Houston Texans (1-4, 3-2 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (1-4, 3-2), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans snapped two-game runs ATS and toward the under with an ATS cover and an over last week against the Patriots.
Davis Mills came out of nowhere to throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in Houston’s loss to the Patriots. Mills posted 357 yards, two touchdowns, and five INTs in his first 10 quarters at quarterback. The Texans could be without one of their few standouts this week if LT Laremy Tunsil is unable to play through a torn UCL in his thumb. The Colts have given up multiple TD passes to QBs in every game this season, with Jacoby Brissett posting 199/2 passing in this matchup in Week 4.
Brandin Cooks managed just 3/23 receiving on five targets in a game where Mills threw for 312 yards, which comes out to a 7% share of the passing yards. The week prior, Cooks owned a whopping 54% of the passing yards as he had 47 of Mills’ 87 yards. With the Patriots taking out Cooks last week, Chris Moore (5/109/1 receiving) and Chris Conley (3/84/1) came out of nowhere for huge games. Marquise Brown exploded for 9/125/2 receiving in this matchup last week.
David Johnson has led the Texans’ backfield with a combined 17.9 FP the last two weeks while seeing more than a 50% snap share in both contests. He actually saw some decent usage in their Week 5 loss to the Patriots, playing 53% of the snaps and posting 5/46 receiving on six targets and 2/5 rushing. DJ has seen 4+ targets and 3+ catches in 3-of-5 games. The Colts are allowing just 4.2/35.8/.2 receiving per game to RBs.
Brolley’s Colts Stats and Trends
The Colts, Texans, and Lions are the only teams with one or fewer wins that own winning-ATS records.
The Colts are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
Indy has played under the total in four straight AFC South games.
Jonathan Taylor exploded for 31.9 FP last week with 169/2 scrimmage against the Ravens, which gives him 20+ FP, 100+ scrimmage yards, and 1+ TDs in consecutive games. The bad news is that he’s still hanging around a 50% snap share with Marlon Mack back to getting weekly touches with 6/54 scrimmage last week. Nyheim Hines has been hurt the most the last two weeks with just four touches in each of his last two games, including his first career game without a reception in Week 5. The Texans have been solid against opposing backs despite opponents seeing plenty of positive gamescripts against them, allowing the 16th-fewest FPG (24.5) to RBs. They’re giving up 4.7 YPC and the seventh-most rushing yards per game (112.4) to RBs.
Carson Wentz had his best game with the Colts, posting 402/2 passing while averaging 11.5 YPA against the Ravens. He’s run for just 13 yards in the last three weeks since suffering injuries to both ankles. The Texans have given up 21+ FP to three QBs to open the season, but they held Mac Jones to 231/1 passing last week.
Michael Pittman has 6+ catches and 11+ FP in four straight games after a quiet season opener. He scored his first touchdown of the season on a downfield, contested-catch pass from 42 yards away. The Texans have given up just two TDs and they’re allowing the seventh-fewest FPG (30.6) to WRs this season.
Zach Pascal has seen 5+ targets in every game but he hasn’t found the end zone in his last three games after scoring three times in the first two games, and he’s yet to top 50+ receiving yards. Parris Campbell had his best game of the season with 4/56 receiving on six targets, but he still ran a distant third to Pittman (35) and Pascal (34) in routes with 24. T.Y. Hilton (neck, IR) returned to practice this week, but he could still be a week or two away from returning to action. The Texans are giving up the seventh-fewest FPG (30.6) to WRs this season.
Jack Doyle held an advantage in routes (15 to 13) over Mo Alie-Cox last week, but MAC lapped Doyle in production by catching all three of his targets for 50 yards compared to a single four-yard catch for Doyle. The Texans are giving up the most FPG (20.4) to TEs this season after Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for 8/102/1 receiving last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29 (19th)
Plays per game: 59.6 (31st)
Pass: 56.8% (23rd) | Run: 43.2% (10th)
Pace: 31.3 (29th)
Plays per game: 68.0 (15th)
Pass: 60.5% (17th) | Run: 39.5% (16th)
While this spread is massive (Colts -10), these two teams are much closer than you think. The Colts are getting so much public support only because of their perception – not because they are actually a good team. The Texans (30%) and Colts (31%) have led on a nearly identical percentage of their offensive plays and while Indy has a better offense, it’s not by a massive margin. Indianapolis is scoring 2.06 points per drive (16th) while Houston is at 1.74 (27th). The Texans have contended in all but one game (at Bills) this season and I think this game projects to be fairly close, especially if both offenses continue to play slow. Overall, these two teams combine for the second-slowest matchup on the Week 6 slate in adjusted combined pace. That also bodes well for a tighter contest because if both teams are draining the clock, it’ll lead to fewer possessions in the game.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Since we spent weeks on end discussing how the only worthwhile fantasy player in Houston is Brandin Cooks, it is exceptionally tilting to see Davis Mills throw for 312 yards and 3 TD against the Patriots last week… and Cooks have his worst game of the season with 3/23 receiving on 5 targets.
