Kickoff: Sunday, October 31st at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Betting Odds: TEN -1.5, 51 total via Oddsshark
Ryan Tannehill (Start, low-end QB1)
Just five weeks ago these teams met in Nashville to establish a pecking order in the AFC South and the Titans prevailed by a final score of 25-16. Ryan Tannehill was his usual efficient self, tossing three TDs in the contest but only accumulating 197 passing yards in the process and throwing two INTs. He did chip in 56 rushing yards to keep him at the bottom of the QB1 tier in that week. Since that game, however, the Titans have turned more and more to the running game as Tannehill has just four passing TDs in the past four weeks and has averaged around 230 passing yards per game. The Colts struggled against Baltimore’s passing attack in Week 5 but have been very good otherwise and might give Tannehill fits. I expect a close game which should give Tannehill enough opportunities to once again sneak into the QB1 tier for fantasy managers this week.
Derrick Henry (Start, RB1), Jeremy McNichols (Sit). Darrynton Evans (Sit)
Right now, it’s Derrick Henry’s world and we’re all just living in it. Henry is leading the league in carries (191), rushing yards (869), and rushing TDs (10) and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Tennessee is comfortable giving Henry 25+ carries per game and letting him wear down defenses and salt away the clock late in victories. Henry failed to reach 100 rushing yards for just the second time this season last week and saw Tannehill steal a short TD from him, although Henry did garner the first passing TD of his career. I don’t expect another lopsided Tennessee victory this week which should mean another RB1 day for Henry. In the first meeting between these two teams, Henry had 144 total yards but was held without a TD. I expect him to find the end zone this week and regain his perch as the #1 RB in football. Start him.
Both Jeremy McNichols and Darrynton Evans are bit players in this offense with Henry playing as well as he has through seven games and they’re worth more to the Titans than to fantasy managers right now. Neither has any appeal other than as emergency handcuffs for Henry and neither should be started in any fantasy leagues this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
A.J. Brown (Start, WR2), Julio Jones (Sit), Josh Reynolds (Sit), Anthony Firkser/Geoff Swaim/MyCole Pruitt (Sit)
Through seven games, it’s clear who the #1 WR in Tennessee is, and it’s not as close as some might have thought entering the season. A.J. Brown has dominated almost every receiving category for the Titans as he leads the team in targets (43), receptions (25), receiving yards (354), and receiving TDs (2). Brown is trending up after his last two games in which he has posted 15 receptions for 224 yards and one TD and should continue to see the majority of Tannehill’s targets going forward. The only thing keeping Brown from reaching the WR1 level of production is the overall volume of Tennessee’s passing game. The offense runs through Henry and that caps Brown’s ceiling. Brown is a safe WR2 with WR1 upside for fantasy managers this week.
There was some concern heading into the season surrounding Julio Jones and the diminished volume moving from a pass-happy Atlanta offense to a run-focused one in Tennessee and it appears as if those concerns were valid. Jones has struggled to post fantasy-relevant numbers this season and only returned startable value in Week 2 when he turned in a 6-128 performance against Seattle. Jones has been limited with various leg ailments, but he’s just not seeing the targets needed to warrant serious fantasy consideration every week. Jones still has the talent to turn in a WR2 performance but it’s not happening often enough to drop him in as one. Jones is a recommended sit in Week 8.
Behind Brown and Jones, the Tennessee WR pecking order is quite undefined. Josh Reynolds is probably the #3 now with Chester Rogers struggling before getting injured in the Monday-night win over Buffalo, but there simply isn’t enough volume for anybody behind Brown and Jones to make a dent on fantasy rosters. Fantasy managers should look elsewhere for help at the WR position this week.
Almost as uncertain as the WRs behind Brown and Jones is the distribution of snaps and targets for Tennessee TEs. Trying to decipher who will be the flavor of the week between Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, and MyCole Pruitt is a tall task and I don’t suspect many people would choose correctly in any given week. Pruitt and Swaim are getting more snaps but the targets are few and far between for the group. Over the past three weeks, the three have combined for 14 targets and only a TD would give any of them fantasy value. Unless you know who is going to be targeted near the end zone, I’d avoid any Titan TE unless one begins to separate from the pack regularly.
