Kickoff Sunday, Dec 22nd 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
20) at

Colts (

Over/Under 47.0


Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
32nd DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
9th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
20th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
17th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
24th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
25th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
14th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

A summary scouting report of new Panthers starting quarterback Will Grier :: he’s a smart quarterback with good accuracy in the short areas of the field, but he has an inability to drive the ball downfield or create when a play breaks down. Which makes him an interesting fit here, as the way to beat Indy is with short-area precision. Grier’s limitations reading NFL defenses are unlikely to be a major problem against the fairly “get what you see” Indy defense — but his limitations may be felt more heavily by D.J. Moore (now up to 70+ yards in nine of 10 games, including seven straight — just an incredible streak, and one we’ve been fortunate enough to have been on since nearly the beginning). Allen is getting benched for his turnovers, but part of the reason he’s turned the ball over so often has been his aggressiveness — which has allowed Moore to eat up production in the intermediate and deep areas of the field. We should consider Moore’s downfield role to be a guessing game this week, while he’s also less likely to be quite as effective given the structure of the matchup and the quarterback change. With that said: Moore also has nine or more targets in eight of his last nine games, and it’s impossible to fully remove him from consideration (especially as the field is likely to completely overlook this play given the uncertainty at quarterback). Bump up risk expectations on Moore (and he’s priced high enough that a score you “have to have had” is almost out of the question), but it won’t be surprising if he finds a way to produce again.

While the passing attack among wide receivers and tight ends is highly likely to continue flowing through Moore, everything else on this offense will flow through Christian McCaffrey (who has a ludicrous 9+ targets and 7+ receptions in five consecutive games). The matchup is not a boost for CMC against Darius Leonard and the Colts, but it has not proven to be a major obstacle, either, with the Colts ranking “slightly above-average” to “slightly below-average” in pretty much every category against running backs. In any case, matchup matters less for CMC than does the moderate potential for the quarterback shift to lower scoring for this offense. As always, CMC’s raw production expectations sit at the top of the slate — though his chances of wrecking this slate at his price are lowered by the neutral matchup and the uncertainty brought on by the quarterback switch.

Behind alphas CMC and Moore, Curtis Samuel has produced 31 or fewer receiving yards in five of his last six games — leaving him as a “bet on touchdowns or busted plays” option against an Indy defense that has faced the seventh fewest wide receiver targets on the whole, but that does have soft coverage underneath. At tight end, Greg Olsen appears on track to play against an Indy defense that should filter a couple extra targets his way. Olsen has potential to be moderately valuable in this spot if things go his way (though he would need quite a few things to go right in order to capture a must-have score).

On the other side of the ball, the Colts’ offense isn’t built to win games themselves, with this group instead aiming to slow down games (28th in situation neutral pace), keep the ball on the ground (27th in pass play rate), and keep games close enough for good things to hopefully happen at the end. Against a Carolina defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA against the run and has allowed the second most running back rushing yards and (by far) the most running back touchdowns (on a ridiculous 5.32 yards allowed per carry), it’s reasonable to expect the Colts to lean on the run — especially with Grier under center on the other side.

When the Colts do pass, T.Y. Hilton (nine targets last week) is by far the best bet for production — especially price-considered, as the other pass catchers on this team saw their prices rise when T.Y. was out. Hilton spent time on the sidelines last week and didn’t look fully 100% — and in this short-area offense, he has yet to top 87 yards in a game in spite of seeing nine or more looks in half of his eight games played. He’s a bit of a dart throw here (albeit a dart throw with talent, speed, and an emphasized role), keeping him on the fringe of the tourney conversation. Behind Hilton, this passing attack is just crossing your fingers — with Hilton back on the field, and with Jacoby Brissett topping 29 pass attempts only six times all year.

And of course, the reason Brissett is likeliest to finish with 29 or fewer attempts once again :: Mack — who is a pure yardage-and-touchdown back, and who has only two games this year above 21 carries…but who enters the best matchup a running back can have. When Mack misses, he can miss fairly hard (seven games already below 10 points) — and even with the bonuses and full-PPR scoring on DraftKings/FantasyDraft, he has only one game this year north of 21 points. And yet, in this matchup, on a run-heavy team, he remains in the mix.

JM’s Interpretation ::

The Colts’ Vegas-implied total of 26.5 feels at least a bit aggressive after they’ve topped 24 points only four times all year, with their team built around keeping the ball on the ground and slowing down the game. And yet, there is at least a scenario in which Grier comes out hot, and the Panthers continue producing at the same fairly valuable level (while continuing to push the pace) before allowing the Colts to rack up points as well. I might build one roster around that scenario — though that’s also likely to be the extent of my pass game exposure in this spot, as I’ll otherwise expect that the scores you could get (at risk) in this spot will be scores you could also get (with less risk) in other spots. A game stack accounts for a scenario in which that ends up not being the case, while otherwise leaving me without that unnecessary risk on other builds.

The backfields are a different story — with CMC always sitting near the top of the slate, and with Mack carrying clear risk, but carrying clear potential as well. Because Mack needs more things to go right for a big game than, say, Mixon needs, I won’t be surprised if Mack is something shy of a staple on my builds. But the upside is enticing, and he needs to at least be considered across tourney builds this week.