The Primer: Week 14 Edition (Fantasy Football)
It’s that time of the year, my friends. Fantasy playoff time. The time where your friends are on a vacation from decent behavior. Trash-talk is at an all-time high. You’ll heckle those who didn’t make the playoffs, while develop new deep-seated rivalries with others. There’s just one thing you need to do this week, and that’s win.
You may be ignoring your significant other and children while reading this but remind them that it’s necessary for you to do what you were meant to do this year – win a fantasy championship. No more will you sit back the entire offseason and watch Andrew from accounting tout his fantasy title. No more will your league’s trophy be missing your name on it. No more will you be disrespected. Not this year, you’re here to win, and that’s precisely what we’ll be talking about for the next 30,000 words. So sit back, strap it down, and let’s talk about the slate together.
In case you’ve missed it, I’ve been going back into The Primer on Saturday morning trying to update you on the injury reports that impact your decisions. While I cannot write a whole new article, I do talk about a lot of these things on our Sunday morning livestream, which is FREE to everyone. It’s where I discuss all the latest injury news and then take your questions live from 11-12am EST. Click here to be taken to our YouTube page where you can get notifications when we go live.
If you’re new, here’s what you can expect out of this article every week: Numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. It’s my unbiased opinion about everyone on your roster. Whether it be season-long advice, DFS advice, or wide receiver/cornerback matchups, it’s all covered. The idea here is to give you as much information as possible and give you as much confidence as possible when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button each week. Who should be in your lineup this week?
Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns
Line: CAR by 1.0
Cam Newton: Well, he kept his streak alive and has now thrown multiple touchdowns in 11 straight games, but he threw four interceptions to a Bucs team that had intercepted three passes all season. The Panthers also pulled him at the end of the game and chose to let Taylor Heinicke throw the hail mary, which came after Newton showed lack of arm strength to get the ball over 40 yards down the field. It’s his surgically-repaired shoulder, so it’s something to pay attention to. The Browns have been a giving team when it comes to fantasy points, largely in part to them allowing their opponents 72.0 plays per game this season, which ranks as the most in the NFL. So, despite them ranking No. 5 in touchdown percentage on the season (behind only the Jaguars, Ravens, Giants, and Vikings), they’ve allowed 291.9 passing yards per game, which ranks as the fourth-most. They’ve also allowed 14 rushing touchdowns (12 running backs, 2 quarterbacks), so there’s definite potential here. The only concern is Newton’s shoulder, which could even affect how he’s used in the run-game. Consider him a middling QB1 who comes with much more risk than you’d hoped going into the fantasy playoffs. If he gets in a full practice by the end of the week, it’d be a good sign. Update: The Panthers haven’t even listed him on the injury report, so he’ll be good to go this week. It also helps that the Browns have declared top cornerback Denzel Ward out for this game.
Baker Mayfield: After destroying the competition for the previous three weeks, Mayfield ran into a red-hot Texans defense who shut him down. That was a much tougher matchup than his previous three weeks, but fortunately, the Panthers defense is much softer. They’ve now allowed 26 passing touchdowns over their last 11 games, including multiple touchdown passes in all but two of them. Over the last four weeks, we’ve seen Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Jameis Winston all finish as top-10 quarterbacks against them, with Roethlisberger and Wilson both eclipsing 11.0 yards per attempt. The addition of Eric Reid in the secondary hasn’t had the impact they’d hoped, as they’ve allowed four 300-yard passers since he joined them in Week 5. With the Panthers holding up against the run recently, Mayfield should be able to post high-end QB2 numbers this week and makes for a solid streamer.
Christian McCaffrey: He’s now totaled 859 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last six games. That’s bananas. With Newton struggling (and maybe injured), the Browns should see a healthy dose of McCaffrey this week. He’s totaled at least 18 touches in each of the last six games and the Browns have allowed opposing running backs an average of 28.9 touches per game. As a reminder, McCaffrey has totaled 125 of the Panthers 136 running back touches over the last six weeks, which amounts to an unheard-of 91.9 percent of touches. He’s an elite RB1 start in the first week of the fantasy playoffs and is more than safe to use in cash lineups.
Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson: Week 13 was the first game since Carlos Hyde was traded where Chubb totaled less than 18 carries in a game, so it’s fair to say you shouldn’t overreact. He did, however, see 12-of-14 touches that went to the running backs, so that’s a definite positive. After struggling to stop the run at the start of the season, there’s been just two teams who’ve been able to total more than 3.8 yards per carry against them over the last nine games. The good news? They were the Redskins and Ravens, who were primarily led by Adrian Peterson and Alex Collins, two power backs similar to Chubb, though he’s played much better than those two as of late. More good news is that they’ve allowed a rushing touchdown in five of their last six games. You have to play Chubb as a low-end RB1 this week with the amount of work he’s getting, though it’s unlikely he wins you the matchup singlehandedly, as the Panthers are at home and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since way back in Week 2. In a game they trailed throughout, Johnson touched the ball just twice, so he’s nothing more than a very talented backup who’s barely on the RB4 radar.
D.J. Moore: He’s now seen at least eight targets in each of the last three games, so it’d make sense that the Browns might use Denzel Ward in coverage this week. He’s moved around the formation quite a bit, so the Browns may choose to simply play sides, which would be a good thing for Moore. There’s been just two games this year where the Browns haven’t allowed a top-24 wide receiver performance, so you’d naturally point to Moore, who’s the clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing game, especially with Funchess banged-up and Greg Olsen out for the year. There’s also been just one team who’s seen more wide receiver targets than the Browns this year (24.0 per game), so it’d make sense for Moore to be played as an upside WR2 in this game, though Newton’s shoulder issues are worth monitoring. He’s got the shortest depth of target among the top three receivers, so he’d arguably be least affected by it. Update: Ward has been ruled out for this game, upgrading Moore’s matchup quite significantly. Newton just needs to get the ball in his hands.
Devin Funchess: He was on a snap-count last week and played 32-of-70 snaps with no setback, so Funchess should be good to go for Week 14. He did catch a touchdown last week (his only catch), but also had another one that was called back due to a holding penalty. It’s tough to say whether the Panthers will insert him back into a full-time role with Samuel and Moore playing so well, but he’s definitely going to be involved in the red zone. With the way the Browns align, he should see T.J. Carrie in coverage most of the day, a cornerback who’s still yet to allow a touchdown on 69 targets in coverage this season. This isn’t a matchup that you need to attack when it matters most, making Funchess a low-appealing WR4.
Curtis Samuel: We’ve seen Samuel play 112-of-129 snaps over the last two weeks and saw a career-high 11 targets against the Bucs last week, so he’s a legitimate option in fantasy leagues. If the Browns keep Denzel Ward at LCB (where he’s been when not shadowing), it would be his primary matchup, and the least attractive on paper. However, Samuel has been explosive on a per-touch basis, so giving him 11 targets in a game demands attention from fantasy owners, especially when he’d only be in Ward’s coverage just 40-45 percent of the time. His average depth of target is 11.6 yards, so it’s not as if he’d need Newton to be able to chuck the ball down the field, making him a boom-or-bust WR4 who comes with upside in a game the Panthers should run 65-75 plays.
Jarvis Landry: Under Freddie Kitchens, Landry has seen 26 of Mayfield’s 131 targets, a healthy 19.8 percent target share. It’s not in the elite tier that he was, but it’s still respectable. The Panthers struggle the most with slot receivers, as they’ve allowed four slot-heavy wide receivers finish as top-15 PPR options against them, including three in their last five games (Adam Humphries twice, JuJu Smith-Schuster). They have Captain Munnerlyn covering the slot, which is better than attacking either James Bradberry and Donte Jackson, so it’s good to see teams waking up to attack the 10-year veteran who’s mediocre, at best. Over the last five weeks, he’s allowed 17-of-23 passing for 199 yards and a touchdown in the slot. The Panthers have allowed 26 passing touchdowns this year, with 14 of them going to wide receivers, making Landry a high-end WR3 who’ll likely get more targets than most in his territory. The Panthers have also allowed a 20-plus PPR point receiver in five straight games.
