Last updated: September 19th at 1:40pm ET.
Team Totals: Colts 24, Falcons 23
The Colts maintained their run-first mantra in last week’s two-point win at Tennessee, amassing 34 rushing attempts compared to 28 throws and enter Week 3 with the NFL’s second-most rushing yards (370) on the third-most carries (67). This is Indianapolis’ post-Andrew Luck identity featuring Marlon Mack, whose Week 2 rushing efficiency would’ve looked much better had he not lost a monster first-quarter cutback run to a ticky-tack hold. Back home in what projects as a close game with touch counts of 25 and 22 under his belt, Mack is a fringe RB1 play versus an athletic but undersized Atlanta defense the Colts’ powerful offensive line is capable of pushing around. … Jordan Wilkins got loose for 86 total yards in last week’s victory but logged only six touches on ten snaps and is purely a breather back with Nyheim Hines in the lightly-used change-up role. Through two games, Mack has run 38 routes to Hines’ 19. … Update: Mack missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with a calf injury. If he doesn’t play, Wilkins would become the run-first Colts’ favorite for carries with Hines maintaining his change-up/passing-back role. Wilkins would be a top-20 running back start and Hines a PPR-specific flex option versus Atlanta. … Jacoby Brissett jammed in three red-zone touchdown passes in last week’s win over the Titans but ranks 25th in the NFL in pass attempts (55) in a low-volume game-manager role. He remains a QB2 only.
Brissett’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 15; Eric Ebron 7; Hines 6; Jack Doyle 5; Chester Rogers 4; Mack and Deon Cain 3; Parris Campbell and Mo Alie-Cox 2; Wilkins 1. … Living on short TD catches and sitting at a definitively non-T.Y. 56th in the NFL in Air Yards (138), Hilton remains one of fantasy’s most-obvious sell highs on the run-establishment Colts. He’s a WR2/3 play still being valued (and flukily scoring) in the high-end WR2 range. … Ebron scored a Week 2 touchdown but didn’t top 25 yards in either of the Colts’ first two games and ranks an abysmal 27th among tight ends in routes run (35). As Doyle has run nearly the same number of routes (32), they will continue to render each other fantasy non-entities on a ball-control team. … Because the Colts continue to deploy a five-wideout rotation, mining receiving value behind Hilton is going to be difficult regardless of opponent. Although Cain drew the Week 2 start in place of Devin Funchess (collarbone, I.R.), he ran only 21 pass routes behind Hilton’s 33, while Rogers (14 routes), Campbell (11), and Zach Pascal (11) were all involved. Cain’s biggest contribution was drawing an early DPI flag against Titans CB Adoree Jackson to get the Colts inside the ten-yard line. Brissett has shown no tangible affinity for targeting Cain two games in.
Their offense largely back on track in last Sunday night’s win over the Eagles, Matt Ryan’s Falcons catch their third dome game in a row at Lucas Oil Stadium facing a Colts team in danger of missing top CB Pierre Desir (knee), pass rushers Jabaal Sheard (knee) and Kemoko Turay (neck), and All-Pro LB Darius Leonard (concussion). Struggling Devonta Freeman finally draws a soft matchup after opening against Minnesota and Philly’s mean fronts. Chargers and Titans backs hung a combined 36/205/2 (5.69 YPC) rushing and high-efficiency 10/117/2 (11.7 YPR) receiving line on the Colts in Weeks 1-2, while Freeman flashed his old burst on last week’s 29-yard shovel-pass gain, coming up just shy of pay dirt when he was tackled inside the five. Freeman out-snapped Ito Smith 63% to 37%, out-touched him 14 to 6, and is a quality if limited-ceiling RB2 play as the lead back in Atlanta’s committee. … Indy’s defense was flamed for Week 1’s QB9 result by Philip Rivers, then put predictable Week 2 clamps on Titans game-manager Marcus Mariota (QB20). Especially due to the Colts’ laundry list of injuries, this is a wholly unimposing matchup for Ryan. My one hesitation comes from Indianapolis’ so-far ability to slow games and limit opponent play volume. Only three teams have played fewer defensive snaps than Frank Reich’s Colts.
Ryan’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Julio Jones 21; Calvin Ridley 16; Austin Hooper 15; Mohamed Sanu 13; Freeman 8; Justin Hardy 6; Smith 4; Russell Gage 3. … In a great reminder of the fickle and oft-random nature of touchdown results, formerly end-zone-allergic Julio now has a receiving score in six straight games, the league’s longest-active streak. As Colts DC Matt Eberflus’ zone scheme is designed to force completions underneath, look for a high-volume effort where Falcons OC Dirk Koetter relies on Jones’ run-after-catch ability rather than vertical shots to create big plays. … Ridley capitalized on Philly’s double teams of Julio to pile up seven first-half catches last Sunday night, then managed one grab after the break. Desir’s absence in particular could force Eberflus to apply similar double-team tactics to the NFC’s best receiver, again benefiting Ridley. Scoring TDs at an above-expectation rate ever since he entered the league, Ridley is a WR3 with WR2 upside each week. … Possession TE Hooper is rarely a high-ceiling start but quietly leads Atlanta in catches (13) and has a playing style that matches up favorably against Eberflus’ zone. Hooper is a low-end TE1 preferable in full-point PPR leagues. … Fourth on the Falcons in both targets and Air Yards (71), Sanu is a low-upside WR5 regardless of opponent.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Colts 21