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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Indianapolis Colts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Colts made the second round of the playoffs last year, taking another small step toward a championship run. They made it there in spite of a receiving corps stripped barren by injuries and awful play and without a consistent run game or quality offensive line.

That's the power of a stud quarterback for you.

Entering Year 3 in Indianapolis, the Colts have further built around Andrew Luck and have themselves a heck of a squad on both sides of the ball. Prized offseason acquisitions include tackle machine D'Qwell Jackson, receiver Hakeem Nicks and second-round pick Jack Mewhort at guard. Nicks should give Luck a terrific target across the middle and down the sideline. Pairing him with a receiving corps that will get back Reggie Wayne (torn ACL) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) should free up T.Y. Hilton to run deeper routes and stretch defenses. Mewhort will help stabilize the O-line to keep Luck upright and Jackson will aid a defense that struggled vs. the run last year (26th in the NFL).

So it's all coming together for the Colts, though the one area on the roster they didn't make any big additions to might be the most perplexing: the running game. Indy let Donald Brown walk right to a backup role in San Diego and didn't add another runner via free agency or the draft. It's a sign they're banking on a rebound year from Trent Richardson after he was awful in 2013. That's a risk Fantasy owners might run away from.

Best Indy WR is ... T.Y. Hilton

Maybe we're taking a chance here on Hilton, but he's easily the most threatening receiver on the Colts roster. Last year the offense tried to peg him into the No. 1 receiver's role after Wayne got hurt and it backfired until the end of the year. Coach Chuck Pagano said this offseason they had to keep working and working on Hilton's game in order for him to be effective -- perhaps in the process he got some hard lessons on how to be a top-flight receiver in the league. It paid off over his final three games of the year (28 catches, 482 yards and two scores) and should parlay into bigger opportunities this year, particularly if Wayne, Nicks and at least one tight end is drawing coverage away from him. We could see defenses try and take Hilton away, a practice that really kept the Colts offense stuck in neutral the second half of last season. Though he might be inconsistent, Hilton should still be expected to be the most productive Colts receiver without necessarily being the leader in receptions.

Bust candidate ... Reggie Wayne

We're conditioned to think of Wayne as a quality Fantasy starter. Forget it. It's not so much that he's coming off of ACL surgery and turning 36 in November as it is the Colts topping off their receiving depth this offseason. Nicks was signed, Allen is coming back from hip surgery and the rookie Moncrief will have a chance to get in the mix a little bit. Last year Nicks was part of a 2-3 man show. Now, Luck will have the luxury of spreading the ball around and not having to lean on Wayne for the 11.7 targets per game he averaged over the last two seasons (Wayne caught around 57 pct. of those targets, by the way). Wayne has also posted six scores or less in five of his last six seasons. Please don't overrate him.

Bounce-back candidate ... Hakeem Nicks

2013 Touches Leaders
759 total touches
Trent Richardson 185 (157 car., 28 rec.) 24.4%
Donald Brown 129 (102 car., 27 rec.) 16.9%
T.Y. Hilton 84 (82 rec., 2 car.) 11.1%
Andrew Luck 63 car. 8.3%
Coby Fleener 52 rec. 6.9%
Ahmad Bradshaw 48 (41 car., 7 rec.) 6.3%
All Others 198 26.1%

Ok, so it's not real hard to think of Nicks as a bounce-back candidate after scoring as many touchdowns as you did last season (assuming you're not an NFL player). But what if he did better than last year's 56 catches and 896 yards, too? We're thinking that's a real possibility for Nicks, who hasn't posted over 900 yards or four-plus scores for two seasons now. Count on both of those things happening in 2014 as he finds himself in a spot where he's not really the No. 1 receiver but rather a quality outlet on a team loaded with them. We suspect that defenses won't think about double-teaming Nicks or sending coverage closer to his side of the field. It'll give him multiple chances to get open and move the chains. Will he regain his form as a 1,100-yard, seven-touchdown receiver? We won't discount that possibility, though no one should expect as much. Counting on Nicks as a potential third Fantasy wideout is an acceptable idea.

Schedule analysis

It's a good slate for the Colts, who face some challenging defenses but none of the elite units in the league. And even if they did ... remember how they fared vs. Seattle last season? Indy even has a perk: Three straight home games after a Week 10 bye. They basically are staying in Indiana for the month of November. If there's a complaint it's that they face three teams coming off of a bye (Giants in Week 9, Patriots in Week 11, Jaguars in Week 12). They also waste a great matchup (at Tennessee) in Week 17. Expect a lot of high-scoring games as the Colts take on the powder kegs of the NFC East as well as the Patriots, Bengals and a Week 1 showdown at the Broncos.

Training camp battles

How will the tight end snaps shake out? After Dwayne Allen got hurt in Week 1, Coby Fleener had a ton of opportunities to break out last season and didn't grab the brass ring. This isn't to say that Allen will go on to be the Colts' every-down tight end -- it might mean that both guys get relegated to complementary/red zone roles. That won't help Fantasy owners.

