With four weeks of Thursday Night Football in the books, we turn our attention to the HOT, HOT Broncos-Colts matchup featuring us not being too sure if the 1.01 in most leagues will play, a whole lot of guys you probably shouldn’t play for fantasy football, a couple guys you must start, and some players that are going to get galaxy brained into lineups this week. Let’s take a look at the week five Thursday Night Football start or sit!
Michael Pittman (WR), Courtland Sutton (WR)
Russell Wilson (Week 4: 17/25, 237 passing yards, 2 TD, 4 rushes, 29 yards, 1 TD)
Everyone who drafted Russell Wilson feared that it would end up this way, but we all hoped that he would be one of the locked-and-loaded studs in this game who you wouldn’t sit. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to week five: Russell Wilson has mostly been not-great for fantasy football. He averaged 248 passing yards and had just two touchdowns (and only one pick) in the first three weeks of the season. Last week, he played a Raiders defense that is the cure for whatever ails you in your passing game, which led to the nice game and the QB3 finish on the week with 27.48 fantasy points after Wilson finished as QB14, QB24, and QB26 in the three weeks prior. He came out of the game with back-to-back “limited” tags for Thursday Night Football, but if you think Mr. Unlimited will take that tag into the game, then you have another thing coming.
I think that you can start Russell Wilson as a backend QB1 this week, between QB10 and QB12. Wilson seemed to get back into improv Russ as the game waned on Sunday, which led to success for Wilson and the Broncos’ passing game. The Colts are middle-of-the-pack against opposing quarterbacks, allowing too many points to guys like Davis Mills and Ryan Tannehill (15.5 and 14.4 points, respectively) while holding Trevor Lawrence and Patrick Mahomes under 20 fantasy points. The team bends, and they don’t break in the passing game, meaning that Wilson has a decent floor but lacks the ultimate upside of a lot of other quarterbacks. That’s why he’s at the backend of the QB1 ranks: you can start him, but you probably won’t like it.
Matt Ryan (Week 4: 27/37, 356 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 rushes, -4 yards)
There isn’t a universe where you should do anything but sit Matt Ryan. The Broncos allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks over the course of the season, and the high-water mark against them is Geno Smith’s 17.2 fantasy points in week one. Since then, they’ve allowed 27.1 combined points to Davis Mills, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Derek Carr. None of those guys are world beaters but also, Matt Ryan just might be worse than all of them right now. Matt Ryan is QB25 on the season. This shouldn’t be the game where he breaks out, especially considering that the Colts will likely be without Jonathan Taylor, and the matchup. Sometimes, fantasy football can be easy.
Melvin Gordon (Week 4: 3 carries, 8 yards, 1 target, 0 receptions)
Gordon suffered from a neck injury and a bit of the fumblies last week as he finished with just ten snaps in the game, despite Javonte Williams going down about halfway through the contest. And in week three, he wasn’t that inspiring, as he finished averaging just 2.2 yards per carry against a 49ers defense that does that to pretty much everyone. But, he did have five catches in that one. In weeks 1-3, he averaged 60 total yards per game, and had 8 catches in 3 contests. He won’t take over a bell cow role for the Broncos, as they didn’t even turn that role over to Javonte Williams (thanks, partially, to Melvin Gordon’s talents). But, the injury does change things, as Gordon likely goes from about 14 touches per game to about 17, with Boone and Murray splitting the touches behind Gordon (once Murray gets acclimated, after all, he was a Saint on Tuesday morning).
Melvin Gordon will be the lead back for the Broncos this week, on a short week, coming off a neck injury. You can go ahead and start Melvin Gordon, since he was getting the goal line work even before Javonte Williams went out for the year, but temper your expectations. He should be a backend RB2, so if you have like, Saquon Barkley and James Robinson, you can keep him on the bench.
Latavius Murray (Week 4: 11 carries, 57 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards)
It’s looking as though Latavius Murray will be inactive for this game after the Saints failed to protect him and the Broncos poached him off their practice squad on Tuesday. Even if he is active, you have better options than a guy who was on a plane all day Monday and then had to get on another plane on Tuesday.
Mike Boone (Week 4: 3 carries, 20 yards, 3 targets, 1 catch, 9 yards)
For some reason, people have this warped idea in their head that there’s a second Mike Boone in the NFL, a Mike Boone who isn’t a career backup with one decent game on his ledger while we’re in his fifth season. That week seventeen game in 2019 is what people cling and point to, a game in which he took on a flailing Bears team that was playing out the string. He also finished that game with almost exactly one-third of his career yards (32.3%). If you’re in an extremely desperate spot, you could start Mike Boone, but given that this is a middle-of-the-road matchup in what is destined to be a split backfield, with a running back who has one game over 15 carries in his career… I would say your best bet is to sit Mike Boone.
