This divisional game with an early-week total of 44.5 is going to be the ultimate chess match between Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel, making this game a treat for fans of good old-fashioned football, but making it less likely to produce week-winning fantasy scores.
Vrabel will attempt to show looks to confuse Jacoby Brissett — trying to mix in elements the Colts would not have been able to prepare for. And Reich will try to figure things out on the fly: masking the weaknesses of Brissett while putting him in the best possible position for success. The likeliest scenario calls for this game to start slowly, with scoring picking up throughout — and we should expect the Titans to try to close run lanes against the Colts’ stout line and force Brissett to beat them deep.
On the other side, Matt Eberflus and the Colts defense will likely try to force the Titans to be one-dimensional — essentially trying to make them bring Dion Lewis onto the field, and make Mariota win the game. A.J. Brown showed last week that he shouldn’t be ignored as a potential “win the week on his own” piece in a scenario like this, and Corey Davis does still exist; but given the Colts’ scheme, and given the short passing game the Titans should be comfortable with, we should point out that Delanie Walker is not point-chasey, especially as he has stepped right back into his old rhythm with Mariota. (Of course, as with last week — when it took two TDs for Delanie to produce magic — there are tight end pieces with just a better pure shot at striking for upside.) The wide receivers are less likely to hit for the Titans (the Browns D was just way too aggressive last week, and over-pursuit caught them a few times, which is unlikely to be an issue for the typically-disciplined Colts), though you could probably come up with some sort of tributary in which it made sense to chase.
All things considered, this game is one of the less-exciting tilts on the weekend — and especially with some potential shootouts in play, you don’t want to get caught being too cute with a game like this and leaving piles of obvious points on the board. But in large-field tourney builds — considering the expected style of this game — either Derrick Henry or Marlon Mack could conceivably pile up 20+ points. If we see a favorable, back-and-forth game script, there’s clear potential for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns from one of these guys, even if the game itself is lower scoring. This is not a “high-percentage, lock-and-load bet,” and the floor if you miss is low. But the chances of a big game from one of these guys is higher than ownership is likely to credit, making either fine in the types of tournaments in which floor shouldn’t be a major concern (i.e., tourneys where you have to beat tens of thousands of entries, and where you pretty much have to finish in the top few spots or it really doesn’t matter). Because the Titans are so good at keeping backs out of the end zone, and because the presence of Darius Leonard will limit opportunities for big plays from Henry, I don’t like either guy in smaller-field builds. But it should be noted that they can be played together in large-field tourneys, as a slug-it-out, 17-14 affair could lead to exactly what you need from both backs. (I’ll also note that Henry stands out more to me than Mack, as the Colts defensive line capitalizes on speed and disruption over size, and Henry should blow through a few tackles at the line in this one. If he can shed Leonard in the open field just a couple times, he could land a couple knockout punches.)
The other clear way for this game to play out is for the Colts to break off a couple long plays (short passes that turn into long gains to T.Y. Hilton or — a long-shot, but viable with Funchess now sidelined — Parris Campbell), and for Tennessee to pick up points playing catch-up. As explored last week (or, seemingly every week…) :: downfield passing is unlikely to work vs Indianapolis (only one team allowed fewer pass plays of 40+ yards last year, and only four teams allowed fewer pass plays of 20+), as their Tampa 2 design typically filters targets to RBs and TEs. So if building for this outlier, “Colts score quick points and the Titans are chasing” scenario, Lewis may be your highest-percentage bet. And while that “highest percentage” is still very low (you’d need the Colts to lead by enough that Lewis is forced onto the field, then Lewis would need to be used effectively and play well), it’s still probably higher than ownership will indicate, making Lewis an interesting shadow in an MME block — covering a very small portion of your play. (Such rosters should assume the Colts jumped out to a big lead, so Hilton/Campbell or some other high-upside Colts player should be featured on any Lewis roster as well.)
JM’s Interpretation ::
I won’t lean on anything from this game in cash (Delanie is the closest to cash game viable, but it’s simply more +EV to take a player like Waller, for example — who is a focal point in what should be a pass-heavy, point-chasing game for the Raiders vs the Chiefs — than it is to take an older, touchdown-reliant play like Delanie in a game environment such as this; basically, Delanie in cash introduces more risk than you need in that format), and it’s tough to justify anything from this game in single-entry and smaller-field tourneys where you really want to focus on floor to pair with your ceiling. There are a few scenarios that make sense to build around in MME, however (with the Dion Lewis one interesting to me, as it is unlikely to hit; but if it were to hit, it could hit big, and no one would be on it), and you could pair more optimal plays with two or three Colts // Titans rosters in an MME approach without feeling like you’re leaving expected value on the table.