Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Texans (24 projected points, -3.5 point spread) vs. IND
Update: Will Fuller is expected to play.
The Colts zone defense, in theory, is a poor matchup for Deshaun Watson. Stud LB Darius Leonard can keep an eye on him to contain his rushing, and they haven’t given up a pass 40+ yards in the air yet. Watson hasn’t completed as many deep passes as he did in previous seasons either, so I’m not expecting a ceiling game from Watson. With this said, Watson is still a mid-range QB1. He is the QB5 overall and may get Will Fuller back. … Carlos Hyde was limited to just nine carries in last week’s blowout loss after entering the game averaging 16.6 carries. The Colts are another tough matchup for Hyde because they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest rush attempts per game (22). Hyde will be a 10-15 carry flex play who needs a goal-line touchdown to pay off a start. Unfortunately, Indy has allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns (3) to running backs this season. … Duke Johnson’s season highs in routes run (29) and targets (5) came against the Colts in Week 7. In theory, Johnson is a better fit against an Indy defense that allows more receptions behind or near the line of scrimmage than most NFL defenses. Johnson’s upside is still limited since he is only seeing six carries and 2.4 receptions per game, but I project him to exceed that reception average this week.
DeAndre Hopkins is one of three players to have at least seven targets in every game this season. Usage and floor are obviously not problems, but can he reach an elite ceiling? Last week, Nuk did have his first game since Week 4 with an average depth of target above 10.5 yards (11.8), and he posted a 9-106-1 line against Indy in Week 7. Hopkins can definitely still hit a massive ceiling as a top-five WR1. … Will Fuller (hamstring) is a game-time decision. If healthy, Fuller is an upside WR3/4 with no floor. His usage and production are statistically among the most inconsistent at the position and now we have to worry about re-injury. The Colts have also held Fuller to less than 50 yards in his four healthy games, but all it takes is one play for Fuller to pay off. … Kenny Stills has averaged 8.90 PPR points on 5.25 targets in the four games without Fuller and 8.95 PPR points on 3.5 targets in the four games with him. Stills’ snap count would decrease, but Fuller’s presence isn’t a total disaster for Stills, who is just a WR4 without Fuller in the lineup. The Texans would be smart to get Stills in the slot a lot more as he is second in yards per route run (2.66) in the slot this season. … Keke Coutee (33 routes) and DeAndre Carter (2) were the other receivers to run routes for Houston last week. … Darren Fells (22 routes) and Jordan Akins (23 routes) continue to split reps. The only thing separating them is their touchdown difference (Fells 6, Akins 2), which can be partially explained by red zone usage (Fells 9 red-zone targets, Akins 3). Fells is a touchdown-dependent TE2. Akins is a cheap DFS Showdown flex play in Watson lineups.
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Colts (20.5, +3.5) @ HOU
Update: T.Y. Hilton is expected to play. ... NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Jonathan Williams will be "treated as the starting running back" this week. I'm still expecting Jordan Wilkins to be involved in the run game with Nyheim Hines as the main passing-game back. It'
Forecast: Jacoby Brissett QB2, Nyheim Hines RB2/3, Jonathan Williams RB3, Jordan Wilkins RB3, T.Y. Hilton (questionable) WR2/3, Zach Pascal WR4/5, Marcus Johnson WR5, Eric Ebron TE2 (questionable), Jack Doyle TE2
The Texans Defense is a true pass funnel, ranking 4th in pass attempts allowed (38) and 29th in rushes (22). That goes against the identity of the Colts, but we will likely see more Jacoby Brissett this week with Marlon Mack’s injury and T.Y. Hilton’s potential return. Brissett had his best game of the year against this defense in Week 7, throwing for a season-high 326 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans, who are now without J.J. Watt, are in the bottom 16th percentile against fantasy quarterbacks, making Brissett a very viable QB2 streamer. The only thing giving me pause is this contest being the second in-division game of the season. … The Colts running back I’m most confident in this week is Nyheim Hines. He plays into the Texans pass funneling defense, and we can project him for a defined role, something that I’m unable to do with Jonathan Williams and Jordan Wilkins. Hines should catch 4-8 passes against a Houston defense that has allowed the most receptions to backs this season and is a viable flex option in PPR leagues. … Wilkins has been ahead of Williams on the depth chart all year, but Williams had an excellent game (13-116) last week while Wilkins (ankle) was inactive. Wilkins was left off the final injury report and will play, significantly limiting Williams’ streaming outlook. I expect Wilkins and Williams to share 15-20 total carries evenly as low-floor RB3s. ... UPDATE: Williams is reportedly starting over Wilkins, but I still believe both get work tonight.
T.Y. Hilton (calf) was listed as a “full participant” in Wednesday’s projected injury report, which gives him a good shot at playing. If he does suit up, Hilton will be a very boom-or-bust WR2/3. Positives for Hilton include the Texans’ bottom 19th percentile defense against fantasy receivers and his indoor/outdoor splits (16.4 PPR points indoors vs. 12.0 outdoors) with the obvious negative being the possibility of a re-injury. … Zach Pascal has been the clear-cut No. 1 receiver with Hilton sidelined, seeing six or seven targets and about 90 air yards in all three games. Pascal, however, has only managed 119 yards on those 19 targets despite entering Week 9 with an 11.6 YPT average. Pascal is a positive regression candidate as a WR3/4 if Hilton is out and would still be in the WR4/5 mix even if T.Y. can play. … Third-year pro Marcus Johnson ran a route on 31-of-32 dropbacks in Week 11 and posted a 4-42-1 line on four targets. Johnson is ahead of Chester Rogers (17 routes) on the depth chart and deserves consideration in DFS Showdown tournaments, especially if Hilton is out. Johnson’s snaps would take a big hit if Hilton is out as he’d be out of 2-receiver sets, but he offers 4.38 speed with explosion whenever on the field. … Eric Ebron (ankle) hasn’t practiced this week after only running 17 routes last week and appears to be a game-time decision. Ebron has been a touchdown-dependent TE2 this season, only averaging 2.7 receptions and 33 yards per game while splitting looks with Jack Doyle. If Ebron can’t play, Doyle would be a candidate for 4-6 targets with more touchdown equity than normal as a TE1/2 streamer. Don’t put too much weight into the Texans’ top third defense against fantasy tight ends, as they don’t have the personnel that backs up that ranking.