With three key pieces of this Colts-Texans slate currently looking like game-time decisions, we’re going to have to lean quite heavily on the hypothetical to break everything down. So, in a way, this means that this article has latched itself upon one of Hollywood’s favorite recent tropes: Multiple timelines. There’s going to be a timeline where T.Y. Hilton ($9,600) is active, but Will Fuller V ($7,800) is still riding the pine due to injury. There’s going to be a timeline where Hilton sits out, yet Eric Ebron ($4,600) overcomes his ankle issue. Heck, there might even be a timeline where we each take down a Showdown contest this evening. Fingers crossed, anyway.
Essentially, you’re going to have to start thinking about Thursday Night Football like the fourth and fifth seasons of “Lost”, except Desmond is Joe Buck and Troy Aikman is his Penny. Simple enough, right? Perfect. Let’s get into it.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
Houston TexansComing off his worst start of the season, Deshaun Watson ($11,600) will be looking to bounce back against an Indianapolis pass defense that has really shut opponents down in recent weeks. It’s also a unit that will get starting corner Pierre Desir back from a month-long absence due to a hamstring issue. Honestly, its a situation that makes me a little wary of Watson’s price tag. It’s not like the third-year quarterback doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling – as we’ve seen him produce 27.8, 31.4 and 44.7 DKFP outputs dating back to the beginning of Week 5 – however, all three of those efforts came while facing exceedingly poor secondaries in the form of Atlanta, Kansas City and Oakland. The last truly great matchup Watson thrived in was all the back in Week 1 versus New Orleans. That alone wouldn’t be enough to recommend fading Watson, yet, in combination with him possessing the night’s highest salary, I just think there are other options I prefer. Options that aren’t taking on a defense that’s allowed a paltry 5.4 yards per opponent pass attempt in their past three games.
On top of that, you can get a relatively large amount of exposure to Watson by simply playing DeAndre Hopkins ($11,000), especially if Fuller remains sidelined. In the Texans’ past four contests – matchups in which Fuller was only able to log three offensive snaps – Hopkins has been targeted on an overwhelming 36.9% of Watson’s 130 passing attempts. In fact, Hopkins has seen double-digit targets in five straight games, a span where the standout WR has averaged 20.9 DKFP. Receivers also appear to be the way to attack the Colts through the air, as the team’s been very stout from a yards per target perspective against running backs and tight ends in 2019 but have conceded 8.6 yards per target to opposing wideouts – the ninth-highest mark in football. Additionally, this trend would give Kenny Stills’ ($6,400) viability a bit of credence if Fuller is unavailable or limited, with Stills having even collected 105 receiving yards the last time these two teams met in Week 7. For deep value, Darren Fells ($3,400) has proven himself to be a trustworthy red-zone threat, leading Houston with nine targets in that area of the field; however, his floor is cavernous in vacuum and it won’t benefit much from an Indianapolis defense that hasn’t surrendered 35 yards to a TE since Week 5.
Finally, I’d expect this evening’s proceedings to be much kinder to Carlos Hyde’s ($7,000) workload than last weekend’s blowout at the hands of the Ravens. In a script that was almost always negative, Hyde managed to get on the field for a season-low 35.0% of the Texans’ offensive snaps, which resulted in another season-low of nine carries. Still, even in a friendlier spot, the path to Hyde reaching value is a narrow one. Despite the fact he ranks 10th in the NFL in rushing yards (769), the veteran is only averaging 0.64 PPR fantasy points per touch, as he’s had almost zero impact in the passing game. It’s not like the Colts have been overly generous to RBs, either. Indianapolis is one of 10 teams holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game for the season and they’ve conceded just 3.95 adjusted line yards per carry – the eighth-lowest figure in the league. If your build revolves around the idea of a comfortable Houston victory, you could get away with utilizing Hyde; however, in most other cases, you’d likely be better served with Duke Johnson ($5,000). At the very least, Johnson’s seen his usage rise in the absence of Fuller, putting up 11.6 DKFP per contest and compiling 17 targets in that four contest span.
