Kickoff: Sunday, December 6th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Betting Odds: IND -3, 51 Total via Oddsshark
Philip Rivers (Streamer)
Philip Rivers has been exactly what the Colts were looking for this offseason. They needed steady quarterback play to pair with their run-first offense and strong defense. Rivers is currently 14th in Ben Baldwin’s (of the Athletic) CPOE+EPA composite stat. Rivers currently has had 300 yards passing and or multiple TDs in five of the past six games and is up against a weak Texans pass defense (22nd per Football Outsiders) that just lost their top corner, Bradley Roby, to suspension. Rivers is a nice streaming option this week.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, RB2), Nyheim Hines (Start, Deep Flex), Jordan Wilkins (Sit)
Jonathan Taylor was just activated off the Covid list. He finds himself in a great matchup against Houston’s 27th ranked run defense (per Football Outsiders). He is coming off his first game in a while where he led the backfield in touches, though we don’t know if that will continue immediately after coming off the Covid list. But Taylor should see a good amount of work still as Jordan Wilkins has been getting phased out with only 22 touches over the last three weeks. That would leave Nyheim Hines has Taylor’s biggest competition in the backfield. Hines handled the majority of the workload without Taylor seeing 10 targets and all three red-zone carries. Hines is still in the flex range due to his receiving upside.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Pittman (Start, Flex), T.Y. Hilton (Sit), Trey Burton (Sit)
Michael Pittman has operated as the lead receiver since returning from injury. He only had three catches last week but still, lead the team with nine targets and in air yards with 96 (per airyards.com). With Roby now suspended, Pittman should see little in the way of opposition from the Texans’ defense. After Pittman, no one really stands out amongst this receiving group. Rivers prefers to spread the ball around. T.Y. Hilton managed to score his first TD since last season last week, but otherwise, he has struggled to make much of an impact all year. He normally torches the Texans, but Hilton cannot be trusted right now. Of all the Colts’ TEs, Trey Burton is the most trustable right now after leading the TEs or tieing for the lead in targets in three of the last four weeks. He is still TD dependent like the rest of the TE group but is the most likely of the group to catch one after having one in four of the past six games.
Deshaun Watson (Start)
Deshaun Watson has been playing some of the best football of his career in the last few weeks. He is now up to fourth in Ben Baldwin’s (of the Athletic) CPOE+EPA composite stat after hovering around 10th up until Week 9. But am I crazy for maybe wanting to pass on starting him this week? Will Fuller is now suspended for the rest of the season (yes, yes, we’ve all heard about the splits with Fuller in and out of the lineup) and the Colts are a formidable defense (sixth in pass defense per Football Outsiders). If you have Watson, you likely won’t find another QB better than him to use, but I would have my expectations a bit lower this week having to adjust to a new group of WRs.
Duke Johnson (Start, Flex), C.J. Prosise (Sit)
David Johnson is eligible to return off IR this week, but as of now, there have been no updates on his availability. Duke Johnson finally was able to capitalize on the starting role last week. He hasn’t been the most effective as a runner, but he is still a plus in the passing game. Now without Fuller, Johnson will likely be used even more in that role. The Colts were gashed on the ground last week but if any of their defensive players out with Covid are activated, I don’t see that happening again. I want to bring up C.J. Prosise because while Johnson out-snapped Prosise 42 to 10, Prosise handled all of the red-zone carries and caught a TD in the red-zone. This is something to monitor because Prosise is a bigger back than Johnson, so the coaching staff may prefer him down there. If so, that would really limit Johnson’s value.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Brandin Cooks (Start, WR2), Keke Coutee (Start, Deep Flex), Jordan Akins (Streamer)
With Will Fuller being suspended, Randall Cobb on IR, and Kenny Stills’ release, the Texans’ receiving group is in a state of flux. Brandin Cooks is the main beneficiary and will likely see a boost in targets as Watson’s only trustable option. Even with Fuller, Cooks was 37th in WOPR (per airyards.com, just behind Fuller, and is 18th in routes run (per PFF). Keke Coutee is the next man up in the WR corps. Coutee had a decent rookie season, but then was shoved into former head coach Bill O’Brien’s dog house and barely saw the light of day since. He is the most logical replacement for Cobb in the lineup and should see a solid amount of slot targets. If you are desperate, he is a decent flex option but I would prefer to wait and see the role if I can. Jordan Akins should see a bump in usage as well. Watson has proven that he trusts him lately, and that’s more than we can say about any of the other pass-catchers right now. Akins had two end-zone targets last week that were just barely out of reach. With Fuller gone, the Texans will likely need to run more two TE sets and Akins may be the best red-zone option on the team.
-Frank Costanzo (@FrankQBList on Twitter, Zzzonked92 on Reddit)