Indianapolis Colts (2-4, 4-2 ATS) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3, 1-4), 8:20 p.m., SNF
Brolley’s Colts Stats and Trends
Indianapolis has covered the spread in four of its last five games, including in three straight games with an average cover margin of 10.2 points after their 31-3 victory over the Texans as 11.5-point home favorites.
The Colts are 5-1 toward overs in their last six road games.
Jonathan Taylor had only two carries in the first half against the Texans before erupting for 14/145/2 rushing overall on a season-best 65% snap share in a blowout victory over the Texans. Marlon Mack has stolen five carries in each of the last two weeks while Nyheim Hines has been a complete non-factor the last three weeks. He has just 10/37 rushing and 3/14 receiving, and he’s coming off season-low 23% snap share. The 49ers are allowing just 3.7 YPC and the ninth-fewest FP (77.0) to RBs this season.
Carson Wentz is playing his best football in quite some time. He’s thrown two TD passes in each of the last three weeks while averaging 9.8 YPA. San Francisco’s defense held Kyler Murray to 13.7 FPG and the Cardinals’ offense to 17 points in Week 5, which is 14 fewer points than Arizona had scored in every game.
Michael Pittman saw a season-low three targets in his first action with T.Y. Hilton on the field. He owned a team-best 25% target share with 8.6 targets per game through the first five weeks of the season. The 49ers are giving up the 16th-fewest FPG (37.3) to WRs this season.
T.Y. Hilton saw his first action of the season last week after having neck surgery at the end of August, and he made his first action of the season count by catching all four of his targets for 80 yards. He finished third in routes (16) behind Pittman (22) and Zach Pascal (19), but he did rest late with a quad injury. The 49ers are limiting WRs to 12.6 YPR through five games.
Mo Alie-Cox is making the most of his limited opportunities with three touchdowns in his last three games. His lone catch went for a 28-yard touchdown against the Texans as Jack Doyle played more snaps (31 to 24) and MAC ran just nine routes and saw three targets in the victory. The 49ers haven’t allowed a touchdown to a TE since T.J. Hockenson scored on them in the season opener.
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
San Francisco has been one of the worst teams to bet on this season with a 1-4 ATS record, which includes three straight ATS losses.
The 49ers, Jets, and Washington are the only teams with one ATS cover this season.
San Francisco is 1-5 ATS in its last six home games.
Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start this week after missing their last game in Week 5 with a calf injury. Jimmy G scored between 15.8-19.6 FP in each of his three full games but at least Trey Lance (knee) may not be peeking over his shoulder this week if he sits out. The Colts had given up multiple TD passes in each of their first three games before running into Davis Mills last week.
Deebo Samuel is the clear top option this week in a game with Jimmy G back in the saddle, and he has 16+ FP in every game after scoring a rushing TD in Week 5. He’s posted 8+ targets and 50+ receiving yards in every game, and he accounted for 31.0% of the targets and 30.2% of the passing yards for Trey Lance without George Kittle in the lineup in Week 5. Top WRs Brandin Cooks (9/89 receiving) and Marquise Brown (9/125/2) have feasted in this matchup the last two weeks.
Brandon Aiyuk has yet to reach 40+ receiving yards in a game, and he’s averaging 3.0 targets per game. We’ll see if he has a more robust role coming out of their bye and without George Kittle on the field. The Colts are giving up a league-high 1.7 receiving touchdowns per game to WRs.
Ross Dwelley played by far a season-high 91% snap share with George Kittle landing on the injured reserve with a calf injury before Week 5. It translated into 2/25 receiving on two targets, but he ran the third-most routes on the team (26). He’ll also have a more competent passer in Jimmy G this week, and the Colts have given up four TDs to TEs so far.
Elijah Mitchell jumped right back to the top of the RB depth chart in Week 5 after a two-week absence, but it didn’t result in fantasy production. He finished with 9/43 rushing and 2/19 receiving but he did play a healthy 68% snap share. JaMycal Hasty (ankle, IR) returned to practice this week and he could step into the #2 RB role behind Mitchell and ahead of Trey Sermon. Kyle Juszczyk has been used as the team’s passing back in recent weeks, but Hasty could take back his passing back role and nudge Juice back into his more traditional role. The Colts have allowed just one rushing TD and 82.3 rushing yards per game to RBs so far this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.9 (27th)
Plays per game: 65.0 (20th)
Pass: 58.9% (19th) | Run: 41.1% (14th)
Pace: 29.3 (23rd)
Plays per game: 67.0 (17th)
Pass: 56.5% (25th) | Run: 43.5% (8th)
San Francisco has won and covered in their last two games in 2019 and 2020 coming out of their bye and it’ll be interesting to see if Shanahan continues to lean on the run to make it three-straight. The Colts have been far easier to pass against (8.30 YPA; 56.4% success rate) than run on (3.91 YPC; 29.9% success rate), and for context, Indy’s success rate allowed on the ground is second-best while they’re dead last through the air. Going back to Jimmy Garoppolo with Trey Lance (knee) banged up also lends more credence to the 49ers throwing more than usual. On the Colts side, well, they are the same team every week. HC Frank Reich loves to play as slow as molasses and run quite a bit… while not using his best player in Jonathan Taylor in a massive role. Make it make sense. This is the third-slowest game in adjusted combined pace on the slate and the markets are wisely making a conservative total projection as a result.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Surrendering the third-most FPG to receivers stationed on the perimeter (21.2), Indianapolis is allowing the 12th-most FPG to wideouts overall (39.9). Catering to the most explosive of WRs, those allowances are fueled by permitting the highest WR TD rate (1.67/game) and the eighth-most red zone touches/game (1.83). The 49ers’ staff pays particular attention to shifting Deebo Samuel all across the formation. The staff wants to fool the defense into thinking the offense is running the exact same play over-and-over when, in actuality, a particular formation can mask numerous plays from that exact setup. With Samuel’s alignment numbers nearly split in three between the slot, outside left, and outside right, corners who spend film/analytical time looking for tells are out of luck.
