Tonight, Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off with a matchup between the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts. While everyone loves Thursday Night Football, fantasy owners struggle with which players they should put in their starting lineups. To help them decide which players they should start and which they should sit, let’s dive into this week’s Thursday Night Fantasy Preview.
All stats are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.
New York Jets
Quarterback – Mike White
In the Jets’ upset victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last week, White was the unsung hero. He threw for 405 passing yards, three touchdowns, and scored 26.1 fantasy points. More impressively, White finished as the QB2 last week, only 1.4 fantasy points behind Josh Allen for the top scorer of the week. Tonight, he faces a Colts team that has allowed quarterbacks to average 19.4 fantasy points per game this season. Last week, the Colts gave up 265 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 21.1 fantasy points to Ryan Tannehill. In one quarterback leagues, White isn’t an ideal option this week. However, White is an excellent option in super flex leagues for fantasy teams with Tom Brady on a bye or just lost Aaron Rodgers to Covid-19.
Running Back – Michael Carter, Ty Johnson
With White under center, Carter and Johnson have turned into must-start running backs in PPR leagues. Over the past two weeks, Carter is the RB2 while Johnson is the RB10. Carter has averaged 24.3 fantasy points per game, while Johnson has averaged 16.4 fantasy points per game during that span. In the two games with White under center, Carter leads the team with 23 targets, including a team-high 14 last week. Meanwhile, Johnson has 13 targets during that span, seeing at least six in both games. In White’s first career start last week, Johnson and Carter combined for a 44.4 percent target share. Not only are Carter and Johnson White’s go-to targets, but they have played well on the ground too.
Carter has been the lead back for the Jets this season. He has averaged 10.4 carries and 6.6 fantasy points per game on the ground. Johnson has been second on the team in both categories, averaging five carries and 2.5 fantasy points per game on the ground. More importantly, Tevin Coleman and La’Mical Perine have combined for only 24 total touches this season. Meanwhile, the Colts have held to only 17.7 fantasy points per game this season, the third-fewest in the NFL. They have also held running backs to only four catches per game this season. While the matchup is far from ideal, the usage rate for both backs makes them starters this week. Carter is a high-end RB2 this week, while Johnson is a flex option only in PPR leagues.
Wide Receiver – Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore
When the Jets signed Davis in the offseason, they expected him to step up as their No. 1 wide receiver. So far this season, Davis has lived up to expectations, averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game. However, Davis has dealt with injuries this season and missed last week’s game against the Bengals with a hip injury. If Davis plays tonight, he is a risky mid WR3 as White has averaged only 5.5 air yards per attempt this season. With White rarely pushing the ball downfield, it will limit Davis’ fantasy upside this week. However, if Davis is out for tonight’s matchup, it opens the door for the other wide receivers on the team.
Last week Crowder led all wide receivers with nine targets. Behind him was Moore with six targets. Crowder had a 20 percent target share against the Bengals, while Moore had a 13.3 percent target share. Meanwhile, the Colts have struggled to slow down wide receivers this season, giving up almost 39 fantasy points per game to the position. They have allowed wide receivers to score two or more touchdowns and over 42 fantasy points in half their games this season. If Davis is out for tonight’s game, Crowder is a safe floor high-end WR3 while Moore is a risky low-end WR3 with upside. However, Crowder is a safe floor low-end WR3, while Moore should be on the bench if Davis plays.
Tight End – Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin
Right before the start of the season, the Jets traded Chris Herndon to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a swap of 2022 NFL Draft picks. They believed they had better options at tight end with Kroft and Griffin. However, the duo has done nothing for fantasy owners, averaging only 6.5 fantasy points per game combined this season. They have only one game this season with over six fantasy points combined. Meanwhile, the Colts have given up 15.9 fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. Last week they gave up 18.3 fantasy points to the Tennessee Titans tight ends, surrendering seven catches for 53 receiving yards and a touchdown. Despite the appealing matchup, neither Jet tight end belongs in any season-long lineups this week.
The Jets D/ST has been one of the worst units this season. They have averaged only one fantasy point per game. The Jets D/ST has also scored negative fantasy points in two of their past three games, averaging negative 2.7 fantasy points per game since Week 5. More importantly, the Jets D/ST has scored negative fantasy points in more games this season than they have scored over four fantasy points. Meanwhile, opposing D/STs have averaged 4.9 fantasy points per game against the Colts this season. They have scored under five fantasy points in three of their past five matchups against the Colts. Despite Carson Wentz’s habits of turning the ball over, fantasy owners have no reason to play the Jets D/ST tonight.
