BEARS // BILLS OVERVIEW
The 4-3 Bears will travel east to take on a 2-6 Bills team that hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in their last two games. On Monday Night Football this last week, ESPN produced an incredible statistic: the Bills have not scored a touchdown in their last 50+ possessions that started from their side of the field. (On average, a team gets about 12 possessions per game.) Unless the Bills’ defense produces a splash play, this team has almost no hope of scoreboard production. No team has fewer points per game than Buffalo (an incredibly low 10.9), and only one team has produced fewer yards per game. Chicago has allowed the eighth fewest points and the seventh fewest yards per game this year.
Last week, the Patriots appeared to go out of their way to account for the fact that the Bills cannot drive the entire field — regularly playing a more conservative brand of offensive football than we are used to seeing from them, while being perfectly willing to play the field position battle and wait for things to break their way. If the Bears are paying attention (they likely are), we can expect a similar approach against this strong-defense, destitute-offense setup of the Bills.
Each of these teams ranks bottom 10 in pace of play, while the Bears rank third in time of possession and fifth in fewest opponent plays per game. The Bills, unsurprisingly, rank 25th in time of possession and 28th in plays per game.
In attacking Buffalo with offensive pieces, it is important to keep in mind that points in DFS come from more than just touchdowns. (Because Buffalo’s offense provides so many short fields for opponents, this team has allowed 25.0 points per game — a slightly below-average mark.) Points also come from yards, and only five teams in the league have allowed fewer yards per game than the Bills.
The Bills are tough to run the ball on (ninth in fewest yards allowed per carry), and they are tough to pass the ball on (third in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt). On full slates, it is difficult to find impact games against this defense. We should expect the Bears to play somewhat conservatively on offense — waiting for the Bills to mess up when they have the ball, and for points to pile up in a low-risk manner.
Only six teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Bills (and the Bills have not yet had their bye), with this team forcing the fourth lowest aDOT in the NFL and tackling extremely well after the catch (the Bills are shaving almost 9% off the league average YAC/R rate).
Marlon Mack is the only running back who has cracked 80 yards against this defense, while Jordan Howard has yet to top 82 rushing yards in a game. Howard has exactly one target in four consecutive games, making him a touchdown-and-yardage guy.
The easiest way to gain yards against the Bills has been with pass-catching running backs, as they have allowed the sixth most receptions and the 10th most yards to the position. Optimally, we would target Tarik Cohen in shootouts (especially with his price skyrocketing — 12.0% on FanDuel // 12.4% on DraftKings // 12.6% on FantasyDraft), as non-shootouts expose us to low-volume games (see his three targets last week against the Jets).
Only three teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than the Bills, and Mitchell Trubisky and company should be able to attack in a conservative manner, knowing that the Bills’ offense is unlikely to do much. If the Bills do jump out to an unexpected lead, Cohen should be the first man up for targets, followed by a spread-the-wealth approach among Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, and Trey Burton. If A-Rob plays, he is likeliest to draw coverage from Tre’Davious White; if he misses again, Kevin White (29 snaps last week) will see added time on the field. The only receivers to top 80 yards against the Bills this year have been Adam Thielen (105 yards on 19 targets), Davante Adams (81 yards on 14 targets), and Julian Edelman (104 yards on 10 targets). Miller will have the best shot at yardage — running 70% of his snaps from the slot, where he will avoid White.
Nathan Peterman will be starting this week for the Bills — a worst-case setup, given his nine career interceptions on only 81 pass attempts, with a 45.7% completion rate and an extraordinarily bad 4.4 yards per pass attempt. Peterman has run into a bit of misfortune with a “first career start” last year against the stout 2017 Chargers’ secondary and a Week 1 start this year against the Ravens, but even with a drop in pass rush efficiency lately for the Bears, this is a negative matchup for Peterman, on the worst offense in the NFL.
If you feel compelled to go to this passing attack, here are the top three yardage games for each of the primary pass catchers on the Bills:
If Peterman is still under center at the end of this game, it will be the first time he has accomplished this feat through four career starts.
An optimal approach for the Bills’ offense calls for them to stick to the ground (in spite of their 2-6 record, the Bills rank 24th in pass play rate — as they are almost forced to bleed the clock when they have the ball in the hopes that they can shorten the game and their defense can come up with points), but this will be a challenge this week against a Bears defense that ranks fourth in fewest yards allowed per carry, and that is the only defense in the NFL that has not yet allowed a running back to score a touchdown on the ground. The player on the Bills likeliest to produce points is LeSean McCoy, who has 90+ yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games with an expanded role in the pass game. Even after their clash with James White a couple weeks back, however, only six teams in the league have allowed fewer receptions to running backs than the Bears, and only four teams have allowed fewer receiving yards to the position.
I’ll be surprised if I find myself rostering any players from the Bills, and I don’t have much interest in the Bears, either. Avoiding players on the Bills’ offense and avoiding players against the Bills’ defense has been a good way to make money this year.
If going off the board (perhaps taking a large-field tourney shot on someone from this game), I like Cohen as the best bet to produce. An interesting large-field stack would be Bills DST // Cohen, as a big Cohen game would likely come as a result of the Bills’ defense providing a couple short fields for their offense and/or scoring some points themselves. This would force the Bears to get a little more aggressive — and Cohen would be the likeliest beneficiary of such an approach.
Of course, the standout play from this game is the Bears’ DST. They are massively expensive, but they set up well as the rare “difficult for them to fail” DST play, with upside for splash plays against Five-Picks-Peterman. Chicago costs 9.0% of the cap on FanDuel and 8.2% on DraftKings, but they come at a decent discount on FantasyDraft at 7.3%.