Indianapolis ColtsThere are certain things to which I just can’t say no. Warm chocolate chip cookies are always going to be eaten, I’m going to watch “Fast Five” if I see it’s on cable, and, most importantly, I’m going to pay for quarterbacks on a single-game slate against Houston. The Texans come into Week 12 surrendering an AFC-high 272.4 passing yards per game. That, by itself, is pretty damning. The numbers don’t get any better, though. Houston’s also given up a whopping 84.6% of its touchdowns through the air and has the 25th-ranked pass defense according to DVOA. For lack of a more educated term, the Texans’ secondary stinks. Going back to the beginning of Week 5, Houston’s allowed three different quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards against them, while the recently benched Gardner Minshew is the lone QB who’s faced the Texans in this span without tossing three or more touchdown passes. So, would it shock you to find out that Jacoby Brissett’s ($10,400) best real-life and DFS performance of 2019 came versus this very same Houston team? In a 30-23 victory, the Colts’ pivot 326 yards, four TDs and 31.6 DKFP. It probably pretty farfetched to believe Brissett can recreate that eye-popping stat line once again, yet I think he can definitely get close.
Still, a big part of Brissett’s possible success lies with the health of Hilton. Despite having only appeared in six games so far this season, Hilton leads all Indianapolis players in both overall receptions (32) and touchdown receptions (5). Heck, until Week 11’s win over Jacksonville, the Colts had lost their last seven matchups with the speedy wideout unavailable to play. There’s also no man on the planet who enjoys embarrassing the Texans as much as the 30-year-old. Hilton’s amassed 577 receiving yards and three touchdowns across his past five meetings with Houston. In fact, 374 of those yards have come specifically in his last two trips to NRG Stadium. It doesn’t seem likely that Hilton will be at full health for tonight’s matchup and he still has to test his calf out on the field prior to kickoff, but, if he’s active, I’ll definitively have a few lineups where I’m pairing Hilton with Brissett.
So, what if Hilton’s ruled out? In that scenario, I’m completely discounting any high-end options in Indianapolis’ receiving corps, as the as past three weeks have proven that the target hierarchy on this roster without Hilton isn’t clearly defined. Yes, Zach Pascal ($8,000) is deserving of being the Colts’ highest-priced WR option with his 19 targets since Week 9, but should he really be almost twice as expensive as Ebron, Jack Doyle ($4,400) and Marcus Johnson ($4,200). That seems kind of insane, especially with the latter having logged 92.4% of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps and scored a red zone touchdown last Sunday. I’d much rather invest in the Colts’ mid-tier receiving options – specifically Doyle if Ebron is ruled out – than spend up for a man who’s generated just 8.3 DKFP his last two games combined.
Finally, we get to Jonathan Williams ($5,600). The running back will likely be a popular play coming off a 116-yard performance in Marlon Mack’s absence, yet I’m not completely sold on the 25-year-old’s role or matchup. Unless two quarters of work was enough to move him up the depth chart, Jordan Wilkins ($6,600) should be the starter in tonight’s game after practicing through his ankle injury in the lead up to Thursday. Or, at the very least, Wilkins’ health will be enough to guarantee Frank Reich takes a committee approach to his backfield. It’s not even clear who would get the goal-line opportunities in such a setup, not to mention the fact that’s Houston’s conceded an AFC-low four rushing touchdowns in 2019. Sure, it also surrendered an ugly 5.8 rushing yards per carry the past three weeks, but I simply can’t tell who’s going to be getting those attempts. Instead, with the Texans’ allowing an NFL-high 85 targets to opposing backfields entering Week 12, Nyheim Hines ($6,200) might be the preferred option. Plus, his value is far more correlated with Brissett’s if the QB is someone you’ve structured your build around.
THE OUTCOMEWith Jacoby Brissett ($15,600 CP) back under center, I just have more faith in the balanced roster of the Colts than I have in Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins ($16,500 CP) dragging their teammates to victory. Though, it should be stated, the status of T.Y. Hilton ($14,400 CP) is obviously very important in this thought process. Also, with the amount of value surrounding Brissett, I’ll lock in the QB as my Captain’s Pick and figure out the rest.
Final Score: Indianapolis 24, Houston 21
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