Indianapolis Colts (6-6, 7-5 ATS) at Houston Texans (2-9, 5-6), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Colts Stats and Trends
The Colts wiped out the Texans 31-3 as 11.5-point home favorites in a game totaled at 45.5 points in mid-October. Davis Mills played QB for the Texans in that contest.
Indy has covered and won outright in eight of the last 10 meetings between these teams since 2017.
The Colts have covered in four straight road games with each of those games going over the total.
Jonathan Taylor has posted 19+ FP in nine straight games thanks to 15 TDs in that span, but he fell below 100 scrimmage yards for the first time in his nine-game run against a stout Buccaneer’s front seven last week. JT ripped the Texans for 14/145/2 rushing with a 13-yard catch for 28.8 FP back in Week 6.
Carson Wentz posted 300+ yards and 3+ TDs for the first time in his Colts’ career last week, but he also had his first three-turnover game of the season with two INTs and a lost fumble. Wentz is averaging just 6.1 YPA over his last six games after averaging 8.0 YPA in his first six games this season. He threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 attempts (YPA) in Indy’s lopsided victory over Houston in mid-October.
Michael Pittman has fallen below 10 FP in consecutive games, but he did see 10 targets last week after seeing six or fewer targets in five of his last six games in Weeks 6-11. Pittman came up small with just 2/35 receiving on three targets in this matchup earlier this season.
T.Y. Hilton has yet to see more than five targets in a game this season, but he’s coming off his best fantasy performance with 4/28/1 receiving on five targets (11% share) against the Buccaneers in Week 12. The Colts do get a matchup with the Texans this week, who he’s historically crushed throughout his career. In his first action of the 2021 season, he posted 4/80 receiving against the Texans in Week 6.
Mo Alie-Cox was the Colts’ TE to stream during the month of October, but Jack Doyle has emerged as the top TE target for Wentz in recent weeks. Doyle is coming off a season-best 6/81/1 receiving on seven targets (16% share) against the Buccaneers in Week 12, which gives him 3+ catches, 30+ yards, and 5+ targets in three straight games. Doyle failed to catch his only target in this matchup back in Week 6 but MAC did score on a 28-yard pass.
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
These teams have played under the total in four straight games in this series and in 8-of-10 games since 2017.
Houston is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as a home underdog.
The Texans are 5-1 ATS in their last six games.
Tyrod Taylor has been serviceable for fantasy over the last two weeks with 19.1 FP against the Titans and 16.3 FP against the Jets, but he’s averaging just 5.4 YPA over the last three games since returning to the lineup. He’s kept himself afloat with 11/81/2 rushing in that span. The Colts have limited the likes of Tom Brady, Josh Allen, and Trevor Lawrence each to fewer than 230 passing yards.
Brandin Cooks has seen just eight combined targets over the last two games with just 5/63 receiving, but he luckily came down with a 40-yard touchdown last week to save some face. The Colts shut down Mike Evans last week, allowing just 3/16 receiving on five targets, and Buccaneers’ WRs scored a Week 12 low 12.2 FP.
The Texans have been using just Rex Burkhead and David Johnson in their backfield coming out of their Week 10 bye. In the friendliest RB matchup in the league, Burkhead led the backfield with 12/27 rushing and 3/27 receiving on a 61% snap share against the Jets, while Johnson managed 10/39 rushing and 2/16 receiving on a 39% snap share. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones combined for 168 scrimmage yards and five TDs in this matchup last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.2 (25th)
Plays per game: 62.4 (18th)
Pass: 55.6% (27th) | Run: 44.4% (6th)
Pace: 29.1 (23rd)
Plays per game: 60.1 (26th)
Pass: 63.8% (7th) | Run: 36.2% (26th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Once again, the Colts got a little too cute with their play-calling last week and cost themselves a winnable game. We’ve seen this before. Frank Reich went away from the run game after building a 14-0 first quarter lead back in Week 8 in a loss to the Titans as Carson Wentz dropped back to pass 52 times and turned the ball over twice. Well, last week was a near carbon copy of that approach as the Colts held a 24-14 halftime lead over the Buccaneers and ended up losing as Wentz threw it 44 times and committed three second-half turnovers.
The fact of the matter is that Reich called 21 passes to just 9 runs in the second-half against the Bucs. The Colts 21 second-half passes gained an average of 5.5 yards. The 9 runs gained 6.7 yards. Look, it’s easy to play the hindsight game and I am by no means smart enough or experienced enough to call plays – but objective criticism is still fair. I think anyone can look at those numbers and know the Colts should have ran the ball more against Tampa and in the Tennessee game. Maybe it still would have resulted in two losses, but you have to live and die with a talent like Jonathan Taylor when you have two score leads. If the Colts would have won those two games against the Titans and Buccaneers, they’d be alone atop the AFC South.
