Bears at Eagles presents a matchup of two teams that reached the playoffs last season and have scuffled throughout the first half of this year with similar-minded coaches (Nagy was the quarterbacks coach under offensive coordinator Doug Pederson for three years in Kansas City).
We’ll start with the matchup on the Eagles side, where they will be taking on a Bears team that is not as ferocious as they were last year, but that still has enough juice to be referred to as one of the better squads in the league. The Bears defense is allowing the seventh lowest expected yards per target on the year, while shaving 16% off the league-average aDOT and 13% off the league-average YAC/r rate. Only five teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Bears. Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to running backs. The Bears defense has allowed the seventh fewest yards per game and the fifth fewest points per game, in spite of facing the eighth most plays per game. Fantasy production against the Bears has all been built around volume (Josh Jacobs went for 123 yards on 26 carries; Latavius Murray went for 119 yards on 27 carries; Michael Thomas went for 131 yards on nine catches; Emmanuel Sanders went for 98 yards on 11 catches; the list goes on), which makes this an interesting spot for an Eagles team that is built around spreading the ball around. If we take away the 40-attempt game for Carson Wentz chasing points against the Vikings, the Eagles have produced only two instances of a player topping six targets in the last months — with Alshon Jeffery seeing eight targets and Zach Ertz seeing seven targets, both in the game against the Jets. Obviously, you could go to the Eagles passing attack for a “hope and pray” bet on low volume in a difficult matchup — but if you want to target the Philly passing attack for more than just “hope and pray” shots, your best bet is to build around a game scenario in which this contest becomes a bit higher-scoring than expected and volume ramps up on the passing attack as a whole. There are no “good” matchups against the Bears, but if volume ramps up for this passing attack, Ertz and Alshon should be expected to benefit first (with Dallas Goedert and Nelson Agholor behind them). (Note: If DeSean Jackson returns this week, he should be expected to play limited snaps; but he would obviously enter the large-field mix as a “post a big score on one play” type of player, even in a below-average matchup.)
The clearest place for volume to concentrate on one player — in the likeliest game flow — is in the Eagles backfield, where we asked last week if Pederson would trust his electric rookie (Miles Sanders) enough to lean on him in a matchup that played best to his strengths, and where Pederson answered with a thundering No: giving Sanders only 13 snaps and six (electric) touches before his shoulder injury in the third quarter took him out of the game. Jordan Howard ended up handling a season-high 23 carries — and while that number will likely go down to his typical range of “15ish” if Sanders returns to the field, he’ll have a chance to be a 20-carry back once again if Sanders fails to get cleared The matchup is non-ideal, but it can be cracked open for yardage and touchdowns if given enough time.
On the other side, the Eagles are not the same, legendarily attackable defense they were earlier in the year through the air, as they have now returned Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby to the field across the last two weeks — while this defense has also lost some pieces up front (as detailed last week) that have made them a more attackable unit on the ground than in the past. Part of the reason we love targeting passing attacks against the Eagles is not only because they have a below-average-to-truly-bad secondary, but is also because they are so strong against the run they filter their opponents heavily to the air. This has not been the case across their last three games, however, as the Eagles have faced the ninth lowest opponent pass play rate in that stretch. Given Matt Nagy’s follow-through on his desire to get back to running the ball (31 touches for our boy David Montgomery), it is fair to wonder how heavily he will attack through the air with Mitchell Trubisky struggling so thoroughly. It’s likely that the Bears at least somewhat try to keep this game low-scoring in order to control things with their run game and defense.
Even with all the “attacking” opponents are doing on the ground against the Eagles, they are not finding resounding success. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.0 yards per carry in this spot and Devin Singletary averaged 6.3 on limited touches, but Dalvin Cook (2.6 YPC), Le’Veon Bell (2.9), and Frank Gore (3.8) failed to get much going. As with pretty much everything in this game, Montgomery (75% of the Bears plays last week) is a “bet on volume in a below-average matchup” play.
The one spot in this game that is not a below-average matchup (unless you want to count Trubisky as part of the “matchup” for his pass catchers) is the Bears wide receivers. The only reliable piece on the Bears passing attack has been Allen Robinson, who has target counts this year of 13 // 7 // 7 // 7 // 9 // 16 // 7. Robinson has cracked 100 yards only once (102), but he has fallen shy of 60 yards only once as well (41). Attached to a low-scoring offense, he has fewer paths to slate-breakers; but his floor has been excellent all year, and the matchup makes him a solid bet for production. Behind Robinson, the Bears offense is a bunch of chess pieces that Nagy can deploy in different matchups, in different ways. Last week (where we talked about Nagy potentially trying to exploit the Chargers’ communication issues by getting them out of position for a big play to Gabriel or Cohen), Trubisky completely missed a wide open Gabriel for what should have been a long touchdown — so targeting this offense is not without hope. But ultimately, you are just crossing your fingers for something to unexpectedly click in order for the risk on this offense to be worth it.
JM’s Interpretation ::
When we look at this game through the lens of “where on this slate can we find slate-winning scores?” we find very little; but with price factored in, some of these players become a bit interesting from a “hey, they don’t cost that much and they’ll probably get me points” perspective. That’s not the best way to build a winning tourney roster in the best of circumstances, of course; but value is thin enough this week that some of these guys can be considered. The players I would be most interested in from that perspective are Montgomery // Robinson (his price is most attractive on FanDuel) // Anthony Miller (recent target counts of 7 // 9 // 3) // Eagles tight ends // Alshon Jeffery — in roughly that order. Outside of targeting this game for “they don’t cost that much, and they could put up points,” you could build around the Bears getting on track through the air and the Eagles finding holes in the Bears secondary with an aggressive attack — though that’s not a particularly likely way for this game to play out.
:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!