GIANTS // COLTS OVERVIEW
After getting trucked on the road last week by the 8-6 Titans of the AFC South, the Giants will travel to Indy to take on the 8-6 Colts of the AFC South — a game the Colts have to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive ahead of their Week 17 showdown in Tennessee. With the Ravens playing the Chargers on Saturday, there is potential for Titans/Colts wins in Week 16 to set up a win-and-in game in Week 17 — but first, these squads have to take care of business this week. The Colts have unsurprisingly been installed as nine point favorites in this spot, in a game with an Over/Under of 47.0.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
There is no team in football forcing a shallower average depth of target than the Colts, and only three teams have given up fewer pass plays of 20+ yards — though the Colts do allow the second highest catch rate in the league, which should allow the Giants to pile up short completions with volume-based production potentially floating a few worthwhile fantasy scores. The best bet for this passing attack is for Odell Beckham to return this week (which currently appears unlikely) — but there is a chance that the Giants fall behind by enough points in this spot for Eli Manning to have to pile up volume through the air. Yardage upside is thin outside of broken plays, but perhaps the Giants push across a couple touchdowns to create a bit of ceiling.
With Beckham missing two practices to begin the week, we’ll approach this game assuming that he will be out this week (NOTE: Beckham is now officially out for Week 16) — which will leave Sterling Shepard miscast once again as the number one receiver. Working in Shepard’s favor is a locked-in role that has led to 15 targets across his last two games. Working against him is an Indy defense that has faced the fewest wide receiver targets in the NFL, while facing the second most running back targets and the second most tight end targets. With Shepard failing to top even 40 yards in seven consecutive games, he remains nothing more than a speculative play even if Beckham misses.
Standing out quite a bit more than Shepard is Evan Engram, who has seen target counts of five and 12 with Beckham sidelined, and who projects for a volume spike this week in a matchup that filters targets to his position. While Engram has been an up-and-down player this year, he carries the highest on-paper floor at the always-iffy tight end position this week if Beckham misses, as the matchup and the narrowed target distribution on this team should lock him into volume. Engram has the athletic ability to make the most of this volume if things click into place.
If Beckham returns, he will step into a difficult matchup against an Indy defense that is designed to push targets away from wideouts, but the Giants tend to force the issue with him regardless of matchup, which will keep him in the high-ceiling discussion.
Regardless of whether or not Beckham plays, the rest of the Giants’ pass catchers are simply dart throws in this floundering offense.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
The Colts have quietly been one of the more difficult run matchups in football, ranking sixth in yards allowed per carry and eighth in adjusted line yards while allowing the fifth fewest rushing touchdowns in the league to enemy backs. On the flip side of that: the Colts have allowed the second most running back receptions in the league, as this team’s Tampa 2 coverage scheme has largely erased wide receivers this year while leaving running backs open underneath. With this team tackling well, they have not been interested in adjusting coverage to take away this hole — instead opting to take down backs once they get the ball in their hands. This approach will be put to the test this week against the incredible ball-in-his-hands skills of Saquon Barkley. While the matchup is not great for Barkley, he has already won difficult matchups this year against the Jaguars, Cowboys, Texans, Saints, and Bears — keeping him very much in the conversation this week. This matchup will actually set up better for Saquon if Beckham is able to play, as this will keep the Colts from collapsing down too heavily on the ground game, but his usage and talent keep him in the high-floor/high-ceiling conversation regardless of the Giants’ personnel.
COLTS PASS OFFENSE
The Giants have been tougher against the pass this year than most probably realize, with the fourth fewest touchdown passes allowed and the fifth most interceptions. They rank top 10 in fewest catches and yards allowed to wide receivers, and they rank top five in fewest touchdowns allowed to the position — creating a below-average spot for Andrew Luck and his pass-catchers to try to beat. While this matchup is helped by the game being played in Indy, it should also be noted that Luck has failed to top even 30 pass attempts in four of his last five home games (while topping 40 pass attempts in four of his last five road games), with this team willing to lean run-heavy in certain matchups and situations. If the volume is there, Luck certainly has the skill and weaponry to win in this spot (he also has three or more touchdown passes in three of these lower-volume games), but we should be aware of the potential volume risk in assessing this play.
The primary pieces on the Colts right now are T.Y. Hilton (27.4% target share over the last four weeks), Eric Ebron (21.7% target share over the last four weeks), and Nyheim Hines (14% target share over the last four weeks), with this team spreading the ball far and wide behind these guys.
Hilton continues to deal with an ankle injury, but he should be fine for his normal role after encouragingly seeing eight targets last week on only 27 Luck pass attempts, going 5-85-0 in the process. The elements likeliest to hamper Hilton this week are volume and the Giants’ ability to keep the ball out of the end zone on passing plays. If the volume is there, the matchup should not be a major concern for Hilton’s speed on the turf, giving him a clear shot at upside.
Ebron will do battle with a middling Giants tight end defense after his maddening Week 15 dud. Part of his dud was due to the Colts throwing so little, but Ebron committed two drops on his three targets — and recent usage patterns in this offense led to a higher target expectation even with Luck throwing only 27 times. Ebron’s usage and touchdown upside remain elite, though his floor needs to be considered somewhat low as well. On that note: it is worth pointing out that last week’s dud was Ebron’s second worst game of the season (and it was his worst game with Doyle sidelined). A game that bad should be considered an outlier, rather than the norm.
Hines is tough to take seriously with a limited role on the ground and minimal scoring upside, though the Giants have been generous enough to enemy backs (more on this below) that he can be considered in tourneys as a salary saver with a non-awful floor and a more-than-theoretical ceiling.
The other pieces in the Colts’ attack are “hope to guess right” dart throws.
COLTS RUN OFFENSE
The Giants have not been a standout-attackable matchup on the ground this year, but they do rank middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry, and they have allowed the eighth most running back rushing yards per game on the season. Between rushing and receiving touchdowns, only five teams have allowed more scores to enemy backfields than the Giants — with only three teams facing a higher opponent rush play rate on the year.
This lines up nicely for Marlon Mack and the Colts rushing attack on a team that has been willing to lean run-heavy at times. On the season, Mack has only 13 catches, and he has only three games of 100+ rushing yards, but all three of those came in the spots in which he topped 16 rush attempts, which he will have a decent shot to do this week. He’s a yardage-and-touchdown back on an offense that also boasts a great passing attack, so the chances of a dud remain; but he has also shown an ability to pop for big games when the touches are there.
With uncertain volume distribution between pass/run on the Colts’ offense this week, all of these guys feel more tourney-worthy than high-floor/high-ceiling, but we should expect at least one or two of Luck, Hilton, Ebron, and Mack to matter this week — putting all of these guys very much in play. The likeliest scenario in this spot calls for the Colts to throw only 28 to 33 times, with Mack taking on 20+ carries, but there is obvious room for game flow (or even game plan) to lead things in a different direction. The price-considered floor on all these guys is still pretty solid if you pick the wrong pieces, keeping all of them firmly in play in tourneys of all shapes and sizes this week.
On the Giants’ side, I like Barkley and Engram this week against a fast-paced Indy team that typically puts up points (especially at home) and forces opponents to chase. The matchup through the air sets up great for both of these guys with Indy filtering targets to their positions, and each guy has enough ball-in-hands upside to potentially pop for a big day. Engram’s value will take a hit if Beckham returns — though he will still remain in the conversation, given the way Indy tilts their defense. Barkley’s value will see a small bump if Beckham plays, but he’s in the floor/ceiling discussion regardless.
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