Antonio Callaway: He’s been much better as of late, though his fumble as he was about to score against the Texans was surely frustrating. He’s not topped six targets since back in Week 6, so it’s not as if you’re getting guaranteed volume out of him. The Panthers aren’t likely to shadow Callaway with anyone, so he’ll see a mixture of James Bradberry and Donte Jackson in coverage. The schedule has not been kind to them, as they’ve had to play Mike Evans twice, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham, Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, and the Seahawks receivers. Oddly enough, they’ve only allowed 13 top-30 performances to wide receivers, with five of them going to slot-heavy receivers. Callaway hasn’t been utilized enough to feel confident starting him as anything more than a high-end WR5.
Ian Thomas: After learning that Greg Olsen was out for the year, we no longer have to worry about the Panthers tight end situation. Why? Well, we’ve already seen this played out. Thomas had to cover for Olsen earlier in the season and failed to tally 40 yards or three receptions in a game. Sure, he totaled five catches for 46 yards last week, but he was likely featured in Olsen’s role of the game-plan because the Bucs really struggled with tight ends. The Browns aren’t a team who’s been terrible with tight ends, but rather one who sees a ton of volume, as they lead the league in targets (112) faced against them. On an efficiency scale, they’ve been pretty good, allowing just 6.23 yards per target and 9.5 yards per reception. With Thomas topping out around 5-6 targets, it’s not the best-case scenario for a streamer, but I suppose you could do worse than him in a real pinch.
David Njoku: Knowing that Mayfield threw for 397 yards last week, you’d expect huge numbers for Njoku, but unfortunately, he’s like many other tight ends, which is very volatile. He’s seen at least five targets in 9-of-12 games this year, so his floor is higher than most, but he’s far from a sure thing. The Panthers have been a very giving team when it comes to tight end points, as they’ve allowed more PPR points to them than any other team in the league. On average, they’ve allowed 16.4 PPR points to the position, and Njoku has 69 of the 87 tight end targets on the team. Knowing they’ve allowed multiple touchdown passes in 9-of-11 games, you’d like to know who Mayfield’s going to look to in the red zone, and 9-of-26 touchdowns have gone to tight ends. There’ve been eight different tight ends to post top-12 numbers against the Panthers, making Njoku a rock-solid TE1 this week and one who should bounce back if all is right in the world.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 7.0
Lamar Jackson: Now with three straight wins as the starter, Jackson should be considered the starter in Week 14, regardless of Joe Flacco‘s health. Going into Kansas City isn’t going to be easy, as they’ve allowed just 17.6 points per game while at home this year, which is much different than the 34.1 points they allow on the road. It was a similar story last year when they allowed just 17.4 points per game at home, but 25.5 points on the road. Still, Jackson makes for a great streamer because he succeeds where the Chiefs struggle – against the run. They allow 122.0 rushing yards per game (ranks 11th-most) and are coming off a game where they allowed the Raiders to rush for 171 yards. They’ve allowed a rushing touchdown in 9-of-12 games this year, including multiple rushing touchdowns in three of them. They’re a team that relies on getting pressure on the quarterback, while trusting their cornerbacks in man-coverage. This will be an issue for them against Jackson, as they can’t get overly aggressive because he can slip through pressure on the edge and create big plays. The man-coverage aspect also helps him, because while defenders have their eyes on their man, their backs are turned to Jackson, who can scramble. It’s why the Chiefs have allowed four rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. The fact that they’re playing in Kansas City worries me, but not enough to say he’s not a low-end QB1 who presents a stable fantasy floor.
Patrick Mahomes: Even though he missed targets and threw “should have been” interceptions on multiple plays, Mahomes comes out looking like the knight in shining armor with his 295/4 stat line against the Raiders last week. He’s clearly the MVP right now, but oddly enough, there’s still room for growth in his game. This game will be one of the toughest tests of the season for him, as the Ravens defense is as good as it gets. Here’s what they’ve allowed to quarterbacks with ranks in parenthesis: 58.1 percent completion-rate (1st), 6.12 yards per attempt (1st), 3.83 touchdown percentage (2nd), and 0.39 fantasy points per pass attempt (1st). No quarterback has thrown for more than 8.0 yards per attempt against them. Keep in mind that there are seven teams in the league who allow at least 8.0 yards per attempt on the season. The NFL is a passing league and you still almost always side with the offense, but it’s clear that you shouldn’t expect a massive performance out of Mahomes in this game. You’re starting him in season-long leagues as a QB1 but it’s a week to have less exposure in DFS.
Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and Ty Montgomery: We now know that Alex Collins is out for the year, but it appears Dixon will be the primary competition for Edwards down the stretch. The Ravens have run the ball 48.3 times per game over the last three weeks under Jackson, so there’s plenty of work to go around. Combine that with the fact that there’s been just two teams of running backs who’ve averaged less than 4.04 yards per carry against the Chiefs and you have a recipe for success. Edwards hasn’t totaled less than 17 carries since Jackson took over, but they also haven’t been seven-point underdogs in any game. The worrisome part for Edwards is that he’s yet to see a single target, which means he’s extremely gamescript-dependent. If the game were to go the Chiefs way, we’d likely see more of Montgomery, who played 27 snaps last week and has seen 10 targets over the last two weeks. The Chiefs have now allowed 19 different running backs to score 11.6 or more PPR points, while no other team in the NFL has allowed more than 15 of them. Can the Ravens rack up enough attempts to produce a top-tier running back? The Chiefs have faced just one team of running backs who’s been able to total more than 27 attempts, so it’s unlikely. Edwards should be considered a low-end RB2 who comes with more risk than most realize given his lack of involvement in the passing-game, while Dixon is a high-quality bench stash, and Montgomery makes for an interesting RB3/4 in PPR formats who should present a high floor.
Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and Damien Williams: It wasn’t the performance that Ware owners had hoped for against the Raiders, though he did find the end zone, salvaging his fantasy day. The Ravens aren’t nearly as good of a matchup, as they’ve allowed just three teams of running backs to combine for more than 96 rushing yards against them and none to total more than 111 yards. Think about that… no team has totaled more than 111 rushing yards, while the Raiders had allowed an average of nearly 140 rushing yards per game entering the game last week. The Ravens have allowed just 3.44 yards per carry (2nd-lowest mark in the league) and just 3.97 yards per target (lowest in the league) to running backs, while allowing just seven total touchdowns (5 rushing, 2 receiving) on the year. In fact, there’s been just two running backs who’ve been able to finish as top-15 options against them this year, and both of those running backs (James Conner, Christian McCaffrey) scored receiving touchdowns to get there. It’s clear that this is somewhat of a timeshare and that Williams may be the preferred receiving option, so you’re not likely to get a top-15 performance out of either option. Ware is still a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 who gets the goal-line work in a high-scoring offense, while Williams/West will be competing for the same role, though I’m guessing West was brought back for a reason. Neither should be considered more than an RB4/5 option this week.
John Brown: At this point, Brown is droppable in fantasy leagues. He’s not on the same page as Jackson, as he’s seen 12 targets that have netted just two catches for 48 yards and no touchdowns. Can he catch a bomb for a long touchdown? Sure, but so can guys like Travis Benjamin and you don’t see them rostered. The Chiefs defense has slipped as of late, but they’ve still allowed just 1.49 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the NFL. Brown is nothing more than a long-play hopeful in tournaments.
Michael Crabtree: He’s likely droppable as well, though he and Jackson have had better chemistry than Brown has. Crabtree has caught 7-of-13 targets for 64 yards and a touchdown over the three games with Jackson under center, which is not much without that touchdown. The Chiefs have allowed just 10 touchdowns to receivers all year and that’s despite them seeing a league-high 296 targets against them, which amounts to one every 29.6 targets. Knowing that the Ravens receivers have seen just 40 targets as a team over the last three weeks, it’s fair to say Crabtree is nothing more than a lackluster WR5 this week.
Willie Snead: He’s totaled just eight yards on three targets over the last two weeks combined and will have the toughest matchup on the field against Kendall Fuller, so Snead is not to be trusted in any format this week. He clearly doesn’t have the floor with Jackson and he’s never presented upside that would be worth taking the risk.
