by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Thursday games are often tricky as it is, because there isn’t necessarily a reason to take any undue risks with questionable options (which could set you back and spoil your week). Who are the borderline players that should be in lineups? Who should be sat down? Let’s take a look at the skill players taking the field tonight and try to answer those questions:
New England Patriots
Sony Michel – Running Back
The Indianapolis Colts have been solid against opposing running backs this season, allowing just 3.6 yards/carry (337 yards on 93 carries) and 2 TD. When coupled with the uncertainty there is in trusting a Patriots’ running back it’s easy to be conservative with Michel on a Thursday night. Complicating matters even more is his recent workload, as he had 25 carries on Sunday. With a quick turnaround will the team look to put that much wear and tear on him in such a short period of time?
Michel has earned RB2 status, and that means in most cases he’s going to be a very good option for Week 5. At the same time know that there is a little bit of risk that can’t be ignored. We aren’t going to say that he’s bound to be a bust, but he could easily see a reduced workload.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (but know the risk for a “bust” game)
James White – Running Back
The Indianapolis Colts have allowed the sixth most receiving yards to opposing running backs (241) and that’s something that New England will likely look to exploit. As it is White has caught a TD pass in three of four games and is coming off a day where he racked up 8 catches for 68 yards.
That said, like with Michel there’s a lot of risk at play before simply setting him and forgetting him. The Patriots’ pass catchers have struggled, but there is reason to believe that there will be more competition for targets:
- Rob Gronkowski – He’s struggled over the past three weeks, but the Colts have struggled a bit against opposing tight ends (311 yards and 1 TD) and there’s reason to believe in a big game
- Julian Edelman – His suspension is over and he’ll be on the field, instantly becoming a significant factor
- Josh Gordon – He had another few days to have learned the offense and build a rapport with Tom Brady. He was only targeted twice in Week 4, but with improving health (he’s battled a hamstring issue) there’s a good chance that his role grows quickly
That’s a lot of obstacles to potentially overcome, and while White is going to be a viable RB2/FLEX, he also could disappoint (he could easily post around 50 yards without a TD). Consider him a high risk, high reward RB2 but a better fit as a FLEX.
Verdict – Solid FLEX (but like White, don’t ignore the risks)
Josh Gordon – Wide Receiver
He got his first action in Week 4 and could easily explode at any moment. We all know the big play ability and with Tom Brady at quarterback would anyone be surprised if Gordon made a big play or two and racked up a lot of fantasy points? At the same time, the opportunities could go elsewhere (Gronkowski, Edelman) and Gordon is still nursing a hamstring injury. He’s the epitome of boom or bust, and while you could argue he’s a viable WR3 it’s hard to trust him.
Verdict – Boom or Bust WR3 (but would rather go conservative and Sit ‘Em)
Julian Edelman – Wide Receiver
After missing the first four games due to suspension Edelman returns to a receiving corps in desperate need of a boost. He’s coming off a season where he racked up 98 catches, averaging nearly 10 targets per game. It wouldn’t be surprising if he immediately got that type of workload, especially as the receiving corps as a whole has underwhelmed over the first 25% of the season. The downside is that he’s hardly a given to find the end zone, having scored just 3 TD last season and the Colts having allowed the ninth fewest points to opposing wide receivers (only 4 TD).
His presence is going to help those around him and while the potential is there to produce, he also could be used more as a decoy to free up others in his first game back.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (as a WR3)
- Tom Brady – Quarterback
- Rob Gronkowski – Tight End
Andrew Luck – Quarterback
Luck is coming off a monster day, throwing for 464 yards and 4 TD against the Houston Texans. Of course he also threw the ball 62 times, something that he’s not about to do again. The Patriots also represent a much stiffer test, with their 949 passing yards being the ninth fewest in the league. While Luck was able to produce despite T.Y. Hilton being hampered by an injury, if he’s forced to miss the game (and that’s looking to be extremely likely) can we trust Luck to produce with this type of uninspiring receiving corps:
- Ryan Grant
- Chester Rogers
- Zach Pascal
It would be easy to push him up the rankings, but at the end of the day he’s a QB2 and nothing more. Let’s not forget that in Week 2 and 3 he totaled 343 passing yards.
Verdict – Sit ‘Em (as QB1, viable QB2)
Jordan Wilkins – Running Back
He’s been the “leader” of the backfield over the first four weeks, totaling 38 carries for 136 yards and 0 TD. He also has been a virtual non-factor in the passing game, with 7 receptions for 25 yards. Only once in the first four games has he averaged more than 3.2 yards/carry and there’s no guarantee that he even gets touches. This early in the week and with the potential that Indianapolis is forced to go pass heavy to catch up, Wilkins is a tough player to trust.
Verdict – Sit ‘Em
Nyheim Hines – Running Back
He hasn’t gotten more than 5 carries in a game, but he has had at least 5 receptions in three out of four games and is coming off a big day (9 receptions, 63 yards, 2 TD). In PPR formats 22 catches for 119 yards is going to catch your attention, and with the potential to play a big role given the questionable receiving corps the value is there. We wouldn’t push him too high, but as a FLEX option he’s a viable option.
Verdict – Start ‘ Em (viable FLEX in PPR formats)
Eric Ebron – Tight End
New England has allowed the second fewest points per week to opposing tight ends, but who have they faced thus far? That helps us ignore that number and the Colts need Ebron to function more like a wide receiver given the likely loss of T.Y. Hilton. As it is Ebron has been targeted 21 times over the past two games (though he’s only turned it into 10 receptions and 73 yards) and he’s scored in three of four games overall. With there being a good chance that the Colts need to go pass heavy in order to keep up, there’s a good chance Ebron produces solid numbers for another week.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (backend TE1)
Ryan Grant – Wide Receiver
Zach Pascal – Wide Receiver
Chester Rogers – Wide Receiver
With T.Y. Hilton likely out the Colts will proceed with this seemingly uninspiring group of receivers. That’s not to say that they can’t be productive (Pascal, for instance, is coming off a day where he turned 10 targets into 6 receptions, 56 yards and 1 TD) is anyone really willing to bet on it on a Thursday night? Grant may be the “safest” option, but there’s simply no guarantee that he gets enough opportunities to trust.
Verdict – Sit ‘Em All
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 5 rankings: