Kickoff: Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Betting Odds: IND -8, 45 total via Oddsshark
Philip Rivers (Sit)
After 16 years of soaking up the Southern California sun, Philip Rivers now finds himself in Indianapolis as the latest quarterback for the Colts. During his time with the Chargers, Rivers never fell below 3,100 passing yards or 21 TDs and now will be standing behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The weapons at Rivers’ disposal are comparable and the only expectation for a dip in production would be because of Father Time, who is yet undefeated. Jacksonville, Rivers’ opening day opponent, seems to be in full-on tank mode after jettisoning Leonard Fournette and trading away Yannick Ngakoue and doesn’t appear to present any significant opposition to the Colts as evidenced by the second-biggest spread of the week. Despite the seemingly juicy matchup, it’s hard to trust Rivers as a starting option in traditional 1QB leagues because the Colts have a strong running game and may look to milk the clock if they build a big lead. Rivers is a middling QB2 in leagues that allow them.
Marlon Mack (Start RB3/Flex), Jonathan Taylor (Start RB3/Flex)
Marlon Mack has been a pleasant surprise for the Colts since they selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Mack exceeded 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career last season and dominated the carries for the Colts. Mack’s biggest detriment is his virtually nonexistent role in the passing game, lowering his appeal in PPR leagues. Mack can be counted on by fantasy managers to be a solid RB3 or flex play, but his upside is limited by his new teammate. Mack is in the final year of his rookie deal and, barring an incredible 2020 campaign, his eventual replacement will be second-round rookie Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin. Taylor was considered by many to be the most talented RB in the draft class and now he gets to run behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Taylor appears destined to split carries with Mack at least early in the season, capping his ceiling, but he could take over the lead role before the season ends. Taylor did have some issues with ball security in college, and that could be a concern, but his skill set is tantalizing and he has a much higher overall ceiling than Mack. Taylor also projects as a solid RB3 or flex option because of the timeshare in Week 1.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
T.Y. Hilton (Start WR2), Michael Pittman (Sit), Parris Campbell (Sit), Jack Doyle (Sit)
T.Y. Hilton experienced his first sub-par season in 2019 as a calf injury robbed him of six games and hampered him much of the season. Hilton is also entering the final season of his current contract and might be lining up with his replacement in either Parris Campbell or Michael Pittman. Hilton should still be the first option for Rivers and, assuming he’s completely healed from last season’s injury, still has the skills to separate from defenders and make tough catches. Hilton should provide a solid weekly floor for fantasy managers and is a fine WR2 this week. Both Campbell and Pittman will see plenty of time on the field until Indianapolis builds a good lead, but the lowered ceiling for the team’s passing game given the matchup make both unattractive options in Week 1 for fantasy managers. Better weeks are on the horizon, and this game may give fantasy managers an idea of how the team plans to utilize its two young weapons. Jack Doyle saw his biggest roadblock to consistent fantasy relevance head to Pittsburgh this offseason. We have a history of Rivers making his TE a fantasy force and Doyle is next in line. For Week 1, however, it’s best to temper expectations as the game could get out of hand quickly. Doyle isn’t an ideal option for traditional leagues as he seems destined to finish in the middle of the TE2 ranks.
Gardner Minshew (Sit)
Gardner Minshew was a surprise fantasy option during the 2019 season as Jacksonville’s intended starting QB, Nick Foles, suffered an injury in Week 1 one opening the door for the “Jaguar King.” Indianapolis was average in defending the pass in 2019, finishing at or near the middle of the NFL in nearly every statistical category. If Jacksonville intends on staying competitive in this game, it’s almost certainly going to have to do it primarily through the air. Unfortunately, the Jaguars just simply don’t look like they are going to be competitive in many games this season, including this one. Minshew has a chance to put up some “garbage time” stats, but those are unreliable and, for that reason, Minshew is not recommended for fantasy managers in typical leagues. Minshew is serviceable in leagues that allow two QBs as a mid-QB2 option.
Chris Thompson (Start RB3/Flex), James Robinson (Sit), Devine Ozigbo (Sit)
My oh my, what a mess this Jacksonville backfield is. The team surprisingly cut Fournette and his 331 touches from 2019 and the lead backfield duties have been bandied about among a trio of players. For fantasy managers, however, the biggest beneficiary appears to be newly-acquired Chris Thompson…for as long as he can stay healthy. Thompson projects as Jacksonville’s primary third-down and receiving RB giving him the most upside considering how often the team seems destined to be playing from behind this season. Thompson has always been an option in PPR leagues but he just can’t seem to stay healthy for an entire season. For fantasy managers, he’s healthy for this week and projects as a solid RB3 or flex option as a result. While James Robinson was named the team’s starting RB earlier this week, I don’t think anybody knows how the Jaguars are going to handle the RB rotation. Devine Ozigbo seemed to be in control of the lead duties early in camp, but then positive reports started surfacing about Robinson. It’s best for fantasy managers to avoid the entire situation until one emerges consistently. Steer very clear of anyone from this backfield not named “Thompson” in Week 1.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
D.J. Chark (Start WR1), Laviska Shenault (Sit), Tyler Eifert (Sit)
D.J. Chark was a surprise breakout last season as the second-year player saw a team-high 118 targets and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards with eight TDs. Chark and Minshew displayed excellent chemistry and that trend should continue into 2020. Chark will almost certainly be peppered with targets especially if the game goes as predicted and the Colts build an early lead. Chark will be an incredible WR2 for fantasy managers this week and I believe he will see enough opportunities to turn in a fantasy WR1 performance in Week 1. Rookie Laviska Shenault has been a steady performer in camp and will immediately occupy the starting WR position opposite Chark. Shenault may take some time acclimating completely to the pro game given the truncated preseason but has displayed the skill and ability to be successful in the NFL. Shenault likely has better days ahead of him this season, so feel free to keep him on the bench this week but keep tabs on how the Jaguars utilize him. If I told you Tyler Eifert just turned 30 on Tuesday, would you believe me? It seems like Eifert has been in the league forever but 2019 was his seventh season and his first in which he played all 16 games. Eifert is now the primary TE in Jacksonville, but that was nearly a forgotten position for receiving stats in 2019. Eifert may have some viable fantasy days this season, but it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach before deploying him in your starting lineup. Eifert is a hard pass in the opening week.
-Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN on Twitter)