COLTS // JETS OVERVIEW
This game will pair a couple of bottom feeders, with the Jets sitting at 2-3 and the Colts at 1-4. Vegas has sided with the home team, installing the Jets as early 2.5 point favorites, while the Over/Under in this game has been set at a modest 45.0 points. This game quietly pairs two massively contrasting styles, as the Colts have been ultra aggressive to start the year (first in situation neutral pace of play; first in pass play rate), while the Jets have done everything they can to slow down the game and protect their rookie quarterback (32nd in situation neutral pace of play; 28th in pass play rate). Each team ranks top eight in “most opponent plays allowed per game,” and the Colts also rank third in plays per game. In all, Colts games have averaged a massive 141.2 offensive plays per game, while Jets games have averaged a much more modest 128.4 plays per game. The Jets should see a few extra plays added to their total this week, given how fast the Colts play; but Indy should also see a few extra plays, given how tough it is for the Jets to sustain drives. There should be plenty of punts in this game, as each offense has had a tough time sustaining drives (Indy ranks 21st in drive success rate, while the Jets rank 29th), but there will also be plenty of opportunities for touches to pile up on either side of the ball.
COLTS PASS OFFENSE
The Colts have played only one game with a lead this year — and in that game, against Washington, Andrew Luck threw the ball only 31 times, while Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (in his only healthy game on the year) combined for 24 carries. Indy is in line to run more like 65 to 70 plays this week, so even if they grab an early lead off a quick, successful drive and a Sam Darnold mistake, we should see around 35 to 38 pass attempts — and the likeliest scenario is that this game remains close, and that the Colts uncork over 40 passes yet again. In Luck’s other four games, he has pass attempt numbers of 53, 40, 62, and 59.
With T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle set to miss yet again, this volume will be spread across a thin band of players. Last week against the Patriots, “routes run” data and target counts among primary weapons on the Colts looked like this:
The Jets have shaved almost 13% off the league average aDOT on the year, but they have allowed an average catch rate and have been below average after the catch. In all, this has led to them being only about 5% better than the league average in expected yards allowed per target — so while this has been a solid pass defense, they are by no means a “shy away” matchup for players who should see volume.
So far this year, the way to beat the Jets’ defense has been with short crossing routes (particularly short crossing routes moving from right to left) — an approach that Kenny Golladay, Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, and Dede Westbrook have all taken advantage of (laughably, the Broncos decided last week they were too classy to use Emmanuel Sanders in this way, in spite of the fact that this is exactly what he is built to do; he still went 9-72-0 on short-area targets). This is essentially the exact way the Colts have been using Rogers since T.Y. Hilton went down. After an 8-85-0 line two weeks ago and an 8-66-0 line last week, he shapes up as a safe, high-upside bet.
The second strongest bet on Indy is Ebron, who has averaged 12 targets per game across the last three weeks, and who is being used essentially like the number one wide receiver with Hilton out of action. He runs plenty of short crossers as well, and his speed (4.60 40 time) matches up favorably with Rogers’ speed (4.56 40 time), giving him an equal opportunity at hitting. The Colts have proactively schemed the ball to Ebron in the red zone, as his 12 targets inside the 20 rank third in the NFL this year among all players. Rogers has only three targets inside the 20, and none inside the 10.
Ryan Grant offers little after the catch, but he’ll be a reliable “floor” piece if the Colts continue to lean pass-heavy. Pascal caught only one of his seven targets last week and had a couple brutal miscues, but he should soak up five to nine looks yet again with sneaky upside if he plays more like the Week 4 version of himself (6-56-1 on 10 targets). He’ll also run a few routes down the right sideline, where the Jets have had some issues, making him an intriguing large-field tourney piece.
COLTS RUN OFFENSE
The one time this year when Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins were all active together (Week 2), Mack played 18 snaps and saw 11 touches, Wilkins played 23 snaps and had 12 touches, and Hines played 25 snaps and saw five touches. It’s tough to get a clear read on usage from that game, as that’s also the only time the Colts played with a lead and were able to lean on the run. Given how ineffective Wilkins has been this year, I think we will see Mack take over most of the early-down work while Hines will continue to operate as the primary piece in the pass game. The Colts may ease Mack back in this week in a timeshare with Wilkins, in order to protect his health.
Either of Mack or Hines could hit for a long play (and any of these three could be given a scoring opportunity), but the best bet for points to pile up is Hines, who has target counts on the year of nine, one, five, 11, and nine. Hines has been solid in the pass game, and another six to eight targets is not outside his range of possibilities this week.
JETS PASS OFFENSE
Injuries continue to pile up for the Colts’ defense, as starting safety Clayton Geathers will miss this week with a neck injury, while stud rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (who leads the NFL in tackles in spite of missing all of last week) missed practice on Wednesday. Leonard has said he expects to play, which would be a big boost for the Colts — especially for their run defense.