Quarterback – Carson Wentz
Over the past five weeks, Wentz has been the QB8, averaging 19.6 fantasy points per game. Wentz has thrown at least two touchdowns in every game while averaging 246.8 passing yards per contest during that span. He has also only turned the ball over four times in those five games. Meanwhile, the Jets have struggled to slow down quarterbacks recently. Despite the upset win over the Bengals last week, the Jets gave up three passing touchdowns and 20.3 fantasy points to Joe Burrow. More importantly, the Jets have given up an average of 2.3 passing touchdowns and 22.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over their past three games. Between the matchup and his recent play, Wentz has top-10 upside this week.
Running Back – Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines
After a slow start to begin the season, Taylor has turned into a fantasy superstar. Over the past five weeks, Taylor has been the RB1, averaging 24.1 fantasy points per game. Taylor has averaged 18.4 touches per game, scoring at least one touchdown in every game during that span. More importantly, Taylor has scored 18 or more fantasy points in each of the past five games. However, with Taylor’s uptick in work, Hines has turned into an afterthought in the Colts backfield. After averaging 12.1 fantasy points per game over the first three weeks, Hines has scored a total of 14.7 fantasy points over the past five games. Last week, Hines had his first game with more than two catches since Week 3. The Colts no longer have a split backfield.
Meanwhile, the Jets have surrendered the most fantasy points to running backs this season, giving up 37 fantasy points per game to the position. They have given up at least one rushing touchdown in each of their past six games, giving up 1.8 per game during that span. Furthermore, the Jets have given up at least 85 rushing yards to running backs in all but one game this season. The Jets have also given up the second-most receiving yards to running backs this season, giving up 79 per game. Despite the excellent matchup, fantasy owners shouldn’t trust Hines, given the lack of touches lately. However, Taylor is his usual plug-and-play RB1 status this week. He could finish the week as the top fantasy scoring running back.
Wide Receiver – Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal
With T.Y. Hilton out for tonight’s game with a concussion, Pittman will once again be the focal point of the passing attack. However, Pittman has played great this season, whether Hilton has been on the field or the sidelines. After scoring a career-high 30.6 fantasy points last week against the Titans, Pittman is the WR11 for the season, averaging 16.2 fantasy points per game. He has 20 or more fantasy points in half of the games this season. More importantly, Pittman has averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game over the past month, scoring 20.5 or more fantasy points in all but one game. After averaging only 4.7 targets per game as a rookie, Pittman has averaged 8.1 per game this season.
Behind Pittman, the Colts lack talent at wide receiver. The only other player on the team in the top 95 fantasy wide receivers this season is Pascal. He has averaged 8.8 fantasy points per game this season, scoring under 9.5 fantasy points in every game since Week 2. More importantly, he has 14 targets over the past two weeks, scoring only 13.7 total fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Jets have gotten destroyed by wide receivers over the past two weeks. They have given up 12.5 catches for 205.5 receiving yards, 1.5 touchdowns, and 45.9 fantasy points per game during that span. Pittman should maintain his strong play tonight, making him a low-end WR1. For those with bye week issues, Pascal is a safe floor WR4 option for fantasy owners.
Tight End – Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle
While the Colts’ tight end situation is better than the Jets, it hasn’t been great for fantasy owners. Alie-Cox has played well at times recently, scoring 11.5 or more fantasy points in two of the past five games. However, he has averaged only 5.9 fantasy points per game in the other three contests. His teammate hasn’t been any better this season. Doyle has averaged 4.3 fantasy points per game this season, scoring only one touchdown all year. More importantly, Doyle has more games this season with less than two fantasy points (three) with over 5.5 fantasy points (two). Furthermore, the matchup against the Jets is far from ideal.
The Jets have held tight ends not named Kyle Pitts to only 11.3 fantasy points per game this season. Furthermore, Pitts’ 26.9 fantasy points have counted for 25.5 percent of the fantasy points the Jets have given up to tight ends this year. They have also held tight ends under 7.5 fantasy points in almost half of their games. Moreover, the Jets have given up over 55 receiving yards to tight ends just three times this season. Last week they held C.J. Uzomah to only 7.3 fantasy points after averaging 16.2 per game over his previous four games. Despite four teams on a bye this week, fantasy owners need to look elsewhere to fill their tight end spot.
Since Week 6, the Colts have been one of the highest D/STs. They have scored at least six fantasy points in each of their past three games, averaging 9.7 fantasy points per game during that span. They have forced at least two turnovers in each of those games, averaging three turnovers per contest. Meanwhile, the Jets have been the best team to stream D/STs against for fantasy owners. They have given opposing D/STs 9.4 fantasy points per game this season. Before last week, opposing D/STs averaged 10.8 fantasy points per game this season against the Jets. On a short week, the Colts have the advantage over the young quarterback. The Colts D/ST is a top-five unit this week against a quarterback making his second career start.