As for this game, the Colts absolutely posterized the Texans back in their first meeting – but Houston was starting Davis Mills then and the Texans defense has improved a bit since then. Still, this is the second-worst game overall from a pace / plays perspective as the Colts have slowed down their pace offensively as of late while the Texans have struggled to maintain offense. Since Tyrod Taylor returned in Week 9, Houston’s offense is gaining just 17.6 yards per drive – which is dead last by a mile (the Lions are second-worst at 21.8 yards gained per drive in this span).
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Colts HC Frank Reich and OC Marcus Brady decided on a pass-heavy approach during the first three quarters against Tampa Bay’s dominant run defense last week. At the end of the third quarter, Jonathan Taylor ($9.2K/$10.5K) had accounted for all of an 8/25/0 rushing line. On Indy’s second drive of the fourth quarter, JT was handed the ball eight out of ten plays, resulting in an 8/58/1 line. The Texans are endorsing 135.6 rushing YPG (second-most), 4.5 YPC (seventh-most), and 1.55 TDs/game (also second-most). Safe to say that Taylor will be returning elite value this week.
I’ve watched all of the film from Tyrod Taylor’s ($5.3K/$7.0K) three games since returning from IR. He made a grand total of one splash throw spanning 93 passing attempts. He looked off single-high safety Jason Pinnock in order to connect with Brandin Cooks for a 40-yard skinny post TD inside the coverage of Bryce Hall last week. Without that hookup, Cooks leaves a mouth-watering matchup against the Jets with a 2/5/0 line. Yikes! Josh Allen and Tom Brady averaged 13.7 FPs during the last two weeks against the Indianapolis defense. Other than Stefon Diggs’ 18.3 FPs, no WR has gone for at least six receiving FPs since Elijah Moore’s 7/84/2 line from Week 8. The volume that’s been tossed toward Cooks could always rule the day, but this is a spot where fading the entirety of the Texans’ offense stands as the risk-averse approach.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Colts lost to the Bucs last week, though they were competitive. In fact, “competitive” is underselling it — they had a 10-point halftime lead but were outscored 20-7 in the second half. QB Carson Wentz had three second-half turnovers, and it led some Colt fans to criticize the playcalling of HC Frank Reich. I think Reich’s comments on the matter were pretty poignant:
Not often you get a coach that goes this in depth—unprompted—to explain the run/pass ratio vs. Bucs. A lot of insight here.— Taylor Tannebaum (@TaylorTannebaum) November 29, 2021
“Didn’t have many regrets on the way this game was called, I’m not gonna lie.”
If 1 regret, Frank Reich says he wishes he would’ve thrown sooner. #Colts pic.twitter.com/15YhUaYZry
Of course, Colt fans are going to be upset given RB Jonathan Taylor is an Offensive Player of the Year candidate and the best fantasy asset in the game right now, but the Bucs are a tough run defense. On the other hand, Wentz has five turnovers in his last five games. All five of them came in the Colts’ two losses over that span, and he has 95 pass attempts in those two games, vs. 84 pass attempts in their three wins. Wentz is playing much cleaner football this year than he did last year in Philadelphia, but it’s abundantly clear that when he has fewer pass attempts, he’s less likely to make mistakes. (That is also, of course, simple math.)
I don’t think Colt fans need to worry about Wentz throwing the ball too much in this one. When these two teams met a few weeks back, Wentz had 20 pass attempts, while Taylor ran for 143 and 2 scores. Wentz did average over 11.0 YPC, and threw 2 TD, but he completed just 11 passes. It’s entirely possible he isn’t needed to produce much at all in this one.
Indy has been a three-man fantasy team — Taylor and Michael Pittman almost certainly in lineups, with Wentz a viable streamer if needed. One guy who has stepped up of late is TE Jack Doyle, who has five targets in three straight games and a TD in three of his last five, but again, the Colts might not need to throw it much to win this game.
Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on Pittman:
“Pittman has started to cool off considerably as of late with three-straight sub-par finishes (WR31 > WR73 > WR39), but finds himself in an ideal get right spot. The Texans are giving up a league-high 19.6 FPG to wide receivers that line up on the boundary, which is where Pittman runs 80% of his routes. Pittman not going into the slot often has hurt him at times this season, but it absolutely works in his favor here against these over matched Texans’ corners. My only concern is volume – the Colts might only need to throw it 25-30 times if Jonathan Taylor goes off – but Pittman only needs 6-7 targets to do his damage. He is a WR2 with a WR1 ceiling here.”
Of course, TY Hilton does crush the Texans, if you want to play on Narrative Street.
Anyway, how about those Texans?
David Culley said new RB Royce Freeman didn't receive any carries because the Texans liked what Rex Burkhead and David Johnson were doing against the Jets.— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) November 29, 2021
Burkhead and Johnson totaled 66 yards on 22 carries.
If you’re playing one of these RBs, bless your heart. You could convince me that Tyrod Taylor is a viable streamer, but this is Brandin Cooks or bust for me. It’s Week 13 — it’s time to focus on teams who can actually help us advance to the fantasy playoffs.
Also… the Texans seem to have a non-COVID illness going around the facility. Fun!