COLTS // EAGLES OVERVIEW
This game will bring us the return of superstar Carson Wentz, in a supposed “marquee quarterback matchup.” Wentz’ counterpart Andrew Luck currently ranks dead last in the NFL in average intended air yards, at 5.2. Last season, Carson Wentz ranked third in the NFL in average intended air yards with a mark of 9.9 — behind only Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston.
This game also brings old friend Frank Reich back to the sidelines in Philly, as the head coach of the Colts after he helped design the Eagles’ offense last year. There are some fun storylines in this game, though with the Eagles installed as early 6.5 point favorites, there is a chance this game could get ugly if Wentz comes back sharp.
COLTS PASS OFFENSE
As always, we should expect passing attempts to spike against Philly after they faced the fewest rush attempts in the NFL last season and have faced the fifth-fewest to begin this year. Philly plays tight and aggressive, looking to force short passes and make it difficult to catch the ball, though they did allow an increase of 7% last season in YAC per reception, compared to the league average — an issue that has popped up a couple times already this year as well.
The way to rack up fantasy points against this Eagles defense through the air is with either A) deep passes, or B) yards after catch. The Colts’ short-strike passing attack lowers the floor on all these guys compared to what we would find with a more aggressive attack (and the floor is further lowered by the below-average catch rate allowed by this defense), so this is a spot where you will want to lean on guys who can potentially break off a long play after the catch.
If upside-hunting in this offense, T.Y. Hilton is obviously the man to look to; but here’s an incredible statistic to keep in mind:
Only four of Hilton’s 22 targets so far this year have come more than 10 yards downfield. Luck is 0-4 on those throws.
Behind Hilton, Jack Doyle was again an every-down player last week (59 out of 61 snaps), while Eric Ebron played only 16 snaps all game. Doyle ran 30 pass routes compared to 12 for Ebron. Don’t be fooled by the box score.
Either guy could have a decent game here, with Doyle the likelier to see the larger target share. A touchdown will likely be necessary for either guy to pay off, though Doyle still carries a decent floor for his price on all three sites.
COLTS RUN OFFENSE
One of the issues with the Colts’ short passing attack is that they are allowing teams to play them close to the line of scrimmage. Defenses know that the Colts want to get the ball out quickly in order to limit the strain on Luck’s arm and protect him behind a bad offensive line, and this allows a talented, aggressive defense like the Eagles to be in position for stopping the run as well. So far this season, no team in the NFL has allowed fewer yards per carry than Philly, after they ranked sixth in this category last season. Last week with Marlon Mack healthy, Indy’s running back snaps were split as follows:
25 — Nyheim Hines // 23 — Jordan Wilkins // 18 — Marlon Mack
We’re left absolutely guessing here, against one of the best run defenses in the league.
EAGLES PASS OFFENSE
Jordan Matthews is back on the Eagles, and while he is not even part of the player pools on DFS sites for this week, he will have an impact on our expectations for this game.
So far this season, Nelson Agholor has run a massive 81% of his routes out of the slot, where Carson Wentz loves to work, and where Agholor has had much higher production in his career. But with the Eagles bringing on Matthews — who plays almost exclusively out of the slot — we should see Agholor bump to the outside more often. This could change if Alshon Jefferey unexpectedly gets cleared to play this week (in which case, Matthews might remain stuck to the bench, while Agholor continues to dominate slot duties), but as of right now, it appears Alshon will be out of action for at least one more week. This will force the Eagles to get Matthews on the field, as they replace one of Kamar Aiken or Shelton Gibson on the outside. With Mike Wallace lost for the season, the Eagles will need to play the healthy bodies they have, and that will be a hit to Agholor’s stock. Matthews should now soak up six to nine targets out of the slot, while Agholor will remain involved, but will be running routes that bring more volatility to his production. His upside will remain similar to where it has been, but floor expectations will be lowered.
Unsurprisingly, Zach Ertz has maintained a monstrous role in this offense with so few weapons at receiver — seeing 23 targets through two games, and turning these looks into 16 catches for 142 yards. With Foles under center so far, Ertz has seen an aDOT of only 6.8, but he had a more respectable 7.8 mark last season, which is enough to give him floor and ceiling with Wentz under center, against a defense that does not have linebackers who can hang with him.
EAGLES RUN OFFENSE
The big story in the Eagles’ backfield right now is injuries — particularly the back injury to Jay Ajayi. This week, offensive coordinator Mike Groh has both “indicated that there is a good chance” Ajayi sits this week and stated that the promotion of practice squad running back Josh Adams was “precautionary.” Okay. Friday’s injury report should provide more clarity, but as of Wednesday, Ajayi has yet to practice this week, and we’ll move forward expecting him to miss.
