Even by the Thursday night game standards, this matchup between the Colts and Texans could be a tough one to watch. With Andrew Luck still hurting, Matt Hasselbeck is expected to start once again and gets to go up against a Texans defense which has not played up to expectations so far . While Luck was supposed to return for this game, based on the nature of his injury the Colts are playing it smart. While it isn’t considered a shoulder dislocation, the subluxation doesn’t seem as minor as we’ve been told. Chances are Luck will next play ten days from now when the Colts take on the Patriots.
While the Colts aren’t going to run the same exact offense for Hasselbeck as they would Luck, the matchups are pretty favorable in this one. Frank Gore hasn’t gotten off to a great start with the Colts, but the Texans run defense last week was dismantled by the Falcons. Between the rushing attempts and the passing game, Gore could see around 20 total touches. Despite an expected drop-off in vertical throws their direction, the Colts receivers have to be very excited heading into this one.
A Texans killer since coming into the league, T.Y. Hilton hasn’t had that one huge game yet but this could be the one. Volume will certainly be there as there were 13 balls thrown his way last week and all he needs is one big play. Donte Moncrief also figures to see eight to ten targets as he has been very impressive in the early going of this year. He has the size and speed, but was used more as a possession wideout this past week. This game also has the chance to be a notable one for Coby Fleener.
Hasselbeck looked his way early and often against the Jaguars, but if Dwayne Allen returns the usage is too unpredictable to use either in fantasy. Unfortunately, Andre Johnson just hasn’t had the impact many expected in the Colts offense to this point. He just hasn’t been able to separate like we’ve been used to. With the “revenge game” narrative, Johnson still may see a handful of passes thrown his way.
Regardless of who the quarterback has been, the Texans just haven’t been able to get anything going offensively. Ryan Mallett will get another start in this one, but not a whole lot he’s shown has been too positive up to this point. There are too many times where he has either lacked anticipation of oncoming defenders, forced passes and failed to display touch on his throws. Fortunately for the Texans, Arian Foster has returned from his recent groin surgery. Game flow limited his touches last week, but Foster will be fully involved both on the ground and through the air in this one. If you have him in fantasy, start him with confidence. Alfred Blue should also see work, but with Foster back it will obviously be drastically limited.
In the passing game, it begins and ends with DeAndre Hopkins for the Texans in this one. Hopkins has been a target monster up until this point and even had 22 (!!) balls thrown his direction this past Sunday. Based on the Texans current receiver depth chart, odds are it will happen again even if Vontae Davis does play and shadows him. With Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington out, the Texans are without their number two and three receivers. Shorts could be out for an extended period of time having dislocated his shoulder deep into garbage time last Sunday. Oddly enough, getting hurt inflating numbers in garbage time is probably the perfect way to sum up Shorts’ career so far.
With their absence, Keith Mumphery is likely to step into the starting lineup. If this one somehow got out of hand early, Mumphery could put up a sneaky performance as he could see anywhere from five or six targets to double digits. This also figures to be the first game Jaelen Strong sees extensive playing time. He figures to see a couple of targets and wouldn’t be worth fantasy consideration.
While there are some guys capable of making some big plays in this one, I’m expecting this to be more of a grind it out game. The Texans are going to rely heavily on Foster and the Colts figure to play more conservatively assuming nothing changes and Hasselbeck is at the helm. Despite that, I still think the Colts have enough going for them on both sides of the ball to pull off the road win. My prediction is Colts 20 Texans (+1.5) 17.