Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A revamped Indianapolis Colts team arrives in Jacksonville Thursday night to take on the struggling Jaguars in the kickoff to Week 10.
One thing about rookies, you may think you know what they will do before the season begins, but you never have the true picture until they are tested on the field of battle. We thought Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck would be good, we just didn't know for sure.
Now we do.
The 23-year-old is proving he was worth the No. 1 overall selection in last April's draft. Fantasy owners didn't just come to this conclusion after last weekend's record-breaking 433-yard passing effort, that was simply the icing on the cake.
Luck has turned around a team that was 2-14 in 2011-12 by stabilizing the most important position on the team - quarterback. After living through Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins, the sight of the talented 6-foot-4 Stanford alumnus has made all around him better.
Luck has thrown for 2,404 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first eight games (300.5 ypg). He's also rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns. He will faces a porous Jaguars' pass defense (yielding 255.5 ypg) and is a must- start.
The primary beneficiary of the Colts' improvement at quarterback is veteran receiver Reggie Wayne. Last season, he looked like a man at the twilight of his career. Fantasy owners quickly jumped off the Wayne bandwagon as they realized there was no one to get him the ball and he finished the season with 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns. It was nice work for the average wideout, but disappointing for a receiver who averaged 1,264 yards over the previous seven seasons.
Through the first half of 2012-13 with Luck under center, Wayne leads the league in targets (101), receiving yards (835) and receiving yards per game (104.4). Wayne is another must-start.
The Colts have other talented receivers, too.
Donnie Avery (34-454-1) is second on the team in targets (68) and is a viable fantasy option - if he plays Thursday night. He's been dealing with a hip injury and will be a game-time decision after practicing the last two days.
If Avery isn't active, then rookie T.Y. Hilton becomes fantasy-worthy. With Avery sidelined against Miami last Sunday, Hilton posted 102 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
Luck has always used his tight end, even in his days back at Stanford. While that connection, Coby Fleener, is sidelined with a shoulder injury, Luck will make use of backup Dwayne Allen, who caught six passes for a season-high 75 yards versus the Dolphins in Week 9. He is worthy of a spot in your fantasy lineup.
While the Colts have produced the league's No. 4 offense (390.9 ypg) behind their rookie quarterback, the Jacksonville offense under the direction of second-year starter Blaine Gabbert is the worst in the league, producing just 254.4 ypg.
Gabbert has been better over the past two games, throwing for a combined 523 yards and three touchdowns versus two interceptions, but there is little to be excited about in the Jacksonville offense.
The loss of Maurice Jones-Drew has exposed how little talent is on the offensive side of the ball. MJD's replacement, Rashad Jennings, is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry this season.
With no run threat to worry about, the passing game is ranked last in the league. Jacksonville chose Justin Blackmon with the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, but he's yet to prove he's worth the selection. Last weekend's five- catch, 32-yard, one-touchdown effort that was worth eight fantasy points was his highest output of the season.
The Jaguars have gotten more production out of second-year wideout Cecil Shorts (23-456-3), but we can't recommend Blackmon or Shorts against the Colts' 11th-ranked pass defense.
As always we finish with an evaluation of the two kickers. Adam Vinatieri, the Colts' place-kicker, has missed three kicks from inside the 39-yard line which could make him more of a liability than an asset. Josh Scobee is 14-of-14 for the Jaguars, but the lack of scoring punch from the league's worst offense will once again limit his ability to help fantasy lineups. Bench both kickers.
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