Somehow we’re already in Week 10 and I’m already dreading the end of NFL season. But, here we are, and the week starts with the Colts visiting the Titans for a 48.5 total game with Tennessee favored by two points.
We’ll start with the Indianapolis running game. The Colts want to be a run-heavy team, ranked 22nd in situation-neutral pass rate and only throwing 44% of the time when they have a lead of at least a touchdown, but they are one of the most game script sensitive teams in the NFL passing at the fourth-highest rate when down by seven points or more. The matchup here is neutral; Tennessee’s defense is a bit better against the run than the pass, but they’re average to below average at both. The Colts have also become a very split backfield, with Jonathan Taylor, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines all playing meaningful snaps in the last two games. Taylor’s role has decreased significantly after the Colts’ bye week, going from 59% of the snaps in Week 6 to 34% in Week 8 and 31% in Week 9; while Wilkins’ role has grown from 6% to 51% and 34% in the same three games. Taylor has handled 13 and 8 touches in the two most recent games, while Wilkins has handled 21 and 13; yet Taylor is priced like a real lead back at $8,800 while Wilkins is $5,400. All of the data tells us that Wilkins is now the leader in this timeshare, but the pricing says, Taylor. Unless you believe another role change is coming (note that Taylor also lost a fumble last week) or just want to bet on touchdown variance at what will likely be low ownership, Wilkins is the superior play. Of course, all of the stats at the start of this paragraph tell us that as a road underdog two-down back in a timeshare, Wilkins is pretty fragile as well; these guys belong in builds that hypothesize a close game or a Colts win (i.e. a 5-1 Titans onslaught with Wilkins or Taylor is very, very unlikely to hit). Hines is what he always is; a capable change of pace back who should see about three to five targets and a couple of carries. He’s had two big games this year, both driven by two touchdowns. His floor at $6,200 is quite low, leaving him in tourney-only consideration for me.
The Colts’ passing game should get T.Y. Hilton back this week, but Jack Doyle is doubtful and Mo Alie-Cox is questionable. Hilton’s return should result in a three-wide arrangement of Hilton, Michael Pittman, and Zach Pascal, with Pascal (oddly) being the most reliable receiver on the team this year. Hilton himself has looked pretty washed this year but he’s also had multiple long catches and touchdowns that were either called back or were dropped, meaning he’s just been one break away from posting some big games. If you’re willing to stomach the “might be washed” risk he makes a high-ceiling tournament play…assuming the ceiling is still there. Pascal should play the most snaps, as he has in almost every game this year, giving him the highest floor. Pittman comes in a bit cheaper than Pascal and played 87% of the snaps last week, while Marcus Johnson has some ceiling to his game and will still see the field as a rotational receiver (despite missing a touchdown last week by missing which side the ball was coming from). These guys are all shaky because they’re all dependent on Philip Rivers throwing them the ball, and when you look at their scoring history, only twice this year has any Colts’ wide receiver posted over 15 DK points (Pascal and Johnson, both in Week 6). Pascal and Pittman feel like the safest for their price to me; Hilton and Johnson are tournament plays. Mo Alie-Cox’s health is critical to this slate because not only has he been a strong producer in weeks without all three Colts’ tight ends healthy, but if he misses the game, that leaves athletic Trey Burton as the only starting tight end still standing. The Titans have been hit hard by tight ends (and receivers in general), and we know Rivers has always loved throwing to his tight ends; I think it’s highly likely that one of Alie-Cox and Burton put up a strong game, and if Alie-Cox misses, Burton is significantly underpriced at $5,600 (and would be one of the most popular plays on the slate). The MME punts here are DeMichael Harris, who was used as both a receiver and a couple of gadget-style carries last week, and perhaps Noah Togiai, who should be active if Alie-Cox misses. Togiai would be interesting to me just because of Rivers’ propensity for throwing to his tight ends as I expect he will come in at very low ownership (most people have no idea who this guy is).
On the Titans’ side, the backfield, as always, is Derrick Henry’s. Henry brings no appreciable pass game role, which means his floor is incredibly low (see his 6.8 Draftkings point performance against Chicago on Sunday). But, as always, he also brings a massive ceiling. It’s also worth noting here that Henry has not been quite the bell cow we’ve seen in previous years, or earlier this year. He’s played 53% of the snaps the past two weeks, with 18 and 21 carries. That’s fine, but not elite. Jeremy McNichols (35%, 29%, six touches total in the past two games) and D’onta Foreman (10%, 15%, and 10 touches total) are working in as well. Henry’s still the guy here and he should still be projected for 18-22 carries, but those 30-carry games are looking like more of an outlier as the Titans may be trying to conserve him for the stretch. The matchup here is not great against a Colts defense that ranks second in DVOA against the run, but the Titans’ creative, play-action driven offense can find ways to score. The problem for Henry is that unless he breaks off one of his 80-yard stiff arm runs, he’s not exceptionally likely to hit 100+ yards in this one; with no passing game role, that means you absolutely need a touchdown for him to pay off his salary and two to really smash it. As a home favorite running back with a good workload, he’s certainly in consideration, but I’m probably going to be underweight the field here; McNichols and Foreman are MME punt plays.
