Kickoff: Sunday, September 26th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Betting Odds: TEN -5.5, 48 total via Oddsshark
Carson Wentz (Sit), Jacob Eason (Sit)
As of this writing, there is still uncertainty surrounding the availability of Carson Wentz as he injured both ankles in the loss to the Rams. Wentz has been solid thus far in 2021, completing 65% of his passes and providing some additional production with his legs. Wentz has turned the ball over in each of the two games this season with one fumble in Week 1 and an INT last week. Even if Wentz is cleared to play against Tennessee this week, it’s hard to believe he’ll be at 100%, thus limiting his upside. Is Wentz at 75% the team’s best option to claim victory? Perhaps but he’s a hard pass for me this week for fantasy managers.
If Wentz is unable to play this weekend, the QB duties will fall to second-year QB Jacob Eason. Eason only attempted five passes in his short time on the field last week, but he only completed two of them for 25 yards and did throw an interception. Eason doesn’t appear to be near the same level as Wentz and will suppress the ceiling of every other player on offense if he’s forced into action. Eason is not a recommended option for any league type, including leagues that allow for two starting QBs. I’d avoid the Colts’ QB situation at all costs in Week 3.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, low-end RB1), Nyheim Hines (Sit, possible low-end Flex), Marlon Mack (Sit)
It’s been a rough start for Jonathan Taylor so far this year as the second-year back has managed just 107 yards on 32 attempts and has yet to find the end zone. After an encouraging role in Indianapolis’s Week 1 passing game (6 receptions on 7 targets for 60 yards), Taylor registered just a single target in Week 2. One would expect Tennessee to focus on stopping the run with either a hobbled Wentz or an inexperienced Eason starting at QB, capping Taylor’s upside further. Taylor has shown he can be an RB1 for fantasy managers in the past, and I think he’ll be able to reach that status this week unless Tennessee makes stopping him a priority. Taylor should see enough volume to cobble together an RB1 finish in Week 3.
If recent history is any indication, Nyheim Hines could put up a decent game this weekend against the Titans. In two games last season against the Titans, Hines totaled 99 rushing yards on 22 attempts, 111 receiving yards on 13 receptions, and two total TDs. Following Week 1, it looked like Hines would big a big part of the offense with nine carries and eight targets for 82 total yards. However, like Taylor, Hines saw a diminished role in Week 2 with just a single carry and only two targets. The decline for both Taylor and Hines can be attributed to both Marlon Mack seeing 13 snaps in Week 2 and the team as a whole running nine fewer offensive plays than Week 1, but the decline in production is concerning. Hines can provide Flex value, and even approach RB2 status, with a prominent role in the team’s passing game, but the questions at QB might lead to another subpar day for the team which makes Hines tough to start except as a low-end Flex with no better alternatives.
Mack returned in Week 2 after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1 of 2020 but didn’t provide much in the way of contribution on his five touches. There was plenty of speculation heading into the season on whether or not Mack could return to anything near his pre-injury self and the verdict is still out given the limited action he’s seen so far. Unless Mack becomes a fixture in the offense, he’s no more than a “break glass in case of emergency” guy for fantasy managers. He’s an easy avoid this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Pittman (Start, WR3/Flex), Zach Pascal (Sit, possible low-end Flex), Parris Campbell (Sit), Jack Doyle (Sit)
Through two games, the player most involved in the Colts’ passing offense has been Michael Pittman but the most productive player, by far, has been Zach Pascal. Pittman has seen a team-high 16 targets and also leads the team in receptions with 11 and receiving yards with 152. Pascal, on the other hand, has seen just 11 targets but has converted nine of them for 81 yards and has every offensive TD the Colts have scored this season with three. Pittman has seen the majority of his targets when the team is between the 20’s but Pascal has been the preferred red zone target so far. The uncertainty at the QB position makes projecting how these two will finish difficult. If Wentz starts but isn’t 100%, can we trust the team will be able to effectively move the ball? If Eason starts, will the offense be limited due to Eason’s unfamiliarity with the starters? Today, I think Pittman will see enough opportunities to at least warrant a look as a WR3 this week while Pascal is more of a boom-or-bust Flex given his fantasy performance so far has been very TD dependent.
Parris Campbell missed the team’s Week 2 game and that has been a continuing theme throughout his career. There was some buzz last week that Campbell would be available against the Rams but ended up being a late scratch with the abdominal injury. The fact the team thought he might play last week would seem to indicate he would be trending towards playing this week, but that’s the extent of the information we have as of now. In Campbell’s stead last week, Mike Strachan and Ashton Dulin saw some playing time but neither was part of the team’s game plan as each saw one target. Fantasy managers should look elsewhere for help at the WR position this week.
