Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Andrew Luck's 433-yard, two-score Week 9 winning effort against Miami is that Luck was under duress almost the entire game. He's played like that all year, though. Unfazed by pressure and picking apart a tough Dolphins defense, Luck connected with four different receivers for 75-plus yards in the league's finest passing performance since Aaron Rodgers' Week 6 destruction of the Texans. Will Luck bounce back for a similarly monster game at Jacksonville? He's certainly got the individual talent to, and can be a rest-of-season QB1 if his teammates cooperate. Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, and Dwayne Allen all had season-best games against the Fins. ... One plus for Luck's Week 10 outlook is the Jaguars' utter inability to hurry opposing passers. Last in the NFL in sacks (8 in 8 games), Jacksonville also ranks in the bottom eight of both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus' team pass-rushing metrics. It's no secret that quarterbacks are unfailingly more productive operating in clean pockets. Luck projects to have his cleanest pocket all season on Thursday night. ... The Jaguars and Colts squared off in Week 3 this season. Luck passed for 313 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick, and hooked up with Reggie Wayne eight times for 88 yards. The No. 5 overall fantasy receiver through eight games, Wayne is a WR1 in this matchup. ... Avery and Hilton are both dice-roll WR3 options. Avery fell hard on his hip in Sunday's win over Miami and has never played well at less than 100 percent.
Although Hilton sees fewer snaps than Avery (69 percent to Avery's 77 the past two weeks), the rookie third receiver is arguably a more attractive Week 10 fantasy bet than the starter. Hilton has 17 targets to Avery's 15 since Week 7 and flashes a more versatile game, playing roughly 40 percent of his snaps in the slot. Avery plays almost strictly outside. ... Vick Ballard's run skills underwhelm, but he's averaging nearly 18 touches a game the past three weeks and experienced a significant bump in passing-down usage. Indianapolis felt comfortable enough with Ballard's improved versatility to release third-down back Mewelde Moore last week. Ballard proceeded to set season highs in snaps (54), catches (3), and receiving yards (38) versus Miami. Ballard's lack of big-play ability curtails his upside, but he's worth a flex play against Jacksonville's 27th-ranked run defense. Through eight games, only the Bills have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Jaguars. ... Donald Brown (knee) won't play Thursday night, further enhancing Ballard's outlook and forcing plodder Delone Carter into the Colts' No. 2 back role. Carter is averaging roughly six carries per game over the past month, without a reception. He's unworthy of a 12-team league roster spot. ... The stats suggest Allen is a poor bye-week filler play -- Jacksonville has allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends -- but the rookie was highly active against Miami and should remain so at Jacksonville. Allen secured 6-of-7 targets for 75 yards in Week 9, also drawing a 31-yard pass interference flag on Fins LB Koa Misi. Allen will remain a big part of the Colts' offense.
I re-watched the Week 9 Jaguars-Lions game late Tuesday, looking for signs of life from Justin Blackmon. He did catch his first career touchdown in fourth-quarter garbage time, after all. But Blackmon's game was thoroughly unimpressive. The first-round pick released sluggishly off the line, did not create separation from man coverage, and generally looked unathletic. Blackmon dropped a second-quarter pass from Blaine Gabbert on third-and-15, and was noticeably slower than Cecil Shorts out of breaks. It's too soon to call Blackmon a bust, but there is no reason to believe he'll be a rookie-year fantasy asset. ... If Gabbert took a step forward in Weeks 7-8, he took two steps back against the Lions. Intercepted twice in Week 9, Gabbert should have been picked off at least three more times on poorly placed passes that slipped through the hands of Detroit defenders. Gabbert didn't move the offense until the Jaguars fell behind 21-0, leaning on checkdown completions in comeback mode. Gabbert's pocket fear hasn't been as apparent as it was last year, but he still plays timidly and there is little or no downfield threat to Jacksonville's passing game. The Colts will be without both of their starting cornerbacks (Vontae Davis -- knee, Jerraud Powers -- toe) on Thursday, so perhaps Blackmon & Co. will finally be able to get open.
After missing a month with a concussion, $32.5 million free-agent bust Laurent Robinson rejoined the lineup in Week 9 to secure 6-of-9 targets for 41 yards. He was the third receiver behind Shorts and Blackmon and is unworthy of a fantasy roster spot. ... Although Shorts' four targets against the Lions were disappointing, he remains the best weekly bet for production in the Jaguars' pass game. Gabbert's target distribution since the Week 6 bye: Shorts 26, Blackmon and Rashad Jennings 21, Marcedes Lewis 16. ... Versus Detroit, Jennings let a third-quarter pass bounce off his hands and it was intercepted. He was benched on the next drive for Jalen Parmele and the two backs rotated the rest of the way. Jennings figures to regain his starting job against Indianapolis' No. 25 run defense, and the favorable matchup keeps him in the mix as a flex play. Unfortunately, Jennings has been ineffective since replacing Maurice Jones-Drew three games ago. Yet to clear 60 rushing yards in any game this year, Jennings has 151 yards on his last 53 carries (2.85 YPC). ... Lewis is 25th in fantasy tight end scoring and barely on the TE2 radar. Working against him Thursday night will be a Colts defense that has surrendered the fewest catches and yards in the NFL to tight ends. Look elsewhere, even if you're in a bye-week crunch.
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Jaguars 13
Start or Sit: Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
Are Donnie Avery or T.Y. Hilton worthy of starting this week? What about Vick Ballard or Rashad Jennings? Kay Adams (@heykayadams) and Matt Stroup (@mattstroup) break down Colts - Jaguars.
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