The Colts’ upstart defense ranks fifth in adjusted sack rate through five games, while the Jets’ offensive line ranks 20th in this category. Even with the injury issues on the Colts, they have been very strong vs the pass early in the year — allowing the third-lowest aDOT in the NFL, while impressively pairing this low aDOT with the seventh lowest YAC allowed per reception (typically, low aDOT teams allow more yards after the catch). Opponents make up for this with a high catch rate, which is the key to piling up fantasy points against the Colts.
Every team that has had success so far against the Colts’ defense has done so by attacking their zone with crossing routes. Downfield passes have repeatedly failed vs Indy, while players have been able to pick up receptions while moving horizontally or diagonally from one side of the field to the other.
While Robby Anderson or Terrelle Pryor (or even Jermaine Kearse) could theoretically hit in this spot (it only takes one play, after all), the only receiver on the Jets who profiles well in this matchup is Quincy Enunwa, who has target counts on the year of 10, 11, eight, eight, and five, in spite of Sam Darnold topping 34 pass attempts only once. It is worth noting that the only wide receiver to top 100 yards against the Colts this year has been DeAndre Hopkins.
JETS RUN OFFENSE
While wide receivers have had a tough time shaking open for big gains downfield against the Colts, James White (10-77-1) and Chris Thompson (13-92-0) each had big games catching passes out of the backfield against them. Indy typically plays with only six men in the box, which filters action toward running backs — both on the ground and through the air.
With the Jets going run-heavy this year, Isaiah Crowell has touch counts of 10, 14, 18, five, and 16, while Bilal Powell has touch counts of 13, 10, 14, 12, and 20. This has been a clear and legitimate split to begin the year, with Crowell playing 129 snaps and Powell playing 162. Crowell has four carries inside the 10, while Powell has three. Powell has doubled Crow in targets (16 to eight).
If betting on one guy, Powell is the slightly preferred option, as he should see a couple more touches than his backfield mate and he matches up well in the pass game, though it won’t be surprising to see either of these guys post a solid game. (Conversely, it won’t be surprising to see either of these guys fall shy of 10 points).
From a “Cheat Code” perspective (playing both RBs together and treating them like one high-priced back), these guys have combined touch counts on the year of 23, 24, 32, 17, and 36 — which is lower guaranteed usage than Seahawks backs have, in a tougher matchup. With that said: the place to use the Cheat Code is on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where tighter pricing sometimes leads to creative roster construction solutions — and on those sites, these two have combined point totals (starting from Week 1) of 32.7 // 24.9 // 26.4 // 10.5 // 42.0.
The dud came in a blowout loss against the Jags, while the games in Week 1 (32.7) and Week 5 (42.0) came in blowout wins. The likeliest scenario here is something in the range of those second and third games, which is on the bottom end of what would make this a justifiable play. But in tourneys, we do always say that the time to play the Cheat Code is when “the two guys cost the same as a single high-priced back, and they can go for 24 to 40 points.” Technically, they fit that definition this week.
This is not a massively exciting game from a “points on the scoreboard” perspective, but if the slow-paced Jets continue to stall out in their drives, this game does become interesting from a “total plays” perspective — making it an interesting game to target on FantasyDraft and DraftKings, in particular, where PPR points can pile up.
Chester Rogers and Eric Ebron are primary guys to consider on this slate for volume-driven floor and respectable ceiling, while Pascal also stands out to me as an interesting tourney play, with legitimate “dud” floor, but also with legitimate 20-point upside. He’ll be on the field plenty and should soak up another five to nine targets.
Quincy Enunwa is interesting on the other side, though his price has crept up high enough on DraftKings that I will probably look somewhere else myself, while his touchdown and yardage ceiling are a little less sexy on FanDuel, where his PPR skills don’t play quite as nicely. Enunwa is priced a little lower on FantasyDraft than on DraftKings (10.3% of the salary cap, compared to 11.2%), so he becomes a bit more interesting on there.
Both backfields are messy timeshares, but you could try to “guess right” on the three-way split for Indy, or you could take the respectable points available on either of the Jets backs, while giving outside consideration to a Cheat Code pairing.
With such a low-scoring game environment the likeliest scenario, my eyes aren’t popping over either QB, but Luck could post a nice game.
I’ll probably look elsewhere for DST, though the Colts should pick up a few sacks and pick off one or two passes on the road.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Isaiah Crowell is expected to play on Sunday, but he is a game-time decision. If he misses, Bilal Powell will become a 20-touch back, and he will immediately vault to the top of the running back pile, as a high-floor, high-ceiling play. Again: expect Crow to play; but keep an eye on this one Sunday morning when Inactives are released about an hour and a half before kickoff.