Kickoff: Sunday, September 11th, 1:00 PM ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston Texas
Betting Odds: HOU +8, 46 total via PFF.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Matt Ryan (Start, QB2)
Long gone are the days when Matt Ryan was a top 12 NFL quarterback or fantasy quarterback. He hasn’t scored more than 30 touchdowns since 2018. He now joins the Colts and looks to have a bounce-back year. He probably has a downgrade at wide receiver over what he is used to from his days in Atlanta. He should benefit from a very strong run game and facing a defense that is projected to start 3 rookies, two of which are in the secondary. I still think you can start Ryan in the hopes he does bounce back. In the past 2 years, he only has 5 games with three or more touchdowns and also has 9 games where he failed to throw a touchdown at all. Those are sobering numbers for anyone expecting a top twelve performance from Ryan either this week or for season-long.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, RB1), Nyheim Hines (Sit, Flex)
The Colts hit the jackpot when they drafted Jonathan Taylor as he was the number 1 back in 2021. Taylor will benefit from having a healthy offensive line, which was a weak point last season. There are some slight knocks against Taylor especially early in the season. In 2021 the Colts only gave him on average 15 carries per game in the first 8 games but cranked that up to 24 carries in the last 8 games. It’s a smart model that head coach Frank Reich will probably continue to use, as it will save Taylor for later in the season when they are hopefully making a playoff push. If the Colts get an early lead we could see more of Nyheim Hines out of the backfield. Hines is projected as the third-down back and should get the receiving work. He has done okay as a rusher but is touchdown-dependent to be fantasy relevant given his unprojectable volume.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Pittman (Start, WR1), Parris Campbell (Start, Flex), Alec Pierce (Sit, Flex), Ashton Dulin (Sit), Mo Alie-Cox (Sit, TE2)
Michael Pittman had a great year in 2021, recording over 1000 yards and 6 touchdowns. He gets a new quarterback, going from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan. With the Texans having two rookies in the secondary and overall not-great defense, Pittman should have a great fantasy day for his owners. He will most likely draw coverage from new Texan Steven Nelson who PFF rates as the 67th best coverage corner out of 115. Pittman has a five-inch height advantage so he should be able to get most contested catches. After Pittman, I think it’s a wait-and-see approach, with guys like Parris Campbell, rookie Alec Pierce, and Ashton Dulin all vying for that true number two spot in the passing offense. If I had to pick one to stash, it would be Campbell who has the most experience, but Pierce could sneak a red zone touchdown due to his height at 6’4”. The tight end situation is very similar to the wide receivers. Mo Alie-Cox comes in as the presumed starter, but the Colts have drafted tight ends in the past two years in Kylen Granson and Jelani Woods. It’s by far the tallest tight-end room in the league: Alie-Cox stands at 6’5”, Granson at 6’2”, and Woods at a towering 6’7”. All of them are in line to earn the targets that Jack Doyle left after his retirement. Matt Ryan has a long history of throwing to tight ends, and with their size, they make for a large target and safety blanket for Ryan.
Davis Mills (Start, QB2)
There is a lot of belief that Davis Mills can be a more than capable NFL quarterback. He showed flashes of that last season. In his last 5 games, he threw nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He will have to prove himself early in 2022, facing a strong Colts defense. Mills and the Texans will have to get creative to open up throwing lanes and keep Mills upright. With an unproven running game and Vegas odds projecting Houston to be playing from behind, the weight of the Texans’ season will be fully on Mill’s shoulders. I think he can have an okay performance but will probably take a few weeks to get back into the swing of full-speed NFL football.
Dameon Pierce (Start, RB2), Rex Burkhead (Start, Flex)
The hype around Dameon Pierce has gotten a little out of control over the past few weeks. We have yet to see what he will be against starting NFL defenses, but what we did see in preseason makes most of us excited. He has shown great speed, burst, and vision, fitting the archetype of a pounding runner who doesn’t waste time trying to get up the field. His positive yards on each attempt will give him volume to make him startable as an RB2, and he has the size to retain the goal line work. However, Rex Burkhead projects to be the primary receiving back. If the Texans get down in the game we could see a lot more of Burkhead, and that should be enough to make him a solid flex play in Week 1. The snap share and splits for these two guys will be something a lot of people will be looking at coming Monday. It will help shed a light on what Pierce can be for the whole season.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Brandin Cooks (Start, WR2), Nico Collins (Sit), Chris Moore (Sit, Flex), Brevin Jordan (Sit, Flex)
Brandin Cooks is always underrated for fantasy football. He has been on five teams in eight years, and this will mark his third year in Houston. He developed good rapport with Davis Mills last season, and he’ll hope to use that in Week 1. Cooks will draw coverage from either Stephon Gilmore or Kenny Moore II. The Texans will want to get Cooks on Moore’s side as often as they can as PFF rates Moore at a 62.1 compared to Gilmore who got a score of 79.4. When Cooks is covered by Gilmore, second-year player Nico Collins could see some opportunities. He had a disappointing rookie season, hauling in only one touchdown, but saw some productive games later in the season. Given his height advantage (6’4”), he should be a solid red zone threat and has good speed and size to help out Mills when he is pressured. Outside of Cooks and Collins, it’s a cast of wideouts that no one is excited about. Chris Moore is set to play on 3-wideout sets and may lose time to newly signed Tyler Johnson or veteran Phillip Dorsett. None of them are worth rostering right now, let alone starting. One of them will probably score a touchdown and be a name talked about on waiver shows but should probably still be avoided. There was some early off-season hype for tight-end Brevin Jordan. That died down a bit when Pharaoh Brown was named the starter. Brown projects to be the blocking tight end and Jordan looks to run more routes. Jordan did have three touchdowns in only nine games last season. The Texans also brought in O.J. Howard, the former Buccaneer and briefly Bill, but being new to the team, it will take him some time to get used to the system and earn the quarterback’s trust.