INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ HOUSTON TEXANS
NRG Stadium High: 88°F | Low: 72°F, cloudy
Thursday 8:25Pm (ET) | Get Tickets
Spread: (off the board at time of writing)
This Thursday sees the AFC South Houston Texans host their divisional rival Indianapolis Colts, in a clash between two teams currently trending in opposite directions. After starting the season 0-2 for the second consecutive year, the Colts have won their last two games (both divisional opponents) and find themselves at 2-2, while the Texans are 1-3 after four games and in danger of spiralling out of contention thanks to a misfiring and uninspiring offense.
After replacing Brian Hoyer during the season opener, Ryan Mallett has failed to establish himself as the Texans quarterback, and was himself benched in favor of Hoyer during last weeks defeat to Atlanta. In four games this season, Mallett has completed just over 51% of his pass attempts, with three touchdowns to go with three interceptions. Some people may forget that Mallett has just five career starts behind him, but when noted scribes like Evan Silva believe that you “lack anticipation, athleticism, touch, an ability to locate passes, and an understanding of (your) own limitations”, you need to do a lot to prove people wrong. The Colts have allowed an average of less than 18 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season (good for 13th most), but Mallett is averaging less than 11.
Texans running back Arian Foster made his seasonal bow on Sunday in the loss to the Falcons, and accumulated a less than inspiring 10 yards on his eight carries. While limited in practice on Monday, he should be fit and ready to handle a heavier workload on Thursday night. Foster has 960 rushing yards in his career against the Colts (the most he has managed against any single opponent) and eight rushing touchdowns. In Foster’s absence, the Texans have relied on a committee approach at running back, with Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk sharing the burden. Blue leads the team with 204 rushing yards, while he and Polk have one rushing score a piece. Fantasy running backs are averaging nearly 19 FPG against the Colts this year, but Foster owners will hope he gets the bulk of the carries on Thursday night.
The Colts have been most susceptible to wide receivers in fantasy this season, allowing the sixth most points per game to wide outs. This is good news for DeAndre Hopkins and his owners. Hopkins has a team leading 60 targets, 31 receptions, 409 yards and three scores so far in 2015, good for fourth amongst wide receivers. His 102.3 yards per game is just 9.2 yards fewer than his veteran team mates Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington. He has yet to record a receiving touchdown against the Colts in his career, but his 195 yards through four games are the second most he has achieved against any single team. Indy have been more stingy against opposition tight ends, allowing the 12th fewest points to them this season. This status is unlikely to change on Thursday, given that Texans tight ends have a combined NINE receptions all season.
Despite the presence of all world defensive end JJ Watt, the Houston Texans D/ST are currently the lowest scoring such unit in fantasy football. Watt will look to continue his impressive record on Thursday nights (six sacks in four games) and also against the Colts. His 9 sacks against the Colts are the most he has accumulated against a single team in his career.
After missing Sunday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, all signs are pointing towards Colts QB Andrew Luck taking his place in the starting lineup on Thursday Night. Stephen Holder of the Indy Star reports that Luck has “made improvements” since Sunday, and the Colts releasing Josh Johnson can only be a good sign. After his first three games, Luck was tied for 14th in terms of fantasy points at the quarterback position, but many factors point towards him starting back on the road to dominance on Thursday. He is a perfect 3-0 on Thursday Night Football, an astonishing 17-2 against the AFC South and an impressive 5-1 against the Texans. His six games against them have seen him pass for an average of 230 yards per game, with 14 touchdowns against only three picks. Only five teams have allowed more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than the Texans.
Despite a history of solid play against the run, the Texans are bleeding fantasy points to opposition running backs in 2015, allowing the fifth most points per game to tail backs at just over 23 points per outing. This is good news for Frank Gore, who has just 54 rushing attempts through four games in his Colts career. These attempts have brought him 227 yards and two scores, making him RB20 in standard scoring. Josh Robinson, who I wrote about with regards his fantasy appeal earlier this year (read it here) is the clear back up to Gore, but he is currently averaging just 2.4 yards per carry on his current low volume diet.
The Colts have attempted the 5th most passes in the league, but are just 12th in terms of yards. Former Texan Andre Johnson has been nothing short of a disaster so far, with just 7 catches for 51 yards through four appearances. The passing game is currently centered around T.Y. Hilton and second year wide out Donte Moncrief. While Hilton has the lead in terms of targets (41-35) and yards 294-275), Moncrief’s 23 catches are one more than T.Y., and while Hilton is yet to record a touchdown this season Moncrief leads the team with three scoring grabs in 2015. The Texans have been Hilton’s favorite opponents throughout his career, with 661 of his career receiving yards and 6 touchdowns coming against them. The Texans are allowing the seventh fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Tight end Dwayne Allen has missed the last two games through injury, and is by no means certain to play on Thursday. His absence allows Coby Fleener to remain as the clear starter, a role he performed admirably in week 4 with 9 catches, 83 yards and a score against the Jags.
Fantasy Football: In My Opinion
The volatile, and seemingly ever changing, nature of the Texans QB position makes Mallett or Hoyer decidedly unattractive fantasy options. If Foster is fit and healthy, he is a must start despite the apparent mess at the Houston running back spot. He is a high volume player, who has averaged over 19 rushing attempts per game throughout his NFL career. Hopkins is a clear cut WR1, and continues to reward his owners despite the uncertainty at the quarterback spot. As for the Colts, Luck is a QB1 against any AFC South foe, despite him being less than 100%. Gore offers interesting value at an RB2 or flex spot this week, while Hilton and Moncrief should both be in your lineups…sorry Dre, but its over. The Texans have allowed the 13th most FPG to tight ends, so Coby Fleener is well worth consideration given his form whenever Allen misses.