We knew we needed a bounce-back performance last week, and we got it. Cincinnati won handily, Tua’s injury locked in his under early on, and Tee Higgins had a beautiful 59-yard TD in the second quarter. Joe Mixon was on pace to give us a perfect night, but his final two receptions went for a combined -1 yard, so we had to settle for 3-1.
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Week 5 starts us off with the 1-2-1 Colts heading to Denver to face the 2-2 Broncos. Indy’s coming off a tough home loss to the Titans, while Denver fell to 2-2 by providing the Raiders with their first win of the season. Denver currently sits at 3.5-point favorites, with the over/under at 42.5
Season Record: 7-9, -2.2 units
GAME LINE: UNDER 42.5
This is a tough game to read, with two teams who’ve had starts to the season that don’t line up with their preseason expectations. Before Week 1, Denver was projected for 10.5 wins with the third-best odds to win the stacked AFC West. Indianapolis, meanwhile, had an over/under of 9.5 wins and came in as the odds-on favorite to win the AFC South. So far, both seem destined to underperform.
Speaking of underperforming, Denver’s new-look offense under Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson has been lackluster, to say the least. They’re scoring just 16.5 points per game through four weeks, while Wilson is 16th in the league in passing and 23rd in completion percentage.
Things got even worse in Week 4 when they lost Javonte Williams to a season-ending knee injury. With the fumble-prone Melvin Gordon, analytics darling Mike Boone, and the newly-acquired Latavius Murray as their RBs, they’ll now need to lean even more on Wilson’s arm against Stephon Gilmore and a Colts defense that’s ranked 10th against the pass. That doesn’t bode well for them at all, especially on a short week with less time to adjust.
For Indy, their offensive game plan typically starts and ends with Jonathan Taylor, who’s listed as questionable for this game with an ankle injury. Taylor’s stated that he wants to play, and the team has indicated that he can’t make the injury worse by playing on it, but it looks like it will ultimately be a game-time decision. If he does play, it’s safe to assume he won’t have the same explosiveness we’re used to that has him second in the league behind Nick Chubb in missed tackles forced on run plays.
Taylor’s been off to a somewhat slow start in 2022, but his presence in the backfield greatly benefits the passing attack for the Colts and Matt Ryan, who’s surprisingly in the top five in passing yards after a 356-yard showing last week. With a receiving group that falls off talent-wise after Michael Pittman Jr., offense has been hard to come by for the Colts, and they’re one of two teams (Chicago being the other) that’s scored fewer points this year (14.3 PPG) than Denver.
The total is set low for this one, but these are two struggling offenses, and the under is 9-3-1 in primetime games so far this season. Don’t overthink it.
MICHAEL PITTMAN JR. OVER 5.5 RECEPTIONS
Despite missing Week 2 with an injury, Pittman is leading the Colts in virtually every receiving metric with 28 targets, 20 receptions, and 224 yards. He’s by far the most talented pass catcher on Indy’s roster, and the preseason “Breakfast Club” murmurs about him and Ryan seem to have translated into a solid rapport through the first quarter of the season. He wasn’t much of a factor in last week’s loss with three catches for 31 yards, which makes me even more confident that Indy will prioritize him in this matchup.
Denver has a strong secondary behind Pat Surtain II and Ronald Darby, but especially for a Colts team that’ll likely need to throw more than usual, Pittman should be in for a 10-plus target night. For a guy who’s catching over 70% of balls thrown his way, as long as Ryan continues to look to him in the short-to-intermediate passing game, this over should be an easy one for MPJ.
JERRY JEUDY UNDER 60.5 RECEIVING YARDS
Jerry Jeudy has started off the season with an interesting trend — he’s put up much better numbers in losses than wins. In two Denver losses, Jeudy has eight catches for 155 yards and two TDs. In their two wins, he has just three receptions for 28 yards. Overall, he’s boiled down to just under 46 yards per game, but that’s been in matchups against below-average pass defenses like Houston and Seattle.
The Colts, meanwhile, are the league’s 10th-best defense in the passing game and have yielded just 456 receiving yards to opposing wideouts through four games, which is the lowest mark in the league. Also, when they do allow yardage in the passing game, they typically limit it to one player. Their opponents’ No. 2 pass catchers are averaging 43.5 yards per game this year, and the only non-leading receiver to top 50 yards against them was Travis Kelce in Week 3. It’s a safe assumption that Courtland Sutton, who’s seventh in the NFL in receiving yards, will be the No. 1 guy — which doesn’t foreshadow a big night for Jeudy. I think he goes under on this one.
ANYTIME TOUCHDOWN SCORER: NYHEIM HINES (+210)
As mentioned, even if Jonathan Taylor can ultimately play on Thursday, he’ll likely be limited. Nyheim Hines was a relative non-factor in Week 4 but is second on the team with 19 targets through four weeks. He has just eight rushing attempts on the year for a measly 11 yards but he may see an increased presence in the run game due to Taylor’s condition.
Even if he doesn’t, Hines’ role in Indy’s passing attack is a consistent one, and he’ll likely be a safety valve for Ryan behind an offensive line that’s ranked 26th in pass block win rate in 2022. Hines doesn’t have a TD yet this year, but I’m banking on that changing this week.
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