Frank Reich gets yet another matchup this week in which he should be able to tactically dominate the coach on the other side of the game (as expected last week: he put on a clinic against an in-over-his-head Dan Quinn — allowing the Colts to pull out a win that on-paper should not have favored them at all.) But before we get to the Colts’ offense, we first have an interesting matchup for the Colts defense — as this is a defense that looks to filter everything to the short areas of the field, and the Raiders are a team that will gladly oblige in this regard, as they have largely refused to get aggressive this year (regardless of score) outside of a few, isolated plays.
It is no secret to us by now that the Colts filter opposing passing attacks through to the running backs and tight ends — and the start of this season has been no exception; through three weeks, only the Cardinals have allowed more passing touchdowns to RBs/TEs combined than the Colts have allowed (hilariously, all of the Cardinals’ have come to tight ends only), while only four teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns to wide receivers on the young season. This week, Indy will look to get Tyrell Williams moving laterally in order to make it difficult for him to bust any big plays — an approach that is less suited to his skill set, and that therefore makes him a fairly speculative play.
While this matchup shaves aways some floor and ceiling from Tyrell, however, it gives a slight boost to Darren Waller. While scoring expectations are not particularly high in this spot (and it’s not a given that the Colts are able to make Oakland as one-dimensional as the Vikings were able to — making it unlikely that we see a repeat of last week’s absurd 14 targets), Waller is still a focal point of this offense, with 29 targets through three weeks, and with an average of 89 receiving yards per game. In a matchup that should filter targets his direction, Waller is a solid floor play — and the ceiling remains intact.
While players like Hunter Renfrow (15 targets on the season, but only 71 yards) and J.J. Nelson (five targets last week — going for 36 yards and a touchdown) will see some involvement in this offense, the main flow of work on this team goes Josh Jacobs // Waller // Tyrell.
Jacobs was down to 10 and 12 touches the last two weeks, but those came in blowouts against the Chiefs and Vikings. The Colts could certainly get there — but with their conservative approach, they shouldn’t pull away too quickly in this game (barring major Oakland mistakes). The Colts are solid against the run, and Jacobs remains largely touchdown-dependent on a bad team (only three targets and one reception so far — regardless of whatever “get Jacobs the ball through the air” lip service that Gruden has provided), but Jacobs has a solid shot at 18 to 20 touches in this spot; and especially if Darius Leonard misses, he could be in line for his first 100-yard game on the year (5.1 yards per carry on the young season), with a touchdown enough to make him a useful piece from there.
If T.Y. Hilton Plays ::
In this new offense, T.Y. Hilton has become a short-area receiver — with an average of under 10 yards per reception on the year, and with a maximum of 87 yards in a game (in spite of a pair of eight-reception games). Touchdowns have been floating Hilton’s value thus far — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for him to break a long play. Right now, it is best to think of Hilton as a “Cooper Kupp or Julian Edelman, with elite speed after the catch,” in an offensive system that emphasizes getting the ball into his hands, and that schemes plays for him in the red zone. This gives Hilton an interesting, unconventional mix of floor and ceiling — making him feel more speculative than he really is, as his role within Reich’s designs is secure enough, and his price is reasonable enough, for him to be considered a floor/ceiling piece this week. There are better plays on the slate than Hilton, but he’s not a bad play to chase in tourneys of any size.
If T.Y. Hilton Misses ::
If Hilton misses, Reich will have plenty of fun designing plays to unexpected players — using misdirection and building off Oakland’s tendencies in order to get the most through the air. There is little reason to be overly concerned about the Paul Guenther defense in this spot, as Reich can so easily outmaneuver the Raiders, and a shorter-area attack is just more difficult to keep off the board; but the best way to secure points from Indy in the absence of Hilton (and perhaps even level with Hilton regardless) is Marlon Mack.
Before Dalvin Cook marked the Raiders as his territory last week, we noted that this run defense has looked better than in the past. But the Colts have a beastly offensive line, and they should control this game enough for Mack to have one of his 20-carry efforts. Encouragingly, Mack has picked up a couple of dump-offs each of the last two games — and while we cannot bank on more than a couple FanDuel points or three DraftKings points through the air, these bonus points are a nice boost to a player who has a solid shot at 100 yards, and who has high touchdown equity in this offense. Mack (like Henry for Tennessee) is more speculative than I typically like to chase at running back as a fairly one-dimensional producer; but the position is ugly enough on the Main Slate that he carries enough weight to enter the conversation this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
There is nothing in this game that shapes up as a “must have,” but Waller looks acceptable in all formats, while Mack and (if he plays) Hilton can make a lower-end case for high-end placement. (More than likely, Mack will end up in Tier 3 this week, while Hilton — with his paths to a monster game not all that clear, but with a role that has provided solid floor — will likely find his way into Tier 2.) Everything else in this game is completely “guessing and hoping for the best,” but if Hilton misses you could take a shot on Parris Campbell. The Colts will spread things around to the tight ends and to multiple wide receivers (and you could theoretically try to guess and hope to capture a big game on any of them), but Campbell is the closest comp for Hilton in what he can do for this offense, and he has the speed to potentially become a difference-maker if given an opportunity this week.