INDIANAPOLIS — As Week 1 of the NFL season stares us in the face with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, it means two things.
First, the league survived the rocky start to its offseason. Second, that means fantasy football is back as well.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs hosting the Texans is enough to get Indianapolis Colts fans excited already, but the Sunday morning rituals of tinkering with lineups is enough alone to make fans giddy.
On Sunday, the Colts take on an AFC South Division foe in the Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom the Colts split two games in 2019. This isn’t the Jaguars we came to know last season, though: they’ve changed quite a bit.
Weighing the Colts’ road matchup with the new-look Jaguars, which Colts player might stand out the most for fantasy owners in Week 1?
(Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring. Ranks as of Thursday of game week.)
RBs Marlon Mack/Jonathan Taylor
— FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: Taylor RB23, Mack RB28
— 2019 Jaguars vs. RBs: 31st (24.8 FPPG)
The Colts blitzkrieged the Jaguars at home in Week 11 last year with 264 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, followed by another 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a loss at Jacksonville in Week 17.
After parting ways with defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Marcell Darius, and Yannick Ngakoue this offseason, the Jaguars haven’t exactly improved up front against the run, at least not as far as we know yet.
Both Mack and Taylor should be considered startable this week in a great matchup. Coming off a season in which the team finished seventh in rushing, the same starting five offensive linemen remain from the last year-and-a-half. Exceptional run blockers in tight end Jack Doyle and wide receiver Zach Pascal join the block party as well.
For those worried about how the touches between Mack, Taylor, and Nyheim Hines will be distributed, just know that Mack will likely get the start, but the coaches consider Mack and Taylor a “one-one” punch as runners. Hines is expected to continue his role as the primary pass-catching back.
WR T.Y. Hilton
— FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: WR25
— 2019 Jaguars vs. WRs: 13th (20.5 FPPG)
When Hilton is “on,” he’s really on, and he’s back with a gutsy, accurate quarterback in Philip Rivers that should provide Hilton the opportunity for chunk plays down the field.
While he isn’t known as a voluminous touchdown-scorer, Hilton has gotten off to a hot start in that department the past two years, particularly in the red zone. He started out 2018 with two consecutive games with a touchdown, and scored a touchdown in the first three games in 2019.
There’s nothing in Jacksonville’s secondary that should deter you from starting Hilton in this matchup. Rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson should develop into a really nice player, but shouldn’t be expected to stand out against a veteran passing duo like Rivers and Hilton. Outside of Henderson, Hilton is looking at corners like Tre Herndon, D.J. Hayden, and Chris Claybrooks.
Colts Defense/Special Teams
— FantasyPros Week 1 Position Rank: DST7
— 2019 Jaguars vs. DSTs: T-24th (8.3 FPPG)
On paper, this Colts defense might be the best that it’s been in quite awhile. Their defensive line is bolstered with DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston, they have one of the NFL’s most athletic linebacker groups with Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and Bobby Okereke, and the secondary isn’t void of talent.
In evaluating Jacksonville’s offense, the first question mark is the run game. They recently parted ways with their bellcow of the last three years in Leonard Fournette. He is succeeded by a rookie undrafted free agent in James Robinson as well as Devine Ozigbo, who is on the injury list with a hamstring, and pass-catching back Chris Thompson and Ryquell Armstead, who is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Jaguars signed Dare Ogunbowale on Thursday.
Jacksonville’s strength is likely to be its passing game, led by quarterback Gardner Minshew II and wide receiver D.J. Chark. The Colts already know that, as Chark caught 12 passes for 138 yards (11.5 avg.) and two touchdowns in two games against them last year.
In those two games, the Colts were able to sack the Jaguars four times and force a pair of turnovers.
In general, the Colts defense is a mismatch for the Jaguars offense. The Colts are more complete, are very athletic, and have quite a bit of talent.
Watch out for Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox while Trey Burton is on injured reserve with his calf injury. Alie-Cox is now co-starter alongside Doyle, and he’s a chunk play waiting to happen.
In 2018, he ranked fourth among NFL tight ends in average depth targeted (11.1 yards downfield), and in 2019 he also ranked fourth in average yards after the catch (7.5).
Alie-Cox’s fantasy draft rank is TE55 and his Week 1 rank is TE46, so it wouldn’t take much for him to surpass that.
Boom or Bust
The “Boom” players are outside of the top 10 at their position in FantasyPros’ Week 1 rankings of who has high upside this week. The ”Bust” players are inside the top 15 at their position but could fall short of expectations.
— QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (QB16) @ Minnesota Vikings
— WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (WR37) @ New York Giants
— TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (TE18) vs. Chicago Bears
— QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (QB9) @ Washington Football Team
— RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (RB11) @ Washington Football Team
— TE Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns (TE14) @ Baltimore Ravens
Who I’m Adding This Week
Here are some players worth acquiring from the waiver wire. They are owned in 40 percent or less of Yahoo! leagues.
— (40%) WR Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins
— (35%) TE Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
— (35%) RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
— (22%) WR Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
— (22%) WR Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders
(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is email@example.com.)