Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis @ Tennessee
Thursday night's over-under is 42 points, the third lowest of Week 11. Vegas' prognosticators obviously aren't anticipating a high-scoring game. This a matchup to avoid for fantasy leaguers beyond usual must-starts. ... Coach Chuck Pagano emerged from Sunday's 38-8 humbling by St. Louis with a pledge to run more despite the fact that Indy's 2013 offensive weakness has been its rushing attack. The interior O-Line play has been dismal to be kind, and alleged lead back Trent Richardson has failed to top 4.0 yards per carry in a game all year. It's a reminder that Andrew Luck's fantasy value is being held hostage by playcalling that prioritizes a run-based philosophy over the reality that Indianapolis' offense is far more productive with the football in Luck's hands. While Luck can compensate in a given game with sheer playmaking ability, he currently ranks 16th in the NFL in pass attempts and eighth in fantasy quarterback scoring. Now taking on the Titans' top-eight pass defense, Luck is a low-end QB1. Tennessee has held enemy signal callers to a combined 7:8 TD-to-INT ratio through nine games. ... Luck's target distribution since Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in Indy's Week 7 win over Denver: T.Y. Hilton 21; Coby Fleener 15; Griff Whalen 14; Darrius Heyward-Bey 13; T-Rich 8; Donald Brown and LaVon Brazill 7; Stanley Havili 5. ... Soaking up targets and floating around the formation in a manner that makes him very hard for defenses to bracket, Hilton is the lone fantasy must-start among Luck's pass-catching corps. Through two games as Indy's No. 1 receiver, Hilton has delivered stat lines of 7-121-3 and 7-130.
The Titans' defensive weakness is versus the run, where they rank 21st and have coughed up 12 rushing scores, tied for the second most in football. Unfortunately, Indianapolis' lack of run-game efficiency and shared backfield usage make committee partners Richardson and Donald Brown dicey flex plays. In two games since the Colts' Week 8 bye, T-Rich has played 79 snaps and handled 18 touches, gaining 88 yards. Brown has played 51 downs and turned 13 touches into 112 yards. Richardson has particularly suffered due to Indianapolis' tendency to fall behind early in games. Ultimately, there hasn't been a more disappointing NFL player in real life or fantasy this year. ... Just 23rd in per-game tight end scoring, Fleener does have a favorable matchup against a Titans defense allowing the tenth most fantasy points to tight ends. Although he is far from an every-week starter, you could do worse than Fleener if you're into TE1 streaming or experiencing an injury-related crunch. ... A blocking-possession receiver in Indy's offense, Heyward-Bey has five drops over his last five games and has failed to reach 60 receiving yards in any week this season. DHB could score a touchdown against the Titans and still wouldn't be worth a roster spot in 10- or 12-team leagues. ... Whalen and Brazill are rotating in Hilton's old No. 3 wideout role. Small (5'11/185) and slow (4.55), Whalen is well off the re-draft fantasy radar. Brazill has talent to stretch defenses vertically, but isn't getting enough snaps. He's been a 35% player since the bye.
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With Jake Locker (Lisfranc) on injured reserve, Ryan Fitzpatrick will quarterback Tennessee's offense the rest of the way. The Titans managed point totals of 17 and 13 in Fitzpatrick's Weeks 5-6 starts. He's just barely worth two-quarterback-league consideration against Indianapolis' No. 18 pass defense. ... Expect the Titans to devise a run-heavy game plan with Chris Johnson in the featured role and Shonn Greene as his "big back" change of pace. Although CJ?K is coming off a discouraging Week 10 performance adversely influenced by game flow, he still has 212 yards and two TDs on his last 42 carries (5.05 YPC) and will square off Thursday night with Indy's 26th-ranked run defense. In the three games this season where Fitzpatrick has played extensively, Johnson has averaged four catches for 43 yards. Johnson's "floor" is raised when he's being worked into the pass game, and he has been recently. He's a quality RB2 with upside. ... Greene typically needs his team to grab a lead and ride the running game to pay dividends as a flex start, but he's never a terrible bet for a goal-line plunge as Tennessee's designated short-yardage vulture. Since the bye two weeks ago, Greene is averaging 11 touches for 49 yards per game.
Fitzpatrick's 2013 target distribution: Kendall Wright 27; Delanie Walker 18; Nate Washington 17; Johnson 15; Justin Hunter 11; Kenny Britt and Damian Williams 8; Greene and Taylor Thompson 1. ... Hunter is a player for 14- and 16-team leaguers to monitor. At 6-foot-4, 196 with 4.36 wheels and a 40 1/2-inch vertical, Hunter drew A.J. Green comparisons coming out of college. With Williams (quad) on the shelf, Hunter will be Tennessee's No. 3 receiver against Indianapolis. ... Washington has topped 62 yards in 2-of-9 games and scored a touchdown in 1-of-9 this season. He has some big-play ability, but owners should have a more reliable WR3 rostered at this point in the fantasy season. ... Wright's statistics in Fitzpatrick's three games of extensive play: 7-78, 5-69; 6-74. Wright has led Tennessee in receiving in each of those contests, and is always the best fantasy bet among Titans pass catchers. He's a rock-solid WR3 ... Walker is coming off his most productive fantasy box score (4-62-1) in a Tennessee uniform. He remains an undesirable TE1 taking on a Colts defense permitting the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Colts 23, Titans 17
Thursday Night Football