The Indianapolis Colts have lost two of their last four games, and have been outscored by 48 points in the process. They've been beaten in the first halves of those four by a collective score of 79-22. After beating the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers earlier in the season, the Colts have struggled against the likes of the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans. Yet they're still 8-4, and Sunday, they take on fellow first-place team Cincinnati in a 1 p.m. ET game in Cincinnati that could, despite their struggles, slot the Colts in as the AFC's three-seed for the playoffs. Both teams have some interesting fantasy players as well:
Start in every league: Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri had a huge game in Week 13, making five field goals and scoring 20 points. He's scored double-digit fantasy points seven times this season and ranks fourth among fantasy kickers. Dude turns 41 in less than three weeks. That's just silly.
Part of the reason Vinatieri had such a huge Week 13 is that the Colts, and Luck, had serious trouble finishing drives against the Titans. After posting a combined 53 points in back-to-back games in Weeks 7 and 9, Luck has averaged only 13.5 points in the four games since. He's only topped 20 fantasy points three times this season, though he also only has one game in the single digits. The Bengals are one of the better teams against opposing quarterbacks. The pro/con list about Luck could go on for several paragraphs. Use your judgment. ... Brown is the Colts' starting running back now, and has scored 12 or more fantasy points in three of his last four games. Of course, in the other one, he had two rushes for one yard, and the Bengals are the fifth-best team against opposing running backs. ... Hilton is still in the top 20 among fantasy wide receivers on the season, but he has 11 fantasy points combined in his last three, and only has two games above 13 fantasy points on the year. The upside is huge, but he hasn't been reaching that upside much. ... Hilton's struggles have led to an increased role in the Indianapolis offense for Fleener, who has 26 fantasy points in his last three. He's made himself a low-end TE1/high-end TE2, and could easily justify a start.
If you've still been riding Richardson under the theory that he'll break through eventually, congratulations on making your fantasy playoffs despite no fantasy ability. He's not only not startable, he's hardly ownable. ... The theoretical usage boost for Heyward-Bey in the wake of the Reggie Wayne injury has clearly not happened; he has only 11 fantasy points in the five games since Wayne went down. ... The Colts' defense has had zero or negative points in three of five games, and gives up lots of points through the air. There's got to be a better option.
Start in every league: A.J. Green, Defense/special teams
Start if you're desperate: Giovani Bernard
The Colts have allowed 30-plus fantasy points to opposing wide receivers four times in their last six games, including huge games to Andre Johnson and Tavon Austin. Welcome to the party, Green. ... In their last four games, opposing defenses have scored 25, -1, 14 and nine fantasy points against the Colts. It's been wildly inconsistent, but the big games have been huge. Meanwhile, the Bengals' defense ranks third in the NFL in fantasy scoring. It's a no-brainer start.
Fantasy owners of Bernard have to have been frustrated by Green-Ellis' presence, which has limited the rookie to 13 fantasy points in his last two. We've all seen his upside, but the timeshare has hurt.
Take out his three-game hot stretch in Weeks 6-8, and Dalton has averaged only 10.8 fantasy points per game on the season. Those big games are still on the resume, but overall he's really tough to trust. ... As much as Green-Ellis has stolen touches from Bernard, Bernard has stolen more from Green-Ellis; he has only scored double-digit fantasy points twice on the season. ... Jones has one total fantasy point and four catches in his last three games. ... Neither Eifert nor Gresham has done enough to even consider using in the fantasy playoffs. ... Nugent's fantasy results have improved of late, but he still has a season-high of 12 points in a game, and hasn't made more than two field goals in any outing.