This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.
Fresh off getting crushed 41-7 by the Ravens, the Texans come into Thursday as 3.5-point home favorites against the Colts in a game with a fairly pedestrian 44.5-point total on FanDuel Sportsbook. The spread feels a bit close given how many points the Texans can put up, though the Colts' defense will be a solid test, as they allowed fewer than 20 points five times this season, including three of their last four, and their most high-profile one was a 19-13 win against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
The two quarterbacks in Thursday's game are used pretty differently, with the Texans relying more on the arm of Deshaun Watson ($11,600 DK, $16,000 FD), while Jacoby Brissett ($10,400 DK, $15,000 FD) is basically the definition of a game manager for the Colts. Watson has thrown at least 30 passes in all but three games this season – with a low of 28 – a level that Brissett has reached just three times in his eight full games. Then again, Brissett's best fantasy game this season came in Week 7 against the Texans when he completed 26 of 39 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 win (Watson threw for 308 and one touchdown but was picked off twice).
The Colts are dealing with a significant backfield injury, which could mean we'll see more passes from Brissett, but this is still a team that's attempted the eighth-fewest passes in the league while rushing the ball more than all but two teams that have played the same number of games (10). And while Watson has shown that he can be the focal point of an offense, the Texans have the 10th-most rushing attempts and fifth-most rushing yards (the Colts have the fourth-most) while throwing the ball more than just 10 teams.
If one team has the matchup reason to throw more, it's the Colts, as Houston has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks on DraftKings and sixth-most on FanDuel, stats that are poor partially because of Brissett's Week 7 success. Meanwhile, the Colts have allowed the 13th-fewest on both sites, including zero games of more than 28.0 points on DraftKings or 25.0 on FanDuel.
Both quarterbacks are likely to have decent ownership, with Watson likely a more popular captain/MVP since his salary isn't drastically higher and he's expected to have a better game.
The big change to the Colts' backfield is the absence of leading rusher Marlon Mack, who suffered a fractured right hand last week against Jacksonville, a crushing blow after he rushed 14 times for 109 yards and a touchdown on 21 snaps in the first half. In his place, Jonathan Williams ($5,600 DK, $12,500 FD) rushed 13 times for 116 yards on 31 snaps while Nyheim Hines ($6,200 DK, $10,000 FD) rushed three times for 11 yards and a touchdown and added three catches on four targets for 24 receiving yards on 24 snaps. It's worth noting that Jordan Wilkins ($6,600 DK, $6,500 FD) did not play because of an ankle injury, one that hasn't let him practice fully yet this week, but head coach Frank Reich said he expects Williams and Wilkins to split a bulk of the carries in Mack's absence, with Hines' role as a third-down pass-catcher likely unchanged. Williams is considerably cheaper on DraftKings than he is on FanDuel, enough so that he is likely to be incredibly high-owned if Wilkins sits again. Given the situation that he could be getting a majority of the carries against a team that's allowed the ninth-most yards per carry (4.51), Williams will certainly garner some captain/MVP consideration, especially given the lower salary on DraftKings even with the 1.5x multiplier. However, Hines shouldn't be ignored, as no team has allowed more targets, receptions or receiving yards per game to running backs than the Texans, who allowed double-digit RB catches to the Chargers, Panthers, Falcons and Jaguars.
The Texans' backfield will continue to be led by Carlos Hyde ($7,000 DK, $13,000 FD), who is 10th in the NFL in rushing yards (769) among running backs, and only Christian McCaffrey (5.3) and Nick Chubb (5.0) are averaging more yards per carry (4.9) among the group with more yards. Similar to the way the Colts use their running backs, Hyde doesn't do much in the passing game, as he's been targeted only 11 times all season, including five times in Week 4 against Carolina; in no other game has he had more than two targets. Instead, the Texans use Duke Johnson ($5,000 DK, $10,500 FD) in that role, as he comes in with 24 catches on 34 targets for 232 yards and two touchdowns this season while also adding 60 carries for 327 yards and another score. Johnson has finished with more than eight carries twice this season, with his highs coming in Weeks 1 and 5.
Unfortunately, the matchup for the Texans' backs isn't nearly as good as what the Colts face, as Indianapolis has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs on both sites, with the Chargers the only team to have running backs score multiple times against them, and that was back in Week 1. They've allowed over 100 rushing yards once since then (Week 4 against Oakland), and the Texans managed just 69 yards on 19 carries in Week 7 while adding two catches on six targets for 22 receiving yards. Needless to say, there's not a ton to love here. Captaining/MVPing Hyde or Johnson doesn't feel like the optimal build, though Hyde seems to make more sense among the two, but doing so should be reserved for contrarian builds or multi-entry.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Making matters worse for the Colts, not only will they be without Mack, but they also aren't expected to have top wideout T.Y. Hilton ($9,600 DK, $11,500 FD) because of a calf injury that has kept him out since Week 8. Despite playing only six games this season, Hilton leads the team in receptions (32) and receiving touchdowns (five) and is second in targets (46), receiving yards (360) and air yards (434), so there's obviously some big shoes to fill. That's mostly fallen to wide receiver Zach Pascal ($8,000 DK, $9,000 FD) and tight ends Eric Ebron ($4,600 DK, $8,000 FD) and Jack Doyle ($4,400 DK, $8,500 FD), in addition to Hines' regular production.
