Here’s a breakdown of one-game DFS contests for the Week 12 Thursday Night Football matchup featuring the Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans at 8:20 p.m. ET on FOX, NFL Network and Amazon Prime.

Cash Game Strategy

Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has generally game-planned well against Deshaun Watson, notching three sacks and two picks in the first meeting this season and giving the quarterback fits in a 21-7 Colts playoff win back in January. Still, Watson was able to top 300 yards and crack 20 DraftKings points in the last matchup and has the top floor, median, ceiling and Projected Plus/Minus in our DraftKings Showdown Models, making him the clear top option for the 1.5x slot.

Going with Watson in the Captain spot leaves enough room for Jacoby Brissett, Carlos Hyde and both of the Colts potential featured backs, Jonathan Williams and Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins operated ahead of Williams all season and is off the injury report after missing last week with an elbow injury, but in his stead, Williams rattled off 116 rushing yards on 13 carries. Ravens backs combined for 26-178-1 last week against Houston’s now J.J. Watt-less defense while the Colts had two 100-yard rushers last week against Jacksonville, so it’s not inconceivable that both Williams and Wilkins post big days.

That leaves $2,600, and the top option would be Keke Coutee if Will Fuller (hamstring) sits. Coutee has been in the doghouse at ties, but posted his best game as a pro when these teams met in January (11-110-1) when the Texans also without Fuller, and saw his second-highest target count of this season (five) in the first meeting between these two teams. If Fuller suits up, it’s Jordan Akins, who has run a pass route on over 50% of Watson’s dropbacks in each of the past eight games.

On FanDuel, both Colts backs don’t fit unless you fade Watson, Brissett or Hyde, but Wilkins ($6,500) barely costs half as much as Williams ($13,000), which makes Williams the most sensible fade here. Fuller would be the top option for the final slot if active; if not, Kenny Stills would continue to play an every-down role and take those honors.

Core GPP Plays

Note: These are in addition to the players already mentioned in the cash write-up and generally has a focus on pass-catchers, though sometimes players from the cash section will be re-highlighted as appropriate. On FanDuel, QBs generally make for the top plays in the 1.5x slot because the half PPR format creates a wider gap in scoring between QB and RB/WR/TE; on DraftKings, a RB/WR/TE who hits the 100-yard bonus is the ideal play.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans: Hopkins has as many games of 24 or more DraftKings points as he has with fewer than 15 (three), and one of the former was a 9-106-1 performance against the Colts back in their first meeting this season. Only Watson has a higher ceiling projection in our Models, and Hopkins is more than four points ahead of the rest of the pack.

DeAndre-Hopkins

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10)

RB Carlos Hyde, Texans: Hopkins is a good bet to get his no matter what, but the Colts defense sets up as a run funnel, ranking 10th in Football Outsiders‘ pass-defense DVOA but 23rd against the run. Hyde has seen 19-plus carries in four of the past six games, which gives him a good shot at cracking the century mark in this spot.

WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts: In 15 career games against the Texans, Hilton is averaging 5.5 catches, 101.7 yards and 0.7 TDs. In three games against Houston under head coach Frank Reich, Hilton is averaging 6.3 catches for 129.3 yards. Houston’s ability to pressure the quarterback is compromised without Watt, and their cornerback corps is in a state of disarray with Lonnie Johnson (ankle) ruled out, Bradley Roby (hamstring, questionable) not 100%, Jonathan Joseph (old, slow) benched last week, and former Buccaneer Vernon Hargreaves (bad) joining former Raider Gareon Conley to give Houston another player cast aside by a team with a bottom-of-the barrel secondary, so Hilton still has slate-winning upside at less than 100%. If Hilton (calf) is inactive, there would be no one with a strong case to be a true core play on the Colts, as they tend to spread the ball around and have good matchups all around, while the backfield could end up being an even split.

Correlations/Stacks

Note: Individual player correlations can be found in the player cards in our NFL Player Models. Team positional correlations can be found in our NFL Correlations Dashboard. Unless otherwise noted, all player correlation data is from the past 12 months and team correlation data is from the start of 2019.

Texans

  • Watson-Fuller +0.75
  • Hyde-Johnson +0.55
  • Watson-Fells +0.53
  • Watson-Stills +0.48
  • Fairbairn-Texans DST +0.44
  • Hyde-Texans DST +0.33
  • QB-Opposing QB +0.33
  • Watson-Hopkins +0.22
  • Watson-Johnson +0.18
  • Watson-Akins +0.17
  • Watson-Hyde +0.11
  • Watson-Fairbairn +0.11
  • Fells-Akins +0.04
  • Hopkins-Fuller -0.12
  • Hyde-Hopkins -0.24

As Watson is capable of producing on the ground and Hopkins will usually get his regardless of game script, the two don’t necessarily need to be stacked, but likely will be stacked by the field more than is optimal given pricing. Watson’s highest-upside stacks have been deep threats Fuller and Kenny Stills and red-zone specialist Darren Fells.

