Welcome to the NFL Week 15 Saturday Showdown Slate!
It’s been a harrowing week, both in reality and fantasy, as the COVID-19 cases continue to spike around the NFL. Today was supposed to be a two-game slate for DFS players, but the Browns/Raiders game was postponed until Monday due to a large number of positive tests in Browns camp. While the fantasy football community keeps their fingers crossed that all the games actually play here in Week 15, those of us playing DFS contests will simply settle in for another showdown game.
Today’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots should be a good one. The Colts are favored by 2.5 points and if you’ve listened to the Ante Up podcast with me and Adam Ronis or even the Pickswise High Stakes Livestream with me and Craig Mish, you’ll know that we believe that this line is telling us the Colts are going to prevail or, at the very least, cover the spread. The Patriots have been fantastic this season as their defense has allowed an average of just 7.2 point per game over their last five, but they have played very tight games with teams that have strong, balanced offensive attacks, despite scoring an average of 32.1 points per game over their last seven.
Meanwhile, the Colts have won four of their last five and six of their last eight while posting an average of 32.9 points per game in that span. Jonathan Taylor has been an absolute beast and should the Patriots focus all of their attention towards shutting him down, Carson Wentz and the passing attack is expected to pull out all the stops today.
No matter which way you lean on the spread, our focus here is on who’s scoring the points. COVID has not ravaged either club, but there are some cases. Still we’ve got plenty of options to use on today’s Showdown slate, so let’s get to the breakdown and figure out who we’re going to use.
Now before we begin, please take a moment to understand what exactly you are getting yourself into by playing single-game Showdown Slates. We love to have some skin in the game, for sure, but these slates are, for all intents and purposes, a lottery ticket. Sure, there are times when the chalk hits and everyone shares in the prizes, but, more often than not, you need to hit on that random dart-throw that differentiates your lineup from that of the herd in order to claim the top prize. As a result, we encourage you to play responsibly and not over-invest. Stick to the GPP contests (single-entry preferred), don’t blow your whole bankroll, and understand that, unless you are a max-entry player, you should prioritize having fun.
OK. Lecture over. Let’s get to tonight’s action.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Spread: Colts -2.5
New England Patriots
Damien Harris, RB – hamstring (out)
Brandon Bolden, RB – knee (questionable)
J.J. Taylor, RB – COVID
David Andrews, C – shoulder (questionable)
Trent Brown, RT – calf (questionable)
Ryan Kelly, C – knee (questionable)
Grover Stewart, DT – illness (questionable)
Zaire Franklin, LB -- COVID
DVOA Defensive Rankings
vs Pass: 3rd
vs Run: 6th
vs Pass: 17th
vs Run: 5th
**Please note that players not listed below are not necessarily a complete fade and any player listed can certainly be used as the MVP/Captain. These are merely suggestions for players to use when setting Showdown lineups.
Jonathan Taylor, RB IND – While you know Bill Belichick is going to scheme against Taylor as best as he can, this kid is just an absolute beast and can be impossible to stop once he gets his momentum rolling. For you Marvel Comics nerds, he’s the Juggernaut, plain and simple. Derrick Henry used to be but Taylor has that crown now. He has seven 100-yard efforts on the season, 16 rushing touchdowns and has been more and more active in the passing game, averaging four targets pr game over his last four. It’s going to take everything the Patriots have to stop him.
Carson Wentz, QB IND – Once Belichick and the Patriots turn their focus towards stopping Taylor, the passing game should open up fairly nicely. While Wentz only has one game of more than 180 passing yards in his last four, he remains incredibly efficient with a 63.3 completion rate and a 22:5 TD:INT on the season. He’s got the weapons to spread the ball around, so if the Colts are forced to turn to the pass more, Wentz should be solid.