The Titans’ passing game is primarily about A.J. Brown, fourth-year breakout Corey Davis, and Jonnu Smith. The matchup isn’t easy against a defense ranked 2nd against the pass by DVOA, but while DVOA attempts to adjust for the strength of the opponent, it’s worth noting that the Colts have, on the whole, played some really bad passing offenses this year (per Lex Miraglia’s Matchups, all opponents ranked 18th or worse in passing). Tennessee ranks fourth and their play-action game plays off the run game so well that I expect they will be able to move the ball here. Corey Davis looking like a competent NFL receiver is also huge for this offense, as it means opponents can’t just key in on Brown. Brown is priced like an elite receiver but has also been playing like one; the only risk here is that he’s been getting there on long catches and touchdowns (TDs in five of six games this year, except of course Week 1 when I went all-in on him in Showdown). He has yet to see 10+ targets this year, so you’re banking on efficiency. Davis, playing shorter areas of the field, has seen 10 targets twice so far; his route tree also gives him what I think is a comparable floor on a point-per-dollar basis to Brown, which feels really odd to say. Jonnu is “touchdown or bust,” as his highest Draftkings score in a game without a touchdown is 11.1. Beyond the core keys, Adam Humphries is in the concussion protocol and appears more likely than not to miss the game. If he plays, he’ll resume his ~50% of snaps slot receiver role, which at $4,600 is a fine price for his normal workload. When Humphries missed time the last two weeks, we didn’t see him replaced one for one by another receiver. Kalif Raymond played a similar snap count to what he usually does and Cameron Batson got on the field a bit, but the Titans just ran more two tight end sets. Humphries being out benefits the tight ends more than it does any other wide receiver options. Raymond is always in play in tournaments for some big-play upside as a punt option who actually has some ceiling, while Batson brings no real ceiling to the table unless he happens upon a lucky touchdown. The final interesting piece that I saved for last in the Titans’ pass game is Anthony Firkser. With MyCole Pruitt out, Jonnu and Firkser are playing more (and of course if Humphries is out that helps him even more). Firkser saw six targets last week against Chicago with Humphries out and I’d project him for four to six this week with no Humphries, which at $2,200 is a great value.
The way this game plays out is going to depend largely on the Titans’ offense and the Colts’ defense. The Colts will be happy to play slow and run a lot if they have a lead or the game is within a score. So, it’ll be up to the Titans to put up points. If they do, the script will flip dramatically, as we’ve seen the Colts open up the playbook and pass at an extremely high rate in those situations. As road underdogs, the “normal” game script build should be underweight the Indy run game. But, there are some other ways the game could play out:
The Colts’ offense is…really bad. They could just fail to show up here in a road game on a short week. Titans 5-1 onslaughts are highly viable.
Or, if the Colts can get going early and take a lead, they will sit on it. In this scenario, I’d want exposure to the Indy run game and the Titans’ passing attack.
My cash game player pool right now includes the QBs, Davis, Pascal, Pittman, the kickers, and Firkser. Henry and AJ Brown are in fringe consideration for me as well.
My favorite captains in tournaments are Brown, Davis, Henry, Burton (if Alie-Cox is out), and Firkser.
SOME GROUPS TO CONSIDER:
At most 1 kicker and at most 1 defense as (almost) always
Pair captain pass catchers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing - discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
If using an RB captain, apply a negative correlation to the opposing defense and kicker (you can see how to do so in my FantasyLabs tutorial video)
Pair captain QBs with at least 2 pass catchers
At most 2 of Hilton, Pittman, Pascal, and Johnson (it’s hard to see the Colts supporting more than two wide receivers since they’ve only really had two put up good scores in one game this year - if you want to get aggressive here you could even set a limit of 1)
At most 1 of Taylor and Wilkins unless building for a “Colts smash” scenario (and, at most 2 of Taylor/Wilkins/Hines under any scenario)
At most 1 of McNichols and Foreman
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