Carson Wentz (Sit, high-end QB2)
Outside of his Week 5 performance against Baltimore, Carson Wentz has done his best Ryan Tannehill impersonation this season. Wentz, like Tannehill, is operating out of what is quickly becoming a run-first offense but has been good for two passing TDs in each of the past four weeks despite middling yardage totals. Wentz has failed to eclipse 250 passing yards in five of Indiapolis’s seven games this season but has also protected the ball well tossing just one INT. Wentz still can get yards on the ground when needed (23+ rushing yards in three games) but prefers to let his RBs take care of the rushing work. In what is expected to be a close game, Wentz might do enough to rank as a low-end QB1 this week, but I think he’s better suited as a high-end QB2. Fantasy managers who are forced to start him might not love it, but there are worse options out there this week. It should be noted that the only game in which Wentz was held without a TD pass was in the first matchup with the Titans, so that might break ties against him.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, RB1), Nyheim Hines (Sit, low-end Flex), Marlon Mack (Sit)
If Wentz is Tannehill’s comp at the QB position this season, Jonathan Taylor is closing in being the comp for Derrick Henry. Taylor trails only Henry in rushing yards this season with 579 and is starting to find the end zone as he has scored six times over the team’s last four games. Taylor has distanced himself from Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack as the clear lead back and has seen an uptick in his involvement in the passing game. With questions at the WR position for Indianapolis, Taylor figures to continue to be the focal point of the offense and should be a fine option as an RB1 for fantasy managers this week. The Titans have been stingy against opposing RBs this season but have given up five rushing TDs on the season, one to the Colts in Week 3. Given Taylor’s increased usage the past few weeks, he looks like a solid RB1 even in a tough matchup.
Hines has seen the biggest hit to his production with the increased workload for Taylor and has slipped almost off the fantasy radar as a result. Hines wasn’t targeted because of his ability as a rusher (115 yards on 34 carries this season), but because he was the primary pass-catching RB for the team. Hines had double-digit touches in two of Indianapolis’s first three games but has been held to nine touches or less since. Hines did score his lone TD of the season against the Titans in Week 3 but has barely hit 20 yards in any of the last four games. Hines might be an option in leagues with small benches as an emergency Flex, but I can’t recommend Hines as anything higher given his reduced role recently.
Questions were surrounding how effective Mack would be in his return from an Achilles injury suffered last season but it’s been hard to gauge just how effective he is given his limited role in this offense. Mack has just 30 touches on the season and has been relegated to third on the depth chart because of the skills Taylor and Hines bring to the team. Mack would have much more value with a different organization, and with the trade deadline looming, could be an option but unless that happens Mack doesn’t carry enough value for fantasy managers to consider as a starting option.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Pittman (Start, WR2), Zach Pascal (Sit), Ashton Dulin (Sit), T.Y. Hilton (Sit), Mo Alie-Cox (Sit)
The Titans have questions beyond their top two WRs but the Colts have been struggling to field a consistent group all season. About the only certainty as of this writing is Michael Pittman is the team’s #1 WR. Pittman is one of only two receivers to start all seven games this season and has been, by far, the best for fantasy purposes. On average, Pittman sees seven targets and has five receptions for 70 yards per game. Pittman has just two TDs on the season, but they’ve come in the last three games so he’s seeing higher-value targets. Pittman had an average game in the first meeting (6-68) but his increase in production over the past three weeks is encouraging. Look for WR2-level production from Pittman in Week 8.
It’s been frustrating for fantasy managers this season who have held T.Y. Hilton as the veteran has seen action in just one game this season. Hilton indicated he was 50/50 to play last week before being declared inactive so there is a chance he could suit up this week. If he plays or is limited, Zach Pascal will likely be the biggest benefactor as he’s started in Hilton’s stead so far this season. If Hilton does play, it would be hard to trust him to be 100% effective despite a solid outing in his only action this season. Pascal leads the WRs in TD receptions with three, but those all came in the first two weeks. Pascal has yet to eclipse 50 receiving yards in a game this season and is too TD-dependent to trust in starting lineups. Hilton has a bit more appeal for fantasy managers if we can be certain he’s playing, but neither seems like an ideal option this week. I’d sit both.
Ashton Dulin saw the most targets he’s seen all season last week as injuries have ravaged the Indianapolis WR room, but was unable to make a dent in the stat sheet with two catches for zero yards. That is better than his game against the Titans in Week 3, however, as he totaled -7 yards in that one! Dulin is a bit player at best and may be less than that if Hilton plays. Avoid him in fantasy leagues this week.
At TE, Jack Doyle is seeing the snaps but Mo Alie-Cox is seeing the targets and targets are what we care about for fantasy purposes. Doyle has seen just one target in each of the last four games while Alie-Cox has not seen fewer than two in any game this season. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, Alie-Cox’s fantasy value almost solely comes from TDs as he has yet to have more than 50 receiving yards in any game this season. Tennessee has allowed two TDs to TEs this season, but both were thrown to unexpected players and both were from the one-yard line. Alie-Cox will probably get you two or three receptions for 20-30 yards, but unless he finds the end zone there are enough options ahead of him to relegate him to the bench in most leagues.