Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
When the schedule makers set this one up for Thursday night of Week 16, they envisioned a fantastic shootout between future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and rising star Matt Schaub, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson. Instead they got T.J. Yates and Dan Orlovsky! Oh, the ratings calamity.
Still, there are a couple of players from this game that might help you and your championship aspirations.
Houston at Indianapolis
Start - T.J. Yates, Arian Foster, Owen Daniels, Neil Rackers, Texans defense
Let's start by getting the bad news out of the way. Andre Johnson will not play - for the ninth time this season. After beginning his career with the "oft-injured" tag he played 16 games in both 2008 and 2009 and lost the moniker. Now he's falling back into the injury-prone mode which will force fantasy owners to reduce his value next season.
After losing Schaub and backup Matt Leinart for the season, the Texans are relying on a rookie, T.J. Yates, to take them deep into the playoffs. As with all rookies, they are going to have their ups and downs. Yates threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns against a tough Cincinnati Bengals defense, but also posted a 56.5 QB Rating against a weak Carolina defense last Sunday. With the 28th-ranked Indianapolis defense lined up against him on Thursday night, it could be time for a good performance.
Yates doesn't have to be great for the Texans to win the game, that should be done by the Houston running game powered by Arian Foster and the team's highly rated defense. Foster, a top-three fantasy pick back at training camp, has been everything expected of him after a slow beginning. In eight of his last 10 games, he's combined for 100 yards or more from scrimmage. He's a must start.
Backup Ben Tate is dealing with this year's fashionable injury, the hamstring pull, and can't be depended upon this week.
The receiving corps, without Johnson, is headed by tight end Daniels (53-673-3). In this "year of the tight end", Daniels hasn't gotten any press, but he's been a solid contributor. Foster is the team's second-leading receiver with the often-injured Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter also trying to help out. Neither Jones or Walter has been able to give consistent production and can't be started with the championship on the line.
The Texans' defense, ranked 2nd overall, should have their way with Orlovsky and the Colts offense.
Start - Donald Brown
Joseph Addai continues to start for Indianapolis at tailback, but he's done nothing with the opportunities. Meanwhile, backup Donald Brown has out- performed Addai 310 yards to 98 over the past four weeks, including 161 yards last Sunday.
I truly considered recommending a couple of Colts receivers, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, but the numbers say that's not a good move.
Wayne has just 12 catches (17 targets) for 129 yards in three games with Orlovsky as the starter. Garcon had been targeted 24 times in Orlovsky's first two games, but in the Colts first win of the season last week saw the ball just four times. Orlovsky attempted just 17 passes. Given that the Colts finally won a game, they are likely to continue their conservative approach.
Orlovsky completed 11 of 17 passes last week for all of 82 yards against the 17th-ranked Tennessee Titans defense. He faces the NFL's second-best pass defense this week. Enough said.