Thursday Night Showdown – Titans Colts – Real Deal Fantasy HQ

Tonight has the makings of a fun Thursday Night Football game! On the one hand you have the incredibly efficient Ryan Tannehill and Derek Henry while on the other side you have the rather inefficient Colt’s running game and Phillip Rivers. Should be a fun one. So let’s see if we can win some green!

The Colts are favored by a small margin of 1.5 Points tonight which could tell us two ways Vegas Oddsmakers are viewing it. Either a). this will be a shootout that could go either way or b). this could be a slow moving low scoring affair that whoever has the ball last wins. Either way, there will be a winning lineup that cashes, so why not that be yours?

My Captain/MVP Picks

Hey here are few fun facts about the Colts Defense you may not be aware of. First the Colts are actually ranking 2nd in the league against the run and they are currently ranking 5th against the pass. In fact they are allowing the third least amount of points in the league at 20. Super Fun! So while it is always possible for Derrick Henry to be the top play tonight, the math is leading me in a different path for Captain/MVP on the Titans side. The same for Ryan Tannehill, who has been fantastic this season but in this matchup I’m not sure if I like any QB as Captain. Instead, I am looking at WR1 and in this case AJ Brown. A couple reasons I am going here. First, let me be clear it isn’t impossible for Henry to hit 100 yards and a score, nor is it impossible for Tannehill to hit 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. But especially on DK which is full PPR, I like to lean on Tannehill targeting AJ Brown all game and he clearing 100 yards and/or multiple Touchdowns in the top spot. Brown is seeing no fewer than 7 targets per game and twice now he has seen 9. Additionally from Week 5 on he hasn’t played in a game where he didn’t have at least 1 touchdown. For what it’s worth, Henry and Tannehill are projecting to be the highest owned Captain/MVP picks tonight by a mile, so you are getting some leverage if you look at AJ Brown in that spot instead.

If you are looking for even more contrarian, you can take a shot on Corey Davis or Jonuu Smith. A few reasons why these guys could make sense. First, Davis who has had a little renaissance this season with two 100+ yard games and 3 Touchdowns so far. However there is risk here. Coming into Week 9, Davis had back to back 10 target games but in Week 9 his target share dropped to 3 and he caught none of those 3 balls. However if the Colts sell out to stop Brown across the field, Davis could be the primary beneficiary so he makes some sense if you are multi-entering. Moving onto Smith you do have a tough matchup here as the Colts rank first in the league against Tight Ends. You also need to consider that Smith’s role and target share has dropped dramatically from averaging 6 targets per game across weeks 1 – 4 to averaging 2 targets per game over the last 5. This has largely come from 3 factors. First Adam Humphries back for a few games this season (Humphries is out tonight). Second, Corey Davis’ reemergence on the offense. 3rd, the perennial TE2, Anthony Firsker whose role and target share has increased since Week 5. If you are playing Smith as Captain/MVP I think you are playing him in the hopes of a Touchdown or Two (which we have seen from Smith in 4 games this year). So as risky as Davis is in the top spot, Smith carries even greater risk – but no risk, no reward – right?

On the Colts side of the ball it gets a bit more murky regarding Captain/MVP. I think most people will gravitate to Phillip Rivers but I just can’t pull that trigger. In the 8 games Rivers has played he has only scored 19 fantasy points or higher 3x and twice this season he has scored under 10. Doing the math that leaves three games where Rivers averaged 11.5 Fantasy Points. That is just too much volatility for me to consider him in that top spot. I also think you will see a lot of people looking at Jonathan Taylor at Captain/MVP but at least for me, I won’t be. With Marlon Mack going down, Taylor was primed to dominate but it just hasn’t happened. The last time this season Taylor has broken 100 yards and scored over 15 Fantasy Points was in Week 2. In fact Week 2 was also one of only two weeks where he saw over 13 touches. The Colts have interspersed Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines into the rushing game and it has really limited Taylor’s ceiling. While Taylor is also seeing a few targets a game, quite frankly, he just hasn’t looked all that good – including the fumble last week. So where am I going here. If I am playing a Colts Captain my picks are the aforementioned Hines and Trey Burton. Starting with Hines, due to his fairly defined role as a pass catcher, I could see Rivers check downing to him a lot tonight to help mitigate the Titan’s pass rush and Hines also carries touchdown upside in that vein. With Burton you have a player with River’s trust and while his target volume hasn’t been spectacular, the Colts have also been using him as a part of the run game when they get in close. In fact he has more rushing touchdowns (2) than he does through the air (1) on the season. I like the opportunity for Burton tonight. Both Hines and Burton are salary savers as well in the Captains spot on DK.

If you really want to go contrarian tonight, I am giving you permission to take a shot on TY Hilton. I don’t need to tell you any more about how bad Hilton has looked this season – it’s been bad. However perhaps getting a week to rest with an injury provides a spark. Also, little known fact – the Colts are 1 – 10 in games where Hilton has not played since he entered the league. So believe me, the Colts know he is there and I think will try and get him going tonight. Hilton also carries a cheap price tag and will be ignored by average players. These are two things I look for in contrarian plays.

Let’s Flex, Flex, Let’s Flex it Up

As a quick recap on the above, in regards to Flex spots. I think Henry and Tannehill are definitely in play as is AJ Brown. But I will limit my exposure to Henry in lineups that I have more than Brown and Tannehill in. Meaning if I am going a three or four man on Titans pass catchers I am not going to also try and jam Henry into the stack. It just doesn’t correlate well as if you have a lineup like that you are saying basically, the Titans will have to pass to win – which by nature means Henry won’t be effective. I also think Corey Davis should be in a stack with Tannehill on lineups but in that stack I will have little exposure to also including Brown. We have only seen once this season that both Brown and Davis have scored 20 or higher fantasy points in the same game. So again if you are stacking Davis with Tannehill, you are basically assuming that Brown won’t perform as well. I hope that makes sense. I’m actually more inclined to use Henry in Davis-Tannehill stacks than I am Brown. While I like Jonuu Smith at Captain, I’m not as crazy about him in the Flex Spot. I don’t mind collecting 1.5x points on him if he has floor type game, but I think the budget in the flex spots are better used elsewhere.

