Kickoff: Sunday, October 11th at 4:25 PM ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Betting Odds: IND -1.5, 47 total via Oddsshark
Philip Rivers (Sit)
Cleveland has allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to QBs, but Philip Rivers is QB28 through four weeks of this season. He’s only thrown for four touchdowns through four games and is hopefully due for some positive regression there, but there’s no doubt that this offense runs through the backfield, and Rivers’ arm is an afterthought. If you’re absolutely desperate, he’s worth a flier based on the matchup alone, but in most leagues just leave him on waivers.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, RB2), Nyheim Hines (Sit), Jordan Wilkins (Sit)
Indianapolis ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards stat, surprisingly making them one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL for running purposes. All five of their offensive linemen, including stud guard Quenton Nelson, rank in the middle of the pack or lower as run-blockers according to Pro Football Focus. Those grades are much higher in the passing game, but it could explain why these backs have been so ineffective in the last few weeks. The Cleveland defense also hasn’t been completely terrible against the run, allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points to RBs, and that’s with three games against the Cowboys, Bengals, and Ravens who all have pretty talented backfields.
With all of that said, it’s tough to recommend anyone in this backfield, especially since they all have a pretty sizable slice of the pie. In the NFL this season, eight of the top twelve fantasy RBs have a snap share at or above 60% (I’m also counting James Robinson, who sits at 59.5%). We all think Jonathan Taylor has the talent to be an RB1 in this league, and he’s on the team with the 13th most rushing yards so far, so why isn’t he in that RB1 conversation? Well, his 47.3% snap share is 28th among all RBs. It’s a frustrating situation, and until we see that number start to climb I think we all need to readjust our rankings.
I have Taylor as an RB2 this week but I don’t think he has the RB1 upside everyone is banking on. Cleveland has long been thought of as a team that can be steamrolled on the ground, and it’s not been the case this season. Approach Taylor with caution, and hope that he starts getting more snaps sooner than later.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Zach Pascal (Sit, Flex), T.Y. Hilton (Sit, Flex), Marcus Johnson (Sit), Mo Alie-Cox (Sit), Trey Burton (Sit), Jack Doyle (Sit)
This is a good matchup for this entire receiving corps, but who is going to actually get enough usage to be fantasy relevant? Zach Pascal leads this group with an average of 4.7 fantasy points per week, and T.Y. Hilton isn’t far behind with an average of 4.4 points. What?!?! Talk about a fall from grace for Hilton, who was WR15 overall as recently as 2018. He’s reportedly healthy, which has been an issue for him in the past, but he simply isn’t a factor in this offense. Despite the matchup, I wouldn’t recommend starting any of these receivers because any one of them could be the focus while the rest could be duds.
When it comes to the tight ends, it’s a literal carousel in Indianapolis now that Trey Burton has returned. Burton led the tight ends in touches and targets, but Jack Doyle led them in snaps while Mo Alie-Cox led them in fantasy points, which is really all that matters for our purposes. Yes, Philip Rivers loves to throw to tight ends, but they’re all touchdown dependant and how are we supposed to know which one will get the touchdown on a given week? Stay far away from these guys.
Baker Mayfield (Sit)
Indianapolis has allowed the fewest fantasy points to QBs, and their defense is among the best in the NFL so far this season. Baker Mayfield is QB24 so far this season, and the offense didn’t even run through him in a week where the Browns put up 49 points against Dallas. The offense is run-first and despite the injury to Nick Chubb that should remain the case with Kareem Hunt leading the charge. In this matchup, Baker is a clear sit.
Kareem Hunt (Start, RB2), D’Ernest Johnson (Sit)
Kareem Hunt takes the reigns in this backfield now that Nick Chubb will be missing some time, and it’s not much of a downgrade, to be honest. Actually, Hunt has been the better back for fantasy purposes this season, especially in PPR formats where Chubb actually falls out of the top 12. Indianapolis has allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points to RBs this season, but Cleveland’s offensive line actually leads the NFL in adjusted line yards according to Football Outsiders. The backs have been great, but the line has actually been even better.
The Colts could be without both of their starting linebackers this week, and Darius Leonard has been the 6th best LB against the run according to Pro Football Focus. This defense may not be quite as good without him, but they’re still above average and you should adjust your ranks accordingly.
D’Ernest Johnson looks like the next in line to back up Hunt now, and he looked good last week. He’s not startable this week but he is worth stashing.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Odell Beckham Jr. (Start, WR3), Jarvis Landry (Sit, Flex), Austin Hooper (Sit)
After his enormous game last week, Odell Beckham Jr. is the WR11 in PPR formats this season, but don’t let that fool you. He’s averaging around seven targets per game, and he’s been very touchdown dependant this season. Indianapolis cornerback Xavier Rhodes has been the fourth-best coverage corner in the NFL this year per PFF, and their other top corner, T.J. Carrie, has been 14th best. Rhodes is a lockdown corner and he’ll likely be squaring off with Beckham this week, and that’s a matchup I’d like to avoid. The same goes for Jarvis Landry and Carrie, especially considering Landry has had such a poor season up to this point.
If Darius Leonard is out, Austin Hooper might have a decent matchup against whoever Leonard’s replacement is, but I still wouldn’t roll the dice with Hooper. Yes, he was targeted a season-high seven times and even caught a TD, but that’s one week against one of the worst pass defenses in the league, and Indy is still simply too good. Look elsewhere for your tight end once again.
-Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)