It was good to see Jack Doyle rebound from his disappointing Week 1 showing as he was second on the team in targets with eight and hauled in five of them for 64 yards. Doyle also added a two-point conversion reception to help out fantasy managers who started him last week. Doyle might see an uptick in targets again in Week 3 if Eason is forced to start as he provides a large target closer to the line of scrimmage that young QBs have shown a tendency to favor. Doyle has shown a penchant for finding the end zone in the past, so he does bring TD-upside to the position as well. Doyle has enough appeal to be an emergency start if fantasy managers don’t have a better option, but expect Doyle to finish in the middle of the TE2 tier given the questions at QB for Indianapolis.
Ryan Tannehill (Sit)
Despite trailing for the better part of Tennessee’s first two games, Ryan Tannehill has not been as productive as you might expect given the circumstances. Tannehill had plenty of yardage in Week 2 (347 passing and 27 rushing) but was unable to record a score. In Week 1, Tannehill had both a rushing and passing TD but turned the ball over three times in the blowout loss. Tennessee has shown it will live and die on the legs of Derrick Henry and he was arguably the sole reason Tennesse escaped with an overtime victory last week. Tannehill has weapons at both WR positions and Henry was more involved in the passing game last week than he has been for quite some time, but without the scores, Tannehill just can’t be trusted to produce top-15 numbers. In addition, the Titans should be able to control this game given Indianapolis’s concerns at QB, which would also limit Tannehill’s upside. Tannehill might provide some value in leagues that allow for two starting QBs, but most fantasy managers can bench him this week without too much concern.
Derrick Henry (Start, RB1)
For six quarters it looked like Derrick Henry was going to join the list of RBs who were not going to perform up to their lofty fantasy draft status as he amassed just 93 rushing yards and 34 receiving yards through that time. That all changed after halftime, however. Henry willed Tennessee back into the game with 187 total yards and three TDs as the Titans overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun Seattle in overtime. Henry is the focal point of the offense and should continue to see plenty of work regardless of the game script. It was good to see Henry so involved in the passing game, but that may be too much to expect going forward given his history in that regard. Still, Henry possesses the rare ability to have overall RB1 potential every week and simply can’t be benched. Start him confidently in Week 3 as Tennessee will look to control the game and get a division win against an undermanned Colts team.
For completeness, I’ll include Jeremy McNichols here as he’s still the primary backup to Henry while Darrynton Evans is out with injury. McNichols saw a handful of snaps and did get three targets, but his role is so small he’s not a viable option for fantasy managers as long as Henry is healthy.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
A.J. Brown (Start, low-end WR2), Julio Jones (Start, WR3/Flex), Chester Rogers (Sit), Anthony Firkser/MyCole Pruitt (Sit)
And here we are. The section I most dreaded coming into this week. What to do about the Tennessee WR situation as it relates to fantasy managers. For Tannehill, Henry, Mike Vrabel, and his coaching staff having both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones at WR is a great problem to have. For fantasy managers trying to decide which, if either, is the better one to start can cause sleepless nights and stress-filled days. In Week 1, Brown was the option for Tannehill as he led the team in targets with eight and caught Tannehill’s only TD. Fast forward to Week 2 and Jones looks like his old self as he eclipsed 100 yards (128) and had one of the best yards-per-reception days of his career (21.2 YPR). Jones also became the fastest player to reach 13,000 career receiving yards as he did it in just 137 games (previous record – Jerry Rice @ 154 games). What does that mean for this week? Who knows. Brown was still the target leader in Week 2 (nine) but was unable to put together enough production to help fantasy managers. Brown has remained Tannehill’s favorite target through two games, but Jones’s performance last week has to give Tannehill more confidence in going to him. I think the two cannibalize each other’s fantasy outlook, making Brown a low-end WR2 option and Jones a lower WR3 or solid Flex choice this week.
Tennessee’s third WR continues to be Chester Rogers as he out-snapped newly acquired Josh Reynolds 39-to-11 in Reynolds’ debut. Rogers did see five targets last week, converting two for 22 yards, but if Tannehill can barely support two WR3-level players there’s little hope for whoever ends up as Tennessee’s WR3 to make a fantasy impact. It remains to be seen if the disparity in playing time continues between Rogers and Reynolds, but neither figure to see enough opportunity to warrant fantasy attention in this offense.
Anthony Firkser was a late add to the injury report and ultimately was unable to play with a knee injury which allowed MyCole Pruitt to get some work with the first team. Pruitt did all he could with his three targets, catching all of them for 43 yards. There haven’t been any reports on whether or not Firkser will be able to play this week, but neither provides much intrigue for fantasy managers anyways. Much like the third WR for Tennessee there just isn’t enough volume to support more than two options and there’s barely enough for that. Look elsewhere for TE help this week.