If he does miss, Corey Clement will draw the start against a Colts defense that has been decent but unspectacular against the run to start the year, ranking 13th in DVOA and 19th in yards allowed per carry. Clement is built for work between the tackles — and perhaps even more importantly, he has run 31 pass routes on his 46 snaps this year, snagging five catches for 55 yards on six targets. A “really good case” scenario for us this week would be for Ajayi to miss (and for Darren Sproles to also miss), and for Clement to be the clear lead back, which would provide us with a cheap, talented running back in a good matchup. A “best case” scenario would be for Ajayi to be active, but to be quietly available “only in case of emergency.” This type of situation has played out a couple times in my DFS career, and it’s awesome for the lowered ownership we see on the guy who is cheap and set to receive all the carries. With so little going on in the Eagles’ passing attack at the moment, Clement would also profile as the number three or four option through the air.
If Ajayi does play, he’ll be difficult to trust as a guy coming off a back injury with missed practice time, in a backfield that has proven in the past it likes to be unpredictable. In that scenario, Ajayi would retain his talent-driven upside, but his floor would be low. Clement would also have an outside shot at taking most of the touches, and would be worth deep tourney consideration for that.
I do not expect to be on the Colts’ offense at all, though tight end is a dopey enough position that a cheap, high-usage guy like Doyle will always be in play. While Hilton could theoretically bust out a long gain, his chances of posting a week-winning score are too slim for me to want to use a roster spot on him this week, given the matchup and the way the Colts are playing offense.
I would have had a lot of interest in Matthews as a cheap volume guy if he had been signed early enough to sneak into the player pools, but with Matthews signed and unavailable, it’s difficult to get too excited about this spot. Agholor retains his upside, but his floor is lowered. Ertz carries plenty of upside, but I try to pay down at tight end when I can. If paying up, Ertz will be on my radar.
Wentz is an intriguing tourney play, as a guy with legitimate 30-point upside — though this is not the best spot for him to hit, with depleted weaponry, and “rust concerns” pull him far away from cash game consideration for me.
The biggest spot in this game for me is the Philly backfield. If Ajayi and Sproles miss, Clement will be mega-chalk; but he’ll also be a “free square,” in my opinion — the kind of guy you simply lock in and don’t even think about, moving forward from there. (Or…is he? Now that Ajayi is officially out, I’m beginning to rethink my position here. See the update below. Going to keep digging into this Friday and Saturday and see if I can find anything more, and I will update the updates on Saturday evening with my final take in this spot.)
FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack are both out this week for the Colts, against a Philly team that faced fewer rush attempts last year than any team in football. As noted a few times already: part of the reason Philly faced so few rush attempts last season was because of game script, but the bigger part was simply that teams tend to check out of run plays against this stout Philly front. With Jordan Wilkins and the weak Indy line at a severe disadvantage against Philly’s ferocious front, expect the Colts to lean pass-heavy in this spot. This vaults Eric Ebron toward the top of the “Value” pile, while it also further secures volume for T.Y. Hilton. (At his price: concerns do still remain for Hilton due to his low aDOT in this offense — as noted above. But the floor is nice, and Hilton’s explosiveness gives him enough upside to matter.) This also brings Nyheim Hines into tourney consideration, as the Colts figure to find themselves leaning on their rookie space back as the game moves along.
FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are officially out. Cue the chalk on Clement.
It is interesting to note that Clement never touched the ball more than 13 times in a game last season, and he has yet to top 66 all-purpose yards in his career. Wendell Smallwood, meanwhile, had a 13-touch game and a 14-touch game last season, and he twice went for 79 or more yards.
This is a great spot for Clement, and — to a lesser extent — for Smallwood (who could surprise with a bigger role than expected). But it’s not a “guarantee.” To put that another way: I expect a strong game, but it honestly should not surprise us if…well, if the Eagles surprise us. That being the case, there is definitely a strategic case to be made for fading Clement in tourneys, where he will almost certainly be monstrously owned. It won’t be shocking if he goes something like 15 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown, with a couple receptions thrown in; but it also won’t be shocking if he goes something like 12 carries for 55 yards, no touchdowns, and only a couple receptions thrown in. We don’t want to overthink this spot…but we should still put some thought into it.
I’ll update this update on Saturday evening with my final take on this situation — though I encourage you to also dig around yourself and see what you can find, in case you feel like there is a way here for you to gain an edge on the field.
Saturday Evening Update:
This is what I posted on the Player Grid, in regards to this spot:
At this point, I do not expect to play Corey Clement. Maybe this will prove to be crazy. But the more I have thought about this one, the more it seems that we could see the Eagles split this workload somewhere-close-to-down-the-middle. Wentz does not check down in the pass game, and a split workload would leave each guy fairly touchdown-dependent. If Clement sees 12 to 14 carries and Smallwood sees eight to 10, the latter could be a great tourney pivot off the former, and the savings could make a big difference in other spots on your roster.