COLTS // REDSKINS OVERVIEW
This game has been set with a fairly aggressive Over/Under considering that Alex Smith’s average intended air yards in Week 1 was 4.0 (as in…his average pass traveled only four yards downfield), which was the lowest mark of of the week. (Fun trivia: Patrick Mahomes posted the second-highest average intended air yards in Week 1, at 12.7.) On the other side of this matchup is Andrew Luck, who had the third-lowest average intended air yards in Week 1, at 5.4. Washington ranked 23rd in pace of play last season, and Frank Reich came over from an Eagles team that ranked 24th (though the Colts did hurry up the offense in Week 1, ranking fifth in pace of play and eighth in Situation Neutral pace). This game has the potential to be a dink-and-dunk fest, with each team marching slowly up and down the field, and with “quick strikes” and “big plays” being difficult to find.
COLTS PASS OFFENSE
Indianapolis managed to run an incredible 77 plays in Week 1, while Washington ran 75. Those should both prove to be outliers this season. The Patriots ran the most plays per game in the league last season at 67.2, and Washington ranked 26th last year at 61.4. The Colts may end up above-average in total plays this season, but neither team should be considered a big “volume” boost for the other.
This is worth bringing up after it took Andrew Luck 53 passes last week to top 300 yards (319 in all), and with volume in this spot likelier to stay in the “35 to 40 pass” range, it will be difficult for him to post big numbers. Last season, Washington allowed the third-lowest catch rate in the league and was a top five defense in yards allowed after catch. Add in the fact that this game is being played outdoors on grass (where T.Y. Hilton’s career splits are far less favorable), and this is a difficult spot for him. His Week 1 aDOT of 9.8 is encouraging in the context of how short the rest of Luck’s throws were, but it’s still a lower mark than we would like to see on someone with Hilton’s explosive skill set. Ryan Grant will also be involved at receiver, and will offer a decent floor with the volume he seems set to see on underneath passes; though he will need an unpredictable touchdown in order to return any real value.
Similar to the Colts’ Week 1 opponent, Washington is attackable with tight ends. In 2017, they boosted tight end production by 22.7% on DraftKings and 24.1% on FanDuel. In Week 1, Jack Doyle ran an astonishing 55 pass routes, and is locked into heavy volume at only 9.3% of the salary cap on FanDuel, 8% on DraftKings, and 7.1% on FantasyDraft.
By the way: I keep mentioning that profit is easier to find on FantasyDraft, with overlay and weaker player pools. One subscriber mentioned to me this week that he would have won only $70 on the weekend had he stuck to just his FanDuel play. Instead, he played on FantasyDraft as well, and notched $2400 in winnings. If you aren’t yet a FantasyDraft player, now is as good a time as any to hop on there. I have also broken down FantasyDraft strategy for you here.
Alongside Doyle, Eric Ebron ran 25 pass routes and was on the field for a little less than half the team’s snaps. He’s a backseat option, but the matchup is good for him as well, and he carries upside in tourneys.
COLTS RUN OFFENSE
Marlon Mack appears set to return this week, which will make this backfield extremely difficult to trust for now, outside of large-field tourneys. Although Washington was one of the easiest teams to attack on the ground last season, Mack does not profile as a 20-touch back, and it is difficult to know how the Colts plan to use him after all the time he has missed. In Week 1, Jordan Wilkins (46 snaps, 28 pass routes, 15 carries) and Nyheim Hines (37 snaps, 31 pass routes, five carries) split time fairly evenly, and while Mack should eat into their touches, each of them should maintain a role.
If Mack happens to miss another game, it is worth noting that Hines grabbed seven catches last week on nine targets.
In the likelier event of Mack playing, he and Hines each carry big-play upside, but volume will be difficult to rely on.
REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE
Last week, Washington dialed things back to the early days of the forward pass, with Vernon Davis notching the team’s deepest aDOT…at six yards, on his one target. Jordan Reed saw five targets at an average depth of 5.6 yards. Jamison Crowder saw six targets at an average depth of 5.5 yards. Speedster/deep-threat Paul Richardson saw six targets…at an average depth of 3.3 yards. Alex Smith did not throw a single pass that traveled more than 15 yards downfield.
It’s always dangerous to respond too dramatically to a one-game sample size, and there is no way we should expect this passing attack to remain quite so conservative. But Smith has a long track record of being cautious with the football, and no starting quarterback in the NFL last season ranked lower than Smith in Aggressiveness Percentage (which accounts for the percentage of throws to a receiver who has a defender within at least one yard of him). Without any elite downfield route-runners on this Washington team, we should expect Smith to remain conservative in his approach all season — and without Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill available to destroy opponents after the catch, Smith’s ceiling has a cap on it. The same goes for his pass catchers.
Jay Gruden will continue to get short passes into Richardson’s hands in the hopes he can blaze through the defense, while Crowder will continue to supply a solid floor and some touchdown equity. Neither guy is “likely” to hit for an impact DFS day, even in a positive matchup.
Jordan Reed is the best bet for impact production here, after he looked healthy in Week 1. The Colts ranked 23rd in DVOA against the tight end last season and allowed middling production. Reed played only about half of Washington’s snaps last week, but his role should continue to grow for as long as he can stay on the field.
REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE
Smith’s anti-gunslinger tendencies make him a perfect quarterback for Chris Thompson, who ran 25 pass routes last week and took five carries in a blowout win. With elite after-catch ability, Thompson was able to turn seven targets on an aDOT of 1.3 yards into a 6-63-1 line. I’m especially excited to target Thompson in a game in which Washington projects to trail; but that type of usage in a big win points to his locked-in role in this offense. His floor is low, but his upside is quietly appealing.
Washington will be telegraphing their intentions to defenses all season long, as 84.8% of Thompson’s snaps were pass plays in Week 1, and 73.8% of Adrian Peterson’s snaps were run plays. In the modern NFL — with all these multi-purpose backs who can strain a defense in a variety of ways — this is obviously sub-optimal; but this is another game that sets up well for Peterson to see quality work with Washington installed as an early six-point favorite. Joe Mixon had his way with this Colts run defense last week, and Peterson should be in line for 16 to 22 touches, depending on how game flow shakes out.
As I write this, Washington’s Vegas-implied total sits at 25.75, which would put them behind only the Steelers, Saints, 49ers, and Rams. It seems likely that this mark will trickle down before kickoff on Sunday — but if it doesn’t (or if it climbs even higher), we will have one of these spots where we can “trust Vegas in tourneys,” even if we don’t see it ourselves. (The last time we talked about “trusting Vegas in tourneys” even if we don’t see it ourselves was the Houston/Seattle game last season, in which it didn’t seem to make sense that Houston’s team total kept climbing upward on the road at Seattle. That week, OWS family member CubsFan333 stacked that game every which way and captured minuscule ownership on a Texans explosion, en route to a $1.4 million weekend.) I’ll be keeping an eye on Washington’s total to see if it creeps any higher; but barring that approach in tourneys, it’s difficult to get too excited about the pieces of this offense. Crowder is a fine floor play, and Reed provides immense talent at an affordable price tag, but neither jumps off the page. Thompson offers a low floor with his limited touches, but a nice ceiling for the price. Peterson offers a low floor with his limited pass game involvement, but a nice ceiling for the price.
On the Colts’ side, Doyle can be considered a lock-button play this week, as he is likely to once again see a heavy share of the team’s targets, and is too cheap for his role. His chances of price-considered failure are low.
T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and even Eric Ebron are all “bet on explosiveness” options, though none of them are seeing the sort of reliable, valuable opportunity they would need to be seeing in order to justify their respective price tags.
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Washington’s total is up to 27.25. Hmmmm…
I still don’t see it. But as I talked about above: this is the sort of spot where it makes sense to throw in a few Washington-centric tourney rosters, just in case Vegas is right.