Hunter Henry, TE NE – You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Indianapolis who loves the Colts defense more than me, but if I need to identify one weakness, it is how they cover the tight end. When you have a linebacker corps that does such a great job rushing the passer, they end up vulnerable to the short-passing game once the linebackers commit. As a result, the Colts rank 25the in DVOA against the tight end, allow an average of 70.8 receiving yards to them and give up the third-most fantasy points per game to the position.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB NE – With no Damien Harris, Stevenson is expected to shoulder the full load against a strong Colts defense. When given the opportunity, he’s fared reasonably well and does have a 100-yard, two-touchdown game against a strong Browns defense under his belt, so don’t be surprised to see a potentially heavy lean as most tend to pass on Indy instead of run. They’re only allowing 111.8 rushing yards per game with just eight rushing touchdowns on the year, but once the Patriots get near the goal line, you can bet they’ll try to punch it in with Stevenson.
Kendrick Bourne, WR NE – While he may not lead the team in targets, Bourne has really emerged as a favorite target for Mac Jones. Before last week’s non-throwing effort by New England, Bourne was averaging five targets per game over his last five, has three touchdowns and continues to see red-zone looks.
Michael Pittman, WR IND – He remains the most-targeted receiver in the Colts arsenal, averaging eight targets per game over his last seven. He lines up primarily on the outside with the occasional slot appearance, but look for the Colts to try and get him matched up with Jalen Mills as he’s got a decent physical advantage. When the Colts are throwing, as they may need to do should the Patriots focus on Taylor, Pittman will be very active.
Mac Jones, QB NE – Certainly we expect Jones to throw more than three passes this week, but it’s not like we’re going to see him sling the rock 40 times either. The Patriots will likely utilize a short-passing game-plan to methodically march down the field. How much throwing they do once they are inside the red zone is difficult to gauge, but given the strong run defense of the Colts, he could be called upon a little more once near the goal line.
Jakobi Meyers, WR NE – Meyers remains the most-targeted wide receiver on the Patriots, though working out of the slot, he remains primarily a threat to move the chains and not one to break a long touchdown. He’ll be matched-up against Kenny Moore most of the time and should see plenty of work between the 20s as the Patriots look to move down the field. He’s a solid option in full-point PPR formats and can be useful in half-point as well should you believe he can find his way into the end zone again.
Jonnu Smith, TE NE – Though he remains primarily the blocking tight end, Smith still sees a handful of targets. If you believe Belichick will attack the middle of the field throughout the game to neutralize the blitzing linebackers, then Smith should be in-play. He’s only made one trip to the end zone this season so be conscious of that.
T.Y. Hilton, WR IND – He only sees about three or four targets per game these days, but Hilton is a crafty veteran who can sneak behind the defense and find his way into the end zone. Though these aren’t the days of old for Hilton, he does have 15 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns over three games against the Patriots in his career.
Zach Pascal, WR IND – He’s got a tough match-up this week against slot-corner Myles Bryant and he’s seen very few targets over the last few games. But that’s more likely because the Colts lean so heavily on the ground game. If they need to pass, Pascal could be an intriguing low-budget option. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2, but he’s seen three red zone targets in his last two games.
Jack Doyle, TE IND – He’s the lead tight end and has taken on a bigger role inside the red zone, an area usually dominated by Mo Alie-Cox. But Doyle has three touchdowns over his last six games and could be targeted again as a strategic move by Frank Reich who knows the Patriots are normally a strong team at guarding the position.
Colts D/ST – They lead the league with 29 takeaways this season and while the Patriots don’t often make mistakes, they do have 16 giveaways on the year. Look for them to punch the ball at every turn, harass the rookies like Stevenson and Jones and force a turnover or two (or three) in this game.
Patriots D/ST – Just like the Colts, the Patriots defense has been dominant throughout the season and they’ve got a few ball-hawks out there who have helped them to 19 interceptions on the season, second-most in the league. If Belichick gets into Wentz’ head, we could see a few picks here.
Nelson Agholor, WR NE – He’s a deep threat going up against a Colts secondary that may have improved as the year has gone on, but still ranks just 17th in DVOA against the pass. Agholor uses his speed to get behind the defenders and we’ve seen him find his way into the end zone before.
Nyheim Hines, RB IND – The Patriots rank 28th in DVOA against running back pass-plays and are allowing an average of 57.1 receiving yards per game to them. Should the focus of the Patriots lie on Taylor and the Colts look to change things up, Hines could be in play. Just a dart throw, nothing more.
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