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Week 10 Thursday Lineup Calls
“It’s a trap.”
You can attribute that line to any number of Hollywood blockbusters through the ages. Close your eyes and ponder your favorite scene for a moment.
Most NFL teams have now hit the halfway point of the season. For the most part, we now know the identities of these squads. Of course, there are still some head-scratchers on the board, and more than a few limp into the second half with myriad injury questions.
We start the “second half” on Thursday night with a matchup of AFC South teams. The Colts have become a media darling this week, and I’m sure you’ve seen the head-to-head Andrew Luck/Peyton Manning graphic more times than the red state-blue state map. I will ask you to go back and watch Chuck Pagano’s post-game speech one more time before we get back inside the white lines. Add that locker room talk to “The Last Lecture” for those times you need a pick-me-up.
Now, let’s preview the wonder of “Thursday Night Football.”
AFC Offensive Player of the Week Andrew Luck and the Colts travel down to Jacksonville and a date with the Jaguars. I’ll admit to being a bit bearish on Luck for the Week 9 matchup against the Colts. The Dolphins had ceded a ton of passing yards, but I feared that they’d cinch up in the red zone again. Miami entered the game with 22 sacks and had allowed eight passing touchdowns.
Luck changed that game by working downfield early and often. He completed 30-of-48 attempts for 433 yards, his sixth game with at least 280 passing yards this season. Luck has produced at least one touchdown in all but one game this season (New York Jets) with five multi-touchdown efforts.
Let’s roll up his sixth such effort on the road this week. It took 46 pass attempts for Luck to produce magic in Week 3 against the Jaguars, but he finished the day with 313 passing yards with two touchdowns, one interception and 50 rushing yards. The Jaguars fail to surmount much of a pass rush, and that will yield big results downfield. I have Luck all the way up at No. 4 in my preliminary Week 10 rankings.
I shan’t belabor the analysis of Reggie Wayne. Wayne has been targeted 101 times this season, producing 835 receiving yards on 61 receptions. He caught eight passes for 88 yards in Week 3. I know that he’s produced only two 100-yard games this season with three touchdowns, but you can’t teach consistency.
Dwayne Allen represents a high-end TE2 play this week. Allen caught 6-of-7 targets for 75 yards in the Week 9 win over Miami. He’s recorded 10 receptions for 121 yards in the past two weeks and will play without Coby Fleener stealing targets this week. The Jaguars rank second against tight ends this season and have yet to surrender a touchdown.
Donnie Avery has been tagged as “Questionable” for Week 10 because of a hip injury sustained against the Dolphins. His absence would afford rookie T.Y. Hilton a huge opportunity against the Jaguars. Hilton caught 6-of-11 targets in Week 9 for 102 yards with a touchdown, the second of his career. He’s caught 24-of-44 targets overall for 355 yards, including multiple receptions in six consecutive games. I rank him as a mid-WR3 for Week 10. He’s officially a “Ninja” this week.
* If Avery is cleared to play, he joins Hilton in the WR3/high-end WR4 range.
Former first-round selection Donald Brown had expected to amass a larger workload in the Week 9 game against the Dolphins. Unfortunately, Brown left early because of an injury after logging a single reception for seven yards. As a result, Vick Ballard reclaimed the top spot and posted 19 touches for 98 yards. Ballard averaged 3.8 yards per carry while adding three receptions for 38 yards.
This is Ballard’s glory spot on the schedule. The Jaguars have allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs, including nearly 1,000 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. Ballard’s recent work in the passing game (remember the aerial acrobatics of Week 8) portends to a big day here. I’ve got him as a borderline RB1 this week.
Alas, owners of Maurice Jones-Drew will need to continue their candlelight vigils for another week. The popular fantasy superhero has been declared “OUT” once again. Jones-Drew was originally injured in Week 7 against the Raiders, and Mike Mularkey tagged him as “Questionable” for Week 11.
Jones-Drew’s absence puts Rashad Jennings in line for his fourth consecutive start. Jennings has been bottled up on the ground in his previous three games, averaging just 2.96 yards per carry. Fortunately for fantasy owners, Jennings has also been active in the passing game during his turn as the starter (15 receptions for 121 yards). He’s on the board as a back-end RB2 in a solid matchup against the Colts (sixth-most fantasy points allowed to running backs).
Of course, his ability to improve on that sub-par rushing average depends on Blaine Gabbert’s ability to work downfield. Gabbert completed 27-of-38 pass attempts in Week 9 against the Lions, but his two interceptions helped to doom the Jaguars. He passed for 220 yards and later threw red zone touchdown passes to rookie Justin Blackmon and Michael Spurlock. He’s averaged 261.5 passing yards in the past two weeks. Gabbert completed 10-of-21 attempts for 155 yards with one touchdown pass in the first meeting between these teams.
Gabbert represents a desperation spot play option here against the heretofore terrible Indianapolis secondary. The Colts have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, surrendering 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions. While Gabbert ascends to just a mid-QB2 slot this week, his wide receivers may actually crack your lineup.
Big play threat Cecil Shorts III rises on the fantasy radar for this matchup against the Colts. Shorts III had been a big-play threat early in the season, but he’s rounded into a trusted, frequent target for Blaine Gabbert. He’s caught 18 passes for 294 passing yards in the past four weeks, including a reception of at least 25 yards in each game during this period (six times during the year). Shorts III caught a single pass, an 80-yard touchdown, in the Week 3 meeting with the Colts.
Rookie Justin Blackmon hasn’t blown up the scoreboard just yet, but he’s finally worked himself into a larger role for the Jaguars. In the past two weeks, Blackmon has recorded nine receptions for 99 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown against the Lions. He’s been targeted 54 times this season, so the opportunities have been there. I expect to see some production in Week 10 and rank him as a WR4.
Keep an eye on offseason acquisition Laurent Robinson. He finally worked his way back into the mix in Week 9 and amassed four red zone targets (two receptions for 10 yards). Unfortunately, Michael Spurlock and the aforementioned Blackmon recorded the touchdown receptions.
Finally, Marcedes Lewis was once a red zone monster. Unfortunately, the former first-round pick out of UCLA has struggled in 2012. I am encouraged by his recent surge in production (nine receptions in his past three games), but he’s topped 40 receiving yards just twice (two touchdowns). The Colts have surrendered the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season (one touchdown).
You might be wondering why I tossed that quote at the top of the board.
While my rankings for this week are overly positive about the potential of this Indianapolis offense, I’m fearful of a letdown. I’m fearful that the Jaguars rise up and put forth a big effort after some post-game comments from the coach and the new owner. I don’t see any reason to believe that the Jaguars will do so (much like I wrote last week about the Chiefs), but these Thursday games have taken some strange turns.
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