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AFC South Showdown on Thursday Night Football

Connor Allen

Last week's Thursday Night Football ended with a massive fight between the Browns and Steelers. There’ll always be bad blood between the division rivals but this was even worse. Myles Garrett took Mason Rudolph’s helmet off his head and proceeded to swing it at him, making contact with his head. Steelers players proceeded to jump in and turned the fight into a brawl. Multiple players are facing suspensions while Garrett was suspended indefinitely. On Wednesday, Garrett attended an appeal hearing where he and his representatives stated their side of the argument in front of appeals officer James Thrash. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that Garret’s argument is “precedent-based.” The instance they referred to is when Antonio Smith was only suspended for two preseason games and one regular-season game for swinging a helmet at Richie Incognito in 2013. Garret's side argued that because Smith’s suspension was so short, Garrett should receive a similar suspension. Their argument might hold up in an official court of law but since the NFL seems to strictly make decisions based off the level of public outrage it would be surprising to see Garrett play again this season. Before we break down this week’s matchup on Thursday night be sure to check out Ian Hartitz' WR/CB Matchups piece.

 

Thursday Night Football

Week 12’s edition of Thursday Night Football features a divisional matchup between the Texans and the Colts. Houston opened as 6-point home favorites with a total of 46.5 but both the total and spread have moved since. With the Texans struggling against Baltimore last week, the line is now at just 3.5 with a total of 45.5.  Houston’s team total has taken the biggest dive in this move with it projected at 26.25 when the game opened but will likely be 24.5 when it's available to bet. The Texans have surpassed 24.5 points in 6-of-10 games this season but only scored 23 against the Colts in their first meeting this season.

The Texans have gone 2-1 since their last meeting with the Colts but are coming off a terrible 41-7 loss against the Ravens in Week 11. The Colts Defense has been efficient this season, rankingninth in rushing success rate allowed and sixth in passing success rate allowed on the year. This doesn't leave the Texans Offense with many weaknesses to attack even though they rank seventh in rushing success rate and 4th in passing success rate. Deshaun Watson should be started as usual in this one. Will Fuller is questionable for Week 12 and was limited in practice leading up to the game. Without Fuller, DeAndre Hopkins has had a 37-percent target share the past three games. Fuller is a boom-bust play and would lower Kenny Stills’ and Keke Coutee’s value if he’s able to go. Carlos Hyde is a low-end RB2 in a game the Texans should be in positive or neutral game-script.

The Colts will be without RB Marlon Mack who broke his hand last week against the Jaguars. Jordan Wilkins was removed the injury report and is expected to lead the backfield in carries. He’ll likely split early down work with last week’s breakout back Jonathan Williams and pass-catching work with Nyheim Hines. None of the backs are projected to have too much success against the Texans eighth-ranked rushing defense (success rate) though. The Texans are susceptible to explosive plays on the ground though and rank 25th in explosive pass rate allowed. The Colts receiving corps could receive an upgrade if WR T.Y. Hilton is active. He's considered questionable but was a full participant in Wednesday’s walk-through. He’s missed each of the Colts' past three games and they’ve clearly missed him as their No. 1 option, only averaging a touch over 168 passing yards per game. Hilton would be a fringe WR2 if he plays. Houston’s pass-defense ranks 25th according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA but the Colts probably won’t try to attack the Texans through the air as they are fourth in the league in run rate this season (47%). Zach Pascal got a lot of hype earlier in the season but has caught just nine passes in the last three games combined and shouldn’t be trusted in fantasy. None of the other pass-catchers are viable fantasy starts in this spot.

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Injury Report

Matthew Stafford (back) said there has been no discussion of him sitting out the rest of 2019. While there may not have been a direct conversation, Stafford has fractures along his spine and at 3-6-1 the Lions are essentially eliminated from the playoffs. There’s no reason for him to play again until he’s 100 percent.

James Conner (shoulder) was sidelined for Wednesday's practice. Conner’s status is unclear but he’s trending in the wrong direction for Sunday’s game against the Bengals. If Conner sits, Samuels will draw the start in a great matchup against the abhorrent Bengals.

George Kittle (knee) remained sidelined for Wednesday's practice. The 49ers are very banged up on the offensive side with Matt Breida, Emmanuel Sanders (ribs), and Deebo Samuel (shoulder), all nursing injuries All four of these players are expected to be game-time decisions and are tough to trust with the 49ers playing on Sunday Night. Have a backup plan if any of these players in your lineup.

Mitchell Trubisky (hip) was a full participant for Wednesday's practice. This is an interesting development after Trubisky’s “injury” stopped him from finishing last week’s demoralizing loss to the Rams. He looks to be in line to start this week against the Giants who are a soft matchup on paper.

Nelson Agholor (knee) didn't practice on Wednesday. This is big news for the Eagles receiving corps which is already in shambles. Alshon Jeffery was limited on Wednesday which means their current projected starters are J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, and Jordan Matthews. Carson Wentz is a tough start if neither Jeffery or Agholor are able to play.

 

Quick Hits

Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu were sidelined for Wednesday's practice.  Dorsett is closer than Sanu to playing on Sunday against Dallas but neither is considered too likely. N’Keal Harry may be in for an expanded role. … Rams coach Sean McVay said Robert Woods (personal) is still away from the team's facility dealing with a family matter. It’s difficult to know when he’ll return. … Tyler Lockett (leg) was sidelined for Wednesday's practice. Lockett was involved in the walkthrough and is expected to practice in some fashion on Thursday. … Auden Tate (neck) was sidelined for Wednesday's practice. He was carted off the field last week and is a longshot to play this week. …  Corey Davis (hip) returned to practice Wednesday. He is on track to play in Week 12 against the Jaguars.