Tyreek Hill: We talked about the Raiders defense last week and how they’d been tough on wide receivers, but nobody could’ve expected a one-catch, 13-yard performance for Hill, especially with Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunt not on the field. The Ravens haven’t been any better for wide receivers, as they’ve allowed just one top-10 performance all season, which was to A.J. Green back in Week 2. The trio of Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Carr has been phenomenal this year, allowing just 125.1 yards per game to opposing teams of wide receivers, which ranks as the second-best in the NFL. The 6.25 yards per target they’ve allowed is the lowest mark in the NFL and it’s not even close, as the next closest team sits at 7.04 yards per target. They’ve also allowed a league-low 53.8 percent completion rate to receivers, making Hill’s matchup a pain. If there’s one area they’ve been beaten, though, it’s in the slot, which is where the Chiefs have been using Hill a bit more. Of the nine wide receiver touchdowns the Ravens have allowed, five of them have come in the slot. Hill should be plugged-in as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this week, but don’t expect miracles against this tough defense.
Chris Conley: If you didn’t check out the notes above in Hill’s section, you should because the Ravens are not a team to mess around with. They’ve been dominant against receivers all year long and the reason Conley should be off your radar in Week 14 is due to the red zone. The Ravens have allowed just nine receiver touchdowns this year, one every 26.7 targets. That’s an issue because Conley has topped 25 yards just once all season, essentially making him a touchdown-or-bust receiver. You don’t want to bank on him scoring a touchdown in this game, and even if he did, you’re likely looking at a 20-yard, one-touchdown game that won’t win you your matchup. Conley is a low-upside WR5 option this week, even if Sammy Watkins sits out.
Mark Andrews: Even though it’s Nick Boyle who’s playing the most snaps, Andrews is the tight end performing the best with Jackson under center, as he’s totaled five catches for 140 yards over the last three weeks. The issue is that he’s seen five targets in those three games, which is not nearly enough to comfortably plug him in as a streamer. It’s a shame because the Chiefs are a team to attack with opposing tight ends, as they’ve allowed a top-12 tight end on nine different occasions this year. The 913 yards they’ve allowed to tight ends ranks as the most in the NFL, as there’ve been 10 tight ends to rack up at least 49 yards. The only starting tight ends who didn’t? Antonio Gates, Jeff Heuerman, and C.J. Uzomah. Andrews is worth a shot if you’re desperate because of the matchup, but he comes with massive risk.
Travis Kelce: With his massive performance against the Raiders, Kelce is now the No. 1 fantasy tight end on the season, as he’s cracked 1,000 yards and has nine touchdowns through 12 games. Now against the Ravens, Kelce will have to step-up once again. While they’ve shut-down receivers and running backs, tight ends have been able to find some room for production. When targeting tight ends against the Ravens this year, quarterbacks have a 116.3 QB Rating. That’s because they allow a 71.6 percent completion-rate, 8.56 yards per target, and a touchdown every 17.6 targets. All five touchdowns they’ve allowed to tight ends have come over the last six weeks. On top of that, safety Tony Jefferson suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Bengals and missed all of practice (and the game) last week, so he should be considered highly questionable for this contest. Shifting safeties around can really be a task for a defense, so there’s no reason to run from Kelce now (not that you’d even consider it). He’s an elite TE1 and worth his price of admission in DFS this week if you have the funds to do so.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Line: HOU by 4.5
Andrew Luck: After a bad outing against the Jaguars where he ended his eight-game streak of three-plus touchdowns to an end, Luck and the Colts will now head out to Houston to play a Texans team that’s rattled off nine straight wins. They played each other back in Week 4 when Luck threw the ball 62 times for 464 yards and four touchdowns, which did result in a 37-34 Colts loss. You can’t really say that one was on Luck, though his pass attempts have been scaled back a bit since then. Over the last two weeks, the Texans defense has allowed 51-of-66 passing (77.3 percent) for 700 yards (10.6 yards per attempt), three touchdowns, and three interceptions to Marcus Mariota and Baker Mayfield. It’s gone to show that the Texans secondary can be beaten after holding a bevy of mediocre to bad quarterbacks in check. Since Week 5, here are their opponents: Dak Prescott, Josh Allen/Nathan Peterman, Cody Kessler/Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy/Alex Smith, Mariota, and Mayfield. You can now understand why their overall numbers look so good in that time. The biggest strength is supposed to be their pass-rush, but they failed to sack Mayfield last week, and Luck has been sacked just five times in his last eight games. Another thing to like is that the Colts games net the sixth-most plays per game (129.8) while the Texans games net the eighth-most plays (129.0), giving us plenty of opportunity. Luck should be played as a high-end QB1 this week who could have another high-volume game.
Deshaun Watson: We finally saw Watson throw the ball more than 25 times last week, as it was the first time since Week 5. It may have only netted 224 yards and a touchdown, but it’s a step in the right direction. The Colts opponents have averaged a somewhat small 33.5 pass attempts per game, though part of the reason is due to increased efficiency, as they’ve allowed a 71.9 percent completion-rate (2nd-highest in the league). This is your reminder that the all-time completion percentage for any quarterback is 72.0 percent. Watson had a massive game against the Colts while in Indianapolis, as he posted 375 passing yards, 41 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). It was the biggest performance they’ve allowed all season. Similar to the Texans, the Colts competition has been awful as of late. Here’s the list of quarterbacks they’ve played since Week 5: Sam Darnold, Derek Anderson, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Blaine Gabbert/Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill, and Cody Kessler. So, when looking at their overall numbers against quarterbacks, they should look good. Keep in mind they allowed two or more passing touchdowns in four of those games. You should expect Watson to finish as a rock-solid QB1 this week and he comes with as much upside as anyone.
Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines: After lighting the fantasy world on fire from Week 6-8, Mack has been trending down the last four games as he’s totaled just 202 yards and one touchdown on 51 carries and caught just six passes for 34 scoreless yards. Two of those games were against the Jaguars, so we don’t want to overreact, but the Texans aren’t a vacation, either. They’ve allowed just four teams of running backs to total more than 78 rushing yards and none of them to record more than 116 rushing yards. They have, however, allowed five rushing touchdowns over their last five games after allowing just one in their first seven games. With touchdowns being so volatile, it’s tough to rely on them. Knowing that no running back has topped 82 yards on the ground, Mack shouldn’t be relied upon for any more than high-end RB3 production this week. Hines actually caught nine passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns in the last meeting with the Texans, but that was also when Mack was out, and Luck threw the ball 62 times. He’s coming off another nine-catch game against the Jaguars, so we have to pay attention, but he’s nothing more than an RB4 against a Texans team who’s allowed just 40.4 receiving yards per game and three receiving touchdowns to running backs outside of that one Colts game.
Lamar Miller: As good as Miller has played this year, he’s a bit limited in his upside, as he’s part of a legitimate timeshare. He’s got 194 touches on the season while Alfred Blue has 140 of them, though that might be what’s kept him fresh and able to average 5.0 yards per carry. It also helps that the Texans average 31.5 carries per game (2nd-most). The Colts have been very good against the run and haven’t allowed multiple rushing touchdowns in any game this season, and they’ve yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. They’ve allowed just 3.86 yards per carry on the year and just one touchdown every 54.4 carries, which both rank as top-eight against the run. They have allowed a ton of work through the air to running backs, as there’s been eight running backs who’ve totaled at least 49 yards against them. Miller has topped three targets just once since Week 3 and hasn’t topped 27 yards since Week 3. That’s a bit concerning, as is the timeshare. While he’s been on fire as of late, the Colts may cool him off a bit unless the Texans use him more in the passing game. He should be considered a middling to low-end RB2 for this game.
T.Y. Hilton: After matching up against Jalen Ramsey last week, the matchup against the Texans should seem like a cakewalk. They now have Aaron Colvin back from his injury, who was supposed to be their big-time free agent acquisition. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been very good, allowing 21-of 25 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. Hilton moves all over so there’s not one cornerback he’ll match-up with all day, and he did post 4/115/0 on six targets earlier this season, though it’s important to remember he was hurt in that game and played just 43-of-91 snaps. The Texans are coming off two games where they allowed 700 passing yards, including 100 yards to Jarvis Landry last week. Hilton should be in lineups as a high-end WR2 who not only gets targeted heavily, but he can pay-off with just one play. With Luck being allotted plenty of time to pass, Hilton should shake loose a few times.
Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Grant, Zach Pascal: It’s tough to say what’s going on with the Colts receiving corps, as Inman played 54 snaps last week (2nd on the team), but Ryan Grant and Zach Pascal played 42 snaps apiece, so it’s four different options at wide receiver which is likely a result of Jack Doyle‘s injury. Inman ran 58 percent of his routes from the slot, while Pascal ran 71 percent of his from the slot, so they’re splitting duties, which means Tyrann Mathieu will be asked to come down and cover more than the Texans would like. He’s allowed a 74.3 percent catch-rate and four touchdowns on 35 targets in coverage this year, so it’s likely that Inman or Pascal can have success, though picking which one is tough, though I’d say Inman if you want to play one. Still, he’s nothing more than a last-ditch WR5 who’s part of a timeshare.
DeAndre Hopkins: He’s now totaled at least 74 yards and/or a touchdown in every single game this year and will go against a Colts team who lacks star-power at cornerback. As a unit, they’ve faced just 16.0 wide receiver targets per game, which ranks as the lowest in the NFL. On those targets, they’ve allowed 8.3 yards per target and a touchdown every 16.0 targets, so it’s not as if they’re limiting in any way. A lot of it likely comes down to running backs totaling so much production against them. Running backs have amounted for 24.9 percent of the total passing production allowed by the Colts, which ranks as the most in the NFL, though the Texans don’t target their running backs too often. Hopkins posted 10/169/1 against them back in Week 4, so there’s little reason to doubt him here. He’s an elite WR1.
Demaryius Thomas: Now four games into his Texans role, Thomas has totaled an average of just 3.5 targets, 2.5 receptions, and 32.8 yards, though his two touchdowns against the Titans are propping up his stats. He’ll match-up with Pierre Desir this week, the Colts former fourth-round pick who’s played arguably the best of the group this year, allowing just a 61 percent catch-rate and just two touchdowns on 49 targets in coverage this year. The Texans did have three top-36 receivers against the Colts the last time they played, though Watson threw the ball 42 times that week, something he hasn’t come remotely close to as of late. Thomas should see increased volume this week, but it’s hard to say he’ll see more than 5-6 targets, and with very little big-play capability, he’s just a mediocre WR4/5 option.
Keke Coutee: They’re expecting Coutee to play this game, as he was reportedly close to playing last week. With hamstring injuries, anything can happen, including him having to leave the game, which he’s done on multiple occasions this year. The Colts have Kenny Moore in the slot, who’s been solid, but they play a lot of zone coverage and the Texans were able to move Coutee around to post 11/109/0 on 15 targets in Week 4. Having a sample to go off makes it want to like Coutee more this week, but the hamstring injuries are worrisome. The Colts have allowed 175.8 PPR points to opposing running backs in the passing game this year, which is essentially the role Coutee plays with his 4.8-yard average depth of target. If he practices in full by the end of the week, you should consider him an upside WR4 this week. Update: He was limited in practice all week, but has been said to be trending in the right direction.
Eric Ebron: With Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox out of the lineup, Ebron saw 16 targets against the Jaguars. If that persists against the Texans, there’s going to be a lot of production against the Texans. They’ve faced more than five targets just five times all season, and four of those tight ends scored 15-plus PPR points against them. Ebron was one of them when he tallied 5/40/1 back in Week 4. In games without Doyle, Ebron has averaged 11.0 targets per game and hasn’t finished with less than seven targets in any of those six games. The Texans allow tight ends 24.9 percent of production to opposing pass-catchers which ranks as the sixth-most in the NFL. Ebron should be played as a high-end TE1 who’s locked into big volume in a decent matchup.
Ryan Griffin and Jordan Akins: Over the last two weeks with Griffin back in the lineup, he’s split time with Thomas and Jordan Akins, but he’s the one playing the most snaps and running the most routes, even if Thomas did wind up with more production last week. It’s frustrating because there’s production to be had against the Colts zone defense, as linebacker Darius Leonard allows a massive 92 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year. That’s why they’ve allowed the second-highest completion-rate to tight ends, but they’ve also allowed just three touchdowns to them all season. Six tight ends have racked up five or more receptions against the Colts, but knowing which Texans tight end will be targeted is purely a guess. Griffin has three different games with five or more targets, while Thomas has none of them, but Thomas has scored four touchdowns on his last 11 targets. Knowing the Colts have allowed just three tight end touchdowns, Griffin is probably the better play, but he’s not a preferred streamer.