It’s certainly possible Patriot coach Bill Belichick went into the matchup last week telling his team that Cooks was the guy who couldn’t beat them, and while they succeeded in that endeavor, they almost got beat by Chris Conley and Chris Moore. From my perspective, none of these secondary options has any appeal whatsoever, especially with Mills at QB — he’s been better than I expected, but he’s also had a completely disastrous performance (against the Bills) as well.
If I’m playing a Texan, it remains Cooks. Indy held him to a modest 11/124 on 15 targets in two games last year, and that was with Deshaun Watson at QB. But the Colts have had secondary issues, and Xavier Rhodes — after dealing with injuries earlier this year — is now in the concussion protocol. The Colts have given up the 8th-most FPG to WRs this year and got torched by Hollywood Brown last week. They’re decimated in the back four.
Believe that drive ended with these DBs not on the field:— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 12, 2021
And no Rock Ya-Sin, too.
As for Mills, he’ll be down his top protector in LT Laremy Tunsil, who is expected to miss four weeks with a thumb injury and subsequent surgery. The Colts have been without rookie EDGE Kwity Paye (hamstring) in recent weeks, but if he goes he’ll face less resistance. Mills is looking to play well enough to keep the Texans’ starting job. Coach David Culley isn’t willing to give it to him yet, but longtime beat writer John “The General” McClain doesn’t buy it.
David Culley said when Tyrod Taylor is healthy he’ll start over Davis Mills. I’ll believe it when I see it.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) October 13, 2021
For the first time since being traded to the Colts, I thought Carson Wentz looked “good” in Week 5. Wentz has not been bad by any stretch, turning the ball over just 3 times in five games, and while I think he’s a quarterback who will always get sacked more than most given his play style, he’s managed to stay in control. But ultimately, I think he’s been mostly a game manager, which is not the type of QB who can carry this flawed Colts roster. But against the Ravens, he threw for 402 yards and 2 TD on 25/35 passing. The Colts lost not because of Wentz, but because he just couldn’t keep up with Lamar Jackson. It’s a good matchup for Wentz, and while I still don’t really view him as a fantasy option, the bye weeks are here, and he’s playing better than he did a few weeks ago.
One of the reasons Wentz has emerged as playing better is a clear connection with WR Michael Pittman, who scored his first TD of the season against Baltimore on a spectacular play — Wentz was drilled by a Ravens blitzer, and as a result the ball was underthrown. But Pittman went up over a defender and brought it down, then did the rest after the catch. Pittman very quietly has 6 or more receptions in four straight games with weekly finishes of WR13 > WR28 > WR37 > WR14 in this span. He’s a WR2/3 option, and the perimeter is easier to attack for Houston than the inside (slot CB Desmond King). Wentz could also be getting another weapon back soon:
T.Y. Hilton will return to practice today, per Coach Reich.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 13, 2021
Now, it’s time to get into some of coach Frank Reich’s personnel usage. Here’s Graham Barfield from Week 6 Stat-Pack on the bizarre usage of star RB Jonathan Taylor:
“Taylor got three targets on the Colts first two drives, one of which he took to the house for an untouched 76- yard TD. Then Taylor got one more target for the rest of the game. Make it make sense!
Taylor ranks fourth-best in EPA per rush (0.12) just behind Kareem Hunt (0.18), Austin Ekeler (0.15), and Tony Pollard (0.13).
35% of Taylor’s carries have generated a first down, which leads the league… but the Colts just have to get Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines involved. They have to!!”
You have to use Taylor, and this game lines up well from a projected gamescript angle, but could Reich decide to use Mack as a closer? Who knows.
One thing that also frustrates me — why doesn’t Mo Alie-Cox get more snaps? Alie-Cox scored 2 TD in Week 4 on a season-high 69% of the snaps. Then in Week 5… he plays 45% of the snaps, his second-lowest total of the year. And, of course, Alie-Cox set a season-high with 50 receiving yards despite that. Alie-Cox is a stream-worthy TE against a Texans team allowing the most FPG to TEs this year, but he also needs to be on the damn field.