Nyheim Hines (Week 4: 1 carry, 0 yards, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 3 yards)
Now, I was a Nyheim Hines proponent in the offseason, but that was mostly in a “he’ll BS his way to double-digit fantasy days by going for 5 catches and 50 total yards” not in a “he’ll dominate the touches if he gets the opportunity, and is a league-winner in waiting.” You can see from the fact that he currently averages 3 yards per game on the ground, with 4.25 catches for 28 yards per game through the air, that the Indianapolis Colts thought the same thing about him this year. That’s what happens when you have Jonathan Taylor running the show. The Colts already announced that Taylor would miss the game. If you are in a PPR flex league, I would start Nyheim Hines. The Colts are likely to do what already works with Hines (targets out of the backfield) and do it even more, which means in a PPR league, you’re racking up a fantasy point per touch before he even gains a yard. He should BS his way into 13 points or so out of sheer volume, and if he scores, you’re off to the races.
The Broncos allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, but they have played only one back who catches passes, as they played Rashaad Penny, Dameon Pierce, and Jeff Wilson Jr in the first three weeks. Last week, against the Raiders, Josh Jacobs finished with 5 catches for 31 yards on 6 targets. While I doubt that Hines gets the 144 rushing yards and 2 scores, I think that 5 catches for 30 yards (8 PPR points) is a great place to start for Hines’ lines this week.
Deon Jackson/Philip Lindsay (2 carries for -3 combined yards on the season)
Even though Jonathan Taylor isn’t playing, still don’t play these guys. Considering that literally, Jonathan Taylor is barely scraping four yards per carry this season because of bad line play, then you should most definitely sit Deon Jackson & Philip Lindsay. Starting them is hoping for a touchdown dive, and I don’t want to start someone hoping for a touchdown if I can help it.
Jerry Jeudy (Week 4: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 53 yards, 1 TD)
Through four weeks, Jerry Jeudy has two games over 15 PPR points, and two games under 4 PPR points. That’s solidified him into a particular fantasy football role: the boom-bust WR3/flex. These guys are hard to gauge whether you should start or sit them every week, as their booming and busting usually comes on the back of one broken coverage, so unless a team is literally playing perfectly, the matchup doesn’t really matter. So, with that in mind, it’s up to you if you want to start Jerry Jeudy. If you have a solid team without a lot of volatility, or if you’re a big underdog, then I would start Jerry Jeudy. But, if your matchup can’t afford for you to eat 3 points while someone gets 7 on your bench, then you can sit Jerry Jeudy. I know I said you could mostly ignore matchups, but the Colts give up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (102.1 on the year), and 26 of those points came against Christian Kirk.
Alec Pierce (Week 4: 6 targets, 4 catches, 80 yards)
My Sicko Stash of the Week™ last week came down with 4 catches and 80 yards a week (WR33 on the week) after his career debut, which saw him haul in 3 catches for 61 yards. Now, I’m not saying that the next stage of his evolution is 5 catches for 99 yards, but I’m also not not saying that. Pierce gives Ryan something he’s desperately needed this season: a wide receiver who isn’t Michael Pittman, Jr. After all, before Pierce showed up, his WR2 was Ashton Dulin, who averages 3 catches for 38 yards per game. Pierce is currently at 3.5 catches for just about 70 yards per contest, so things are working out better for the second-round rookie.
Still, I would sit Alec Pierce this week, because he’s entering his third game, on a short week, and we just don’t know what’s going on. I want him to have a big game, and I am more than happy to have that happen on my bench if that’s what goes down. But, given that the Broncos give up the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and the only guy to top 100 yards against them (1) was Davante Adams and (2) had 13 targets.
Please do not start any of the tight ends in this game. That means sit Albert Okwuegbunam, sit Eric Saubert, sit Mo Alie-Cox (despite the two touchdowns last week), sit Jelani Woods (despite the two touchdowns the week before) and sit Kylen Granson (despite the two touchdowns coming this week, according to recognizing patterns).
The long and the short of it is that these guys are all mired in messy committees, and picking one to tout out of the muck and the mire is putting more conviction behind a guess than I feel comfortable giving. We have no idea how these guys will fare, but I do know that given the questions and uncertainty surrounding usage at this position on these teams, they should be on your bench (or the waiver wire).