All three are moderately priced, but how much do you really want to buy into the Colts' passing game? Marcus Johnson ($4,200 DK, $8,500 FD) and Chester Rogers ($2,600 DK, $7,000 FD) have been a bit busier of late, and Johnson's 12.1 aDOT is tied with Pascal for the highest on the team, though he's only played two games. Then again, his last game included four catches on four targets for 38 yards and a touchdown, so he could draw some attention for those looking for potentially cheap scores. Meanwhile, Rodgers' 9.0 aDOT isn't bad, nor are his 11 targets in the past three games, which he turned into six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Neither player is much of a red-zone threat, as Ebron leads the team with 10 targets inside the 20 and Pascal is second at eight, but they offer cheaper exposure to a Colts' passing game that isn't likely to be that prolific, even if they had success in the first matchup between these teams. Speaking of that game, Pascal was the biggest producer, catching six of seven targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns, while Hilton had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown and Ebron add four catches for 70 yards and a score. If anything, a Colts pass-catching stack will be an under-utilized construction.
The Texans' wide receivers offer much more upside, unsurprisingly led by DeAndre Hopkins ($11,000 DK, $14,500 FD), the most expensive non-QB on both sites (he's actually more than Brissett on DraftKings). Hopkins has actually had a somewhat down year given his incredibly high standards, as he's only broken 100 yards thrice and has only scored touchdowns in three games. However, one of those times came in Week 7 against the Colts when he caught nine of 12 targets for 106 yards and a touchdown. On the plus side, the targets are still very high, as he's had at least 11 passes thrown his way in each of the past five games, and his 32.1 percent target share is the second-highest in the league, trailing only the 32.3 percent for the Saints' Michael Thomas. Amazingly, there has only been once instance this season of a Texan other than Hopkins getting more than nine targets in a game this season, which was Will Fuller ($7,800 DK, $8,000 FD) back in Week 5.
However, Fuller has been out since suffering a hamstring injury against the Colts, and he'll be a game-time decision Thursday. If he doesn't play, Kenny Stills ($6,400 DK, $8,500 FD) will once again be the no. 2 wideout. Stills' volume hasn't been that great since he had four catches on five targets for 105 yards against the Colts in his team debut, but he can stretch the field and score on any play. Otherwise, Keke Coutee ($2,400 DK, $7,500 FD) could see some work, along with DeAndre Carter ($1,000 DK, $5,000 FD), though both are unlikely to make big impacts with their respective 8.4 and 9.4 aDOTs.
Tight ends Jordan Akins ($1,600 DK, $6,000 FD) and Daniel Fells ($3,400 DK, $7,500 FD) are also theoretical options, but certainly not from a volume standpoint. Then again, you're mostly thinking about them for end-zone looks, as Fells is tied with Hopkins for the team-lead in red-zone targets (nine) and targets inside the 10-yard line. Neither are likely to be used as a captain/MVP, with Hopkins likely to be the most popular among the pass catchers, followed by Stills for those who want a longer-shot.
Houston's Ka'imi Fairbairn ($3,800 DK, $9,500 FD) reached double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games, though he managed only one in last week's demolition by the Ravens. However, with the Texans expected to have more success against the Colts, Fairbairn should once again be a reliable floor player for cash games who could be part of GPP-winning teams if the game score ends up on the lower side. Meanwhile, the Colts' Adam Vinatieri ($3,600 DK, $9,000 FD) has scored double-digit fantasy points three times all season, and a number of high-profile misses have put his job in jeopardy. He'll still be on the field Thursday, and similar to kickers in lower-scoring games, he should be considered more for his floor versus the other options in his price range.
The Texans ($4,000 DK) defense has seen it's high and low over the past two games, as they scored a season-high 19.0 fantasy points on DraftKings in Week 9, a 26-3 win over the Jaguars, and then minus-3.0 in a 41-7 loss to the Ravens in Week 11. The matchup against the Colts will probably split the difference, but the lack of J.J. Watt has really left a void in their defensive line, enough so that they had one or zero sacks in four of their past five games, a span that saw them force eight turnovers, four of which came against the Jaguars. Making matters worse, Brissett is one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL, and he doesn't turn the ball over much.
The Colts ($3,200 DK) have been a bit more reliable in terms of fantasy scoring, finishing with at least 7.0 in each of the past six games, but they also haven't scored more than the 10.0 they got last week against Jacksonville or in Week 5 at Kansas City. They're basically in the same range as the kickers or any of the deeper pass catchers for both teams in terms of salary, so while they are likely to be more popular in cash games, you need defensive or special teams touchdowns to make them pay off in GPPs.