We also see an uncommonly strong positive correlation between Houston’s two backs, Hyde and Duke Johnson, and this matchup sets up well for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to feature his backfield, as the Colts rank 10th in pass-defense DVOA but 23rd against the run.

Colts

  • Brissett-Ebron +0.79
  • QB-Opposing QB +0.64
  • Brissett-Hilton +0.51
  • Brissett-Pascal +0.51
  • Ebron-Doyle +0.31
  • Hilton-Ebron +0.19
  • Brissett-Rogers -0.02
  • Brissett-Hines -0.10
  • Hilton-Doyle -0.14
  • Brissett-Doyle -0.17
  • Brissett-Vinatieri -0.24
  • Brissett-Colts DST -0.34

If the Colts’ pass game is humming and Brissett is worth a play, it’s usually because the downfield options (Hilton, Eric Ebron, Zach Pascal) are clicking, while the checkdown options (Jack Doyle, Nyheim Hines, Chester Rogers) don’t necessarily need to be stacked with him.

One pairing this game does set up well for, though, is Ebron-Doyle. As evidenced by their positive correlation, Reich tends to feature his tight ends in specific matchups, and this game sets up well for that, as Houston is ranked dead last in DVOA on passes over the short middle, per Football Outsiders. Ebron (28%) and Doyle (21%) have accounted for 49% of the Colts short-middle target share this season.

Leverage Plays

Players whose production would benefit owners more than expensive or highly-owned players. Kickers and D/STs generally make for strong leverage plays, but those who stand out will be highlighted below.

RB Nyheim Hines, Colts: Another player who could benefit from Houston’s deficiency in the short-middle passing game is Hines, who is third on the team with a 17% short-middle target share. A Hines game usually results good leverage, as he’s been negatively correlated to everyone on the team except for Adam Vinatieri (+0.17), Rogers (+0.03) and Doyle (0.00).

Nyheim-Hines-NFL-DFS-Fringe-Plays

Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines (21)

K Adam Vinatieri, Colts: Let’s be clear — Vinatieri has been a captain for team #NotGood this season, missing five field goals and six extra points. But that will only work to lower this ownership, and he has still managed two games of 13-plus DraftKings points over his last six while negatively correlating with each of Brissett (-0.24), Ebron (-0.24), Hilton (-0.30) and Pascal (-0.40).

Colts DST: The Colts sacked Watson three times and picked him twice in the first meeting this season, and utterly perplexed him when the teams met in the 2018 postseason, notching three sacks and a pick while holding the Texans to seven points.

 

Dart Throw Rankings

Ranking the low-cost, complementary players not already discussed in the leverage section by likelihood of having a worthwhile fantasy stat line.

  1. TE Eric Ebron, Colts (Q-ankle): If active, Ebron would be a high-upside play in a good matchup whose ownership may be slightly depressed due to his injury designation.
  2. TE Darren Fells, Texans: The Colts’ scheme emphasizes protecting deep and thus has allowed the eighth-most catches to tight ends, but this is more about his nine red-zone targets, which are tied with Hopkins for the team lead.
  3. TE Jordan Akins, Texans: Has run a route on 50% or more of the passing plays for eight straight games but has only one-third as many red-zone targets as Fells.
  4. RB Duke Johnson, Texans: Twelve opportunities (carries plus targets) in the first meeting and 10.0 opportunities over the past four games.
  5. TE Jack Doyle, Colts: The lower-upside version of Ebron but has 60-plus yards or a TD in three of his past four. Bumps up to No. 1 if Ebron is inactive.
  6. WR Marcus Johnson, Colts: Has played 86% of the snaps over the past two weeks, but the floor is being relegated to WR4 duties if Hilton returns and Rogers stays in the slot.
  7. WR Keke Coutee, Texans: As mentioned, posted the biggest game of his career in the playoffs against Indianapolis, but his value hinges on the availability of Fuller. Bumps up to No. 3 if Fuller is out.
  8. WR Chester Rogers, Colts: Has topped out at 48 yards this season and is more of a cash punt than ceiling play.
  9. TE Mo Alie-Cox, Colts (Q-thumb): Value hinges on the availability of Ebron.
  10. WR DeAndre Carter, Texans: Has played ahead of Coutee at times, but will likely be relegated to return duties with Coutee seemingly out of the dog house.
  11. RB Buddy Howell, Texans: Saw his first offensive snaps of the year in last week’s blowout loss to Baltimore, but I’d stop well short of saying there’s a chance.
  12. FB Cullen Gillaspia, Texans: Has seen a handful of snaps in a handful of games but is yet to touch the ball.
  13. WR Steven Mitchell Jr., Texans: Unlikely to see the field as the WR5.
  14. RB Taiwan Jones, Texans: Special teamer yet to play an offensive snap.
  15. WR Ashton Dulin, Colts: Apparently a wide receiver who plays for the Colts.

Pictured above: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4)
Photo credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports