BEARS // GIANTS OVERVIEW
This game pairs two teams that each hired a new head coach last offseason to recover from a disappointing 2017 season. The Bears are 8-3 at the moment. The Giants are 3-8.
The Bears — who seem to still somehow be carrying a reputation as a fluky 8-3 team — have gotten to this point with a top five scoring offense and a top five scoring defense, while racking up the 13th most yards and allowing the sixth fewest. The Bears have the most takeaways in the NFL and rank middle of the pack in giveaways — good for the best turnover differential in the league. This is in sharp contrast to a Giants team that has been average to below-average in yards, points, yards allowed, and points allowed, and that is better than only six other teams in turnover differential. The Giants have had a tough time sustaining drives this season, ranking bottom 10 in drive success rate on offense, while the Bears’ defense has allowed the lowest drive success rate in the league. Only the Titans have taken more sacks than the Giants, while Chicago has the sixth most sacks in the league.
The Bears rank 26th in pace of play and seventh in rush play rate, while the Giants face the sixth highest rush play rate in the league. The Bears also rank ninth in time of possession, while the Giants rank 28th. With the Giants unable to get after the quarterback or force turnovers against a team like the Bears that largely eliminates self-inflicted wounds, New York is primarily going to have to drive the entire field to stay in this game and put up points — something they will likely have a difficult time doing.
Most sportsbooks in Vegas have kept this game off the board on the front end of the week as they await clarity on the Mitchell Trubisky situation, but where this game