The window of opportunity for QBs to attack the San Francisco defense may be closing. The Niners currently rank ninth with 21.2 FPG surrendered to QBs. But that number falls to 17th-most over the last four games (18.4) and even further down to 26th over the last two (13.7). With the way Carson Wentz has been playing, he may still be up to the challenge.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Indeed, Colt QB Carson Wentz has been playing some solid ball of late, but it still could be a problem for him to put up numbers this week given the state of the Colts’ weaponry. Ever so briefly, it looked like Wentz would have a deep and fast receiving corps — he completed a deep TD to Parris Campbell and another deep ball to TY Hilton last week.
Well, now Campbell (foot) is out for a while after surgery, while Hilton is uncertain to play with a quad injury picked up late against Houston. Given Hilton didn’t practice all week, I’d put him on the wrong side of questionable.
And as Wes and Brolley noted above, the 49ers’ defense has started to look like a much tougher group to face up to overall. I’ll feel better about Wentz if Hilton can go, but with the Colts playing at a snail’s pace and Wentz’s weaponry looking thin again, with the weather potentially apocalyptic here, he’s a mediocre to poor start for fantasy.
Colts WR TY Hilton says he's "in a good spot" with his sore quad right now, but won't practice today and is 50-50 to play Sunday night in San Francisco.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 21, 2021
Outside of Wentz’s favorite target Michael Pittman, the Colt pass catcher I have the most confidence playing is… TE Mo Alie-Cox. Take that for what you will.
At least Wentz’s offensive line is getting healthier — RT Braden Smith (foot) has missed most of the year, but he returned to practice this week. We’ll see if he can play this week, but they might be ramping him up for next.
Nobody rants about the Colts’ usage of Jonathan Taylor more than Graham Barfield does, so I’ll just let the master have at it:
At some point, Frank Reich has to open his eyes and see the talent that he’s not fully utilizing, right? For some inexplicable reason, Taylor got two (2!!) first-half carries against the Texans even though the game was 10-3 at the half.
Taylor leads the league in rushing yards over expectation per carry, which is personally the best proxy for Yards Created that I’ve seen at the NFL level.
Taylor also ranks third-best in yards after contact per carry – behind only Nick Chubb and James Robinson.
Despite Taylor looking like one of the best pure runners in all of football and a threat to score every time he gets the rock, this coaching staff still loaded up Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines for a combined 10 touches. Those touches by Mack and Hines gained a world-beating 34 yards. Look, keeping your running backs fresh so they can contribute all season long is smart – but only up to a point. Taylor is on the Nick Chubb/Derrick Henry talent spectrum and deserves that type of usage: 18-22 carries per game. Instead, he routinely gets treated like he’s the “1A” of a committee. It makes no sense. The good news is that Taylor continues to ball out in his capped role and make the most of every opportunity that he gets.
The 49ers will be getting QB Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) back from injury this week, and Trey Lance, who didn’t look ready for primetime in his first NFL start, will be out with a knee injury.
That’s good news for Deebo Samuel, who gets a Colt defense that has really struggled against top WRs. They’ve given up the 9th-most FPG to the position overall, and Cooper Kupp, DeVante Parker, Brandin Cooks, and Hollywood Brown have all had big games against Indy. Deebo has slate-breaking upside, and we obviously feel better about him with Jimmy G in there.
Meanwhile, Brandon Aiyuk’s only full game as a full-time player with Jimmy G at QB came in Week 3, when he had a season-best fantasy performance with 4/37/1 receiving. I know fantasy players aren’t necessarily thrilled about Aiyuk, but it’s a good matchup if you need him in Byemageddon. You can also fire up TE Ross Dwelley, who played more than 90% of the snaps in Week 5 without George Kittle (calf) in the lineup. The Colts have given up 4 TDs to the TE position.
As for Jim G himself, it’s obviously notable that LT Trent Williams didn’t practice all week with an elbow injury (he’s questionable), though the Colts also have multiple injuries on their defensive front.
After a two-game absence with a shoulder injury, RB Elijah Mitchell returned against the Cardinals and played almost exclusively as the 49ers featured back. Mitchell was on the field for 68% of the plays while Trey Sermon got just two snaps total. Mitchell might not have turned in a huge box score (9/43 rushing | 2/19 receiving), but his usage tells us that Kyle Shanahan views him as his featured back moving forward. He’s an RB2. As for Sermon… yikes. With JaMycal Hasty (high ankle) potentially back from IR this week, he’s borderline droppable.