Recapping on the Colts above, I think in general I am going to have limited exposure to Jonathan Taylor. Look, anything can happen and could this be the JT Blow Up Spot we have been waiting for – sure. I just can’t trust him enough to set it and forget it. I will have some shots, but he is pricey and I much prefer using Hines in a flex spot or even taking some shots on Jordan Wilkins – who seems to be the preferred option on the goal line. I do think if you are rostering Hines or Burton or Hilton as Captain though, you will want to include Rivers in that stack. I also don’t mind using Rivers and a Pass Catcher as a run back on 4 man Titans stacks that also includes Tannehill. I also will be limiting my TY Hilton exposure to Captain as well, similar to Jonuu Smith. The reality is this – if Hilton goes off he goes off, but if he ends modestly I’d rather get the 1.5 point total than I would have it in a Flex spot. But hey, that’s just me.

So who else am I looking at in the Flex. On the Titans it’s 3 names. Tight End Anthony Firsker, Kicker Stephen Gostowski and Titans Defense. Firsker isn’t seeing the volume of Brown or for the most part Davis, but he definitely has a role here – especially with Adam Humphries off the field and if people are looking at playing a Titans Tight End, most people will plug Smith in. Firsker has become a bit of a check down security blanket for Tannehill and he does have at least one touchdown on the year. Gostowski certainly has had his struggles this season and his field goal opportunities have been limited over the last 4 weeks but I could see the Colts stalling the Titans often enough in the Red Zone that they trot Gostowski out to get points on the board. Lastly, while the Titan’s Defense is not an ‘elite’ option – they do have a knack for turnovers and you are talking about Philip Rivers on the other side of the ball. I like using Firsker and Gostowski in 3 or 4 man stacks with Tannehill and pass catchers – but I wouldn’t put them both in the same lineup. And while traditionally I would say stack Henry and the Titans D together, I don’t see the Titans pithing a full shutout tonight where using them there would have a ton of positive correlation. I will be using the Titans D the same way I am using Firsker and Gostowski – in stacks with Tannehill. I’m not saying load up on the Defense tonight, but if you are multi-entering I would have a few shares.

For Colts flex plays that I haven’t already mentioned – outside of Zach Pascal – they are all CHEAP! You gotta like that! I think Pascal will be the most popular stacking option with Rivers tonight. It’s not that I don’t like Pascal here, I do – but he is pricey and the risk that he finishes another game 5 for 40-50 and no Touchdowns is high (he has done that 4 times this season already) and if you end up there, no way he pays off the high salary. I much prefer looking at the highly touted rookie Michael Pittman who saw 7 targets last week. Or Marcus Johnson who also saw 7 Targets. Now both of these likely occurred because TY Hilton was off the field, but I could see Rivers trying to build on the report with these two. Or if you really want to go contrarian, take some shots on DeMichael Harris who the Colts have reportedly been working on special designed plays for and is saw work in the run game last week too. Those three guys are cheap and could be targeted tonight and outside of Pittman who is seeing a little bit of ownership, Johnson and Harris are seeing very little attention. Catch someone sleeping on them in a contest and if one of them breaks off for a big score or solid day you could be in the driver’s seat.

One of my favorite Colts Flex plays tonight is Rodrigo Blankenship – the Kicker – who was having a stellar season up until his week 7 injury and much like what I said about Gostowski – I could also see the Colts not being able to finish drives and Blankeship being trotted out a few times. He hasn’t been tested long yet, but if you consider his first 6 games he was locked in from 45 yards and under. While I like the Titans Defense for the turnover upside, I am not as enamored with the Colts Defense. Yes they have been solid this season but they aren’t turnover monsters and without a steady bead on the Colts backfield, I’m not sure who I’m stacking them with. I’ll have a few shares but I’m not going to go out of my way to roster them if for similar scoring potential I can save a lot of cash and roster a dart throw like DeMichael Harris for instance.

I think the wild card tonight though is Mo Alley-Cox. As seen in limited fashion this season, the Giant Cox is a matchup nightmare for defenses and with Jack Doyle out tonight, it’s almost a lock that Cox will see some snaps. If he can nab two or three targets for 20 or more and a score – he could be THE contrarian pick you needed to have to cash. I think taking some shots with he and Rivers and another pass catcher isn’t a bad idea at all.

Conclusions

I don’t like the onslaught type stacks (5-1, 4-2) tonight as much because I don’t think the probability is very high that one team is going to full on dominated the other. Could it happen – sure, but I see this as more of a back and forth slug fest. Due to that I actually like the 3 – 3 split roster on DK, even a 2 – 4 (winning team – losing team) stack. On FanDuel, I am much more inclined to go that route as well. Here is an example lineup using both of these methods:

3 – 3

AJ Brown – Captain

Ryan Tannehill – Flex

Anthony Firsker – Flex

Philip Rivers – Flex

Zach Pascal – Flex

Rodrigo Blankenship – Flex

Salary: $49,600

2 – 4 (Titans Win)

AJ Brown – Captain

Ryan Tannehill – Flex

Zach Pascal – Flex

Nyheim Hines – Flex

Trey Burton – Flex

Michael Pittman – Flex

Salary: $49,400

Good Luck in your Contests!

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