Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Is it already Week 12? Yeesh. Week 12 begins with the Colts visiting the Texans for a decent matchup: 45.5 total with the Texans just over field goal favorites. The Colts are somewhat surprisingly playoff contenders despite losing Andrew Luck, and they’re only a couple of field goals away from an even stronger record. Their defense has successfully shut down the Chiefs and has outschemed the Texans in the past as well, showing that even a talented offense can be outthought by a fantastic coach.
We’ll start with the Colts. Marlon Mack is out, but I’m not sure we get a cheap punt out of it. As Dustin the Intern called out, after Mack left in Week 1, Jonathan Williams played 29 snaps while Nyheim Hines played 24, but Jordan Wilkins is off the injury report and in all likelihood this will be a three-way timeshare with Wilkins and Williams sharing two-down work and Hines mixing in on passing downs. At $6,600 and $5,600, respectively, Wilkins and Williams are spendy for timeshare roles as road underdog two-down backs against a fairly tough run defense. As I always say, backs with goal line roles are valuable in showdown, because it just takes a penalty to set up a short touchdown, but it’s tough to get excited about these guys here. Hines is in play if you’re building for game scripts that have the Texans winning by a lot and the Colts playing from well behind for most of the game, but even there you’re paying $6,200 for a back who has maxed out at seven targets this year (and fairly short, low value targets at that).
The Colts’ pass game is expected to get T.Y. Hilton back this week, just in time for a date with one of the weaker pass defenses in the NFL. Hilton has crushed the Texans over the course of his career, though that doesn’t really mean much other than “small sample, good receivers can hit in good matchups.” Hilton is a strong play here as he should resume his role as the center of the Colts’ aerial attack. Zach Pascal looks awfully overpriced as the other perimeter receiver with Hilton back, while Chester Rogers should resume his low-volume slot receiver role in an offense that runs a lot of two tight end sets instead of heavily utilizing its slot wideout. Marcus Johnson caught four of four targets last week on the perimeter and is just $4,200, but is likely to go back to a reserve role with Hilton back. Johnson may have earned himself a part-time role, but that’s purely speculative. You can consider him as an MME dart. Finally, Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron (assuming Ebron plays here despite being questionable) should soak up much of the short field and red zone work. The Colts’ aerial offense is hard to rely on outside of Hilton, as it has been all year, but both tight ends bring reasonable touchdown upside at cheap prices.
On the other side, the Texans’ run offense goes up against a Colts run D that is 23rd in DVOA. As a home favorite who has seen 19 or more carries in five games this year, Carlos Hyde should see reliable volume here unless the Colts surprisingly get out to a lead; but he’s a near-zero in the pass game and will need to hit the 100 yard bonus or score a touchdown in order to be useful. After a couple of wonderful games in Weeks 8 and 9, Duke Johnson’s usage faded away again last week, showing that despite giving up a valuable pick for him the Texans don’t seem to have any better of an idea how to use him than the Browns did. Johnson will get a handful of touches and he has the talent to explode in any matchup, but he’s going to have to do it on minimal volume.
In the air, the Colts have contained perimeter wideouts all year, and their defensive scheme is well-suited to limit deep shots by forcing everything into the short areas of the field. This actually benefits DeAndre Hopkins as Houston has been somewhat inexplicably using him in a shorter area role this year, but while Hopkins has a tremendous floor, you’re basically paying last year’s elite WR1 price for a guy who’s being used more like Keenan Allen. Will Fuller is apparently a game-time decision for this one. If he plays, he’s even riskier than normal (and he is, of course, always a high-risk play) given the Colts’ scheme. If Fuller sits, Kenny Stills should fill in for him, but the Texans haven’t been using Stills in the same kind of deep routes that Fuller runs (or at least not solely on those types of routes). Stills would be a higher floor, lower ceiling version of Fuller in this instance. Fuller sitting would also bring Keke Coutee into play. After being benched for a couple of games, Keke showed back up last week following some positive coachspeak and caught three of three targets. Last year, against this same defense, Coutee blew up in the postseason for 110 yards; his skillset is very well suited to take on the Colts scheme and he has plenty of upside here. He does come with more risk this time around, though, as the Texans weren’t really using their tight ends in the passing game last year and they’ve done so more regularly this year, with Darren Fells in the lead receiving role and seeing three to six short-area targets per game, but Jordan Akins not far behind him volume-wise. Fells has the much stronger red zone role and has scored six touchdowns on the year compared to two for Akins, so while yardage expectations are similar, Fells possesses the overall higher ceiling. His price has also come down from the last time we saw a Texans showdown, and the discount by going to Akins is no longer as material.
The most likely way for this game to play out is a closely fought match with the Texans able to lean on the run, as they like to do when they’re ahead. Carlos Hyde is a strong play in this scenario if you believe he gets in the end zone, but while the Texans do like to lean on the run, Hyde has only scored four rushing touchdowns all year, as Houston tends to score in the air (much like Seattle). Hopkins and Fells are the biggest red zone targets here. The Colts have tended to play conservatively, but will likely have to open it up a bit more in this one, and with Hilton back, they’re well equipped to take advantage of the favorable matchup. Overall the aerial games for both offenses are the preferred targets. Note that there are a lot of viable options priced down near the kickers, which lowers the attractiveness of kickers compared to skill players.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- As we always say, touchdowns are unpredictable. The passing games are attractive plays here, but it’s certainly possible that all of the scores could come on the ground.
- Especially on short weeks, road teams can flounder on offense, and the Colts’ offense has not exactly been lighting the world on fire most weeks. While the matchup is favorable it’s not inconceivable that the Colts come out flat here.
My favorite overall captain is DeAndre Hopkins, with Hilton a fairly close second. I normally don’t love QB captains, but Watson’s rushing ability puts him more firmly in the conversation. Finally, since his huge playoff game won me a lot of money last year, I’ll definitely have some Keke Coutee captain lineups in the hopes that the Texans approach this game similarly.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (consider 1 for Watson if you think he runs one in)
- There are a few group options to consider around the Colts’ backfield. I’m not sure which one I’ve settled on yet, so I’ll throw them all out there:
- At most 2 of Brissett, Williams, Wilkins
- At most 2 of Williams, Wilkins, Hines
- At most 1 of Williams and Wilkins
- At most 1 of Coutee and Carter
- At most 2 of the Colts receivers not named Hilton