How will the run game shake out? This is a question the Colts probably would like to know the answer to themselves. Ahmad Bradshaw was re-signed after having two vertebrae in his neck fused together. Vick Ballard is coming back from a torn ACL suffered last September and Trent Richardson is coming back from a season gone horribly wrong. Unless Dan Herron or Zurlon Tipton go off in training camp or someone else waltzes into the Colts facilities, that's what they have. The commitment the team made to Richardson last fall suggests he'll get another grand opportunity.

Bold prediction

Andrew Luck finished last season as the seventh-best quarterback in Fantasy, despite posting only six games with 20-plus Fantasy points, the lowest of any passer who averaged 20 or more Fantasy points per game. It's also his second consecutive season with only six. But those years are over -- Luck will fare much better and be far more consistent this season. His receiving corps, as illustrated above, is deeper than ever. His offensive line is stronger than ever. His schedule is better than ever. His running game is ... well, it's there and probably not strong enough to take the ball out of Luck's hands. But here's a fun fact: Luck had those six games with 20-plus points last year and another three with 18 or 19 points. That's how close Luck was to having nine 20-plus-point games, as many as Nick Foles. Luck will again be a Top 10 quarterback and potentially Top 5. Not bad for a player you can nab in Round 5 or 6.

Injury report

Reggie Wayne (torn ACL), probable for start of training camp. ... Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), questionable for start of training camp. ... Vick Ballard (torn ACL), probable for start of training camp. ... Dwayne Allen (hip), probable for start of training camp. ... Donald Thomas (bicep, quad), probable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Report: Patriots RB Shane Vereen expected to go Week 8
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Patriots running back Shane Vereen is expected to play Week 8 against the Bears.

Vereen missed Friday's practice due to an illness, and is considered questionable for Sunday's game. Despite the illness, it would be a surprise if Vereen did not play, according to the report. Vereen scored two touchdowns Week 7 against the Jets. 


Chargers RB Ryan Mathews could return Week 9
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) There's a chance Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will return Week 9, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"That's in my head," Mathews said. "I'm just going keep doing my treatment this week, come back on Monday, and see what they say." Mathews has missed six straight games due to an MCL sprain. Mathews was able to put in some work prior to Thursday night's game, though he was not a candidate to play. He seemed to handle the workout well. 


Report: Reggie Bush unlikely to play Week 8
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Lions running back Reggie Bush is unlikely to play Week 8 against the Falcons.

Bush is considered doubtful due to an ankle issue, so the move shouldn't come as a big surprise. With Detroit on a bye Week 9, the team will rest Bush another week so that he's healthy down the stretch. 


Report: Lions WR Calvin Johnson unlikely to go in London
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is unlikely to play Week 8 in London, according to ESPN.

Johnson was officially listed on the team's final injury report as questionable due to an ankle injury. With Detroit on a bye Week 9, the team is leaning toward resting Johnson in order to make sure he's healthy down the stretch. 


Cardinals DE Calais Campbell a game-time decision Week 8
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Friday that defensive end Calais Campbell will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Eagles in Week 8, per ESPN. Campbell missed the last two games after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain against Denver in Week 5. He returned to the practice field Thursday and Friday and was officially listed as questionable.

"I feel explosive and everything, so it depends on what you consider limited," Campbell said. "In my opinion, I feel like I can play football and help the team win."

Raiders CB D.J. Hayden could be activated before Sunday's game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Raiders coach Tony Sparano told reporters Friday that D.J. Hayden is "good to go," but would not commit to whether the cornerback will be activated off the Physically Unable to Perform List in time for Week 8 against the Browns, ESPN reports. The team is expected to place Usama Young and LaMarr Woodley on the season-ending injured reserve list, which would open a spot for Hayden.

The Raiders have 12 days remaining to activate Hayden, or else he lands on the injured reserve list.


Raiders will place Usama Young, LaMarr Woodley on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Raiders safety Usama Young and defensive end LaMarr Woodley will likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve list, Tony Sparano told the Bay Area News Group on Friday. Young suffered a torn ACL and MCL and Woodley suffered a torn bicep Week 8 against Arizona.

Saints RB Mark Ingram: 'I've got to step up' for my teammates
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Saints lead back Mark Ingram wants to return the favor to the backfield mates that carried the load when he missed three games with a broken hand by performing well with them out.

Ingram has been thrust back into the featured back role for Sunday night against Green Bay with injuries sidelining Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.

"A couple guys are down, so I've got to step up and pull my weight and do my job," Ingram told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Ingram certainly pulled his weight before his injury. He rushed for 143 yards on 6.0 YPC with three touchdowns in the first two games. But he managed just 16 yards on 10 attempts at Detroit in Week 7.


Patriots add LB Davis, WR Krause to practice squad
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) The Patriots announced a pair of minor roster moves Friday. The team re-signed linebacker Ja'Gared Davis to the practice squad and signed rookie wide receiver Jonathan Krause to the practice squad, per the team's official website.

Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor all but cleared for Week 8
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor has been deemed probable for the Week 8 game at Carolina despite an ankle issue. He practiced in full Thursday and Friday after not participating Wednesday.

Chancellor has started in every game this season and has registered 44 tackles.


 
 
 
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