch (2.0 targets), 9.0 yards, 0.0 TD per game
I’ll start with acknowledging that Gore just had his most productive game as a Colt (37 touches for 140 yards). However, you have to contextualize that from a fantasy perspective. He was given a career-high 36 carries in a driving snow storm where passing was abandoned. Before Sunday, he’d only had eight other 20-carry games in 45 games with the Colts.
Denver is pretty good against the run, allowing the third-fewest YPG (89.5) and ranking seventh against RB’s in fantasy (21.7 FPPG). While I don’t think Gore will get shut down (he almost never does), I think he’ll also finish somewhere near his season average — 17.8 touches per game for 72.4 YPG.
RB Marlon Mack: D
Last three weeks average: 22.3 snaps, 5.7 carries, 26.7 yards, 0.0 TD, 1.7 catches (2.3 targets), 16.3 yards, 0.0 TD per game
Mack only touched the ball 9 times last week in a game where Colts RB’s had 46 touches, and let’s not forget that he took his first carry for 20 yards.
I don’t know what it is, but the coaching staff just will not unleash him no matter how often he makes plays. Unless he has a big game on Thursday, this is Mack’s last appearance on the fantasy preview.
WR T.Y. Hilton: C
Last three weeks average: 59.0 snaps, 2.3 catches (5.0 targets), 28.7 yards, 0.3 TD per game
Hilton isn’t a great option this week because of the matchup, but he also hasn’t had any big games against the trio of Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby and Aqib Talib. Since 2014 (when Harris, Roby and Talib began playing together), Hilton averages 4.5 catches (9.0 targets) for 59.0 YPG and has no TD’s — and that was with Andrew Luck at QB.
Hilton’s always got a chance of having a big game because he is one of the NFL’s most explosive players, but things aren’t on his side this week. You can start him as a Flex, but do it with caution.
TE Jack Doyle: A
Last three weeks average: 65.3 snaps, 4.0 catches (5.3 targets), 38.0 yards, 0.3 TD per game
The Colts player I feel best about this week is Doyle. The Broncos surrender the fifth-most FPPG to TE’s (14.9), and Doyle is among the league’s most productive, currently fantasy’s TE9. Plus, he is the Colts’ most-targeted player (84), so you know he’ll get his looks.
K Adam Vinatieri: B
Last three weeks average: 1.3-of-2.0 FGA (66.7%), 1.0-of-1.0 XPA (100.0%), 5.0 points per game
Like Brissett, don’t look at Vinatieri’s three-game average here as a basis on whether or not to use him this week. He missed 2 field goal attempts last week, which is excused in that weather. Overall, Vinatieri averages 6.6 FPPG and the Broncos give up 7.8. It’s not a bad matchup for The Ageless One.
Colts D/ST: C
Last three weeks average: 340.3 YA, 21.0 PA, 0.3 sacks, 1.3 takeaway per game
This is a tricky one. The Broncos give up the second-most FPPG to D/ST’s (12.2) because their QB situation in the last eight games has been ridiculously bad. In fact, all eight D/ST’s scored 10-plus points in that time (16.25 avg). Until last week. Jets QB Josh McCown broke his hand, sending Bryce Petty into the fray, the Jets got crushed and the D/ST got just 4 points.
The Colts D/ST has played pretty decent in the second half of the season, but can they overcome their injuries? The Colts have struggled to get to the QB lately, getting just 1 sack in the last three games. However, they are still taking the ball away (4 in the last three games).
WR’s Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders could really do a number on the Colts’ secondary if they continue to be shorthanded, but I’m not letting one good week from the Broncos change what we’ve been seeing for two months. The Colts D/ST is capable of having a very good game at home in primetime. However, you can’t ignore their youth and injuries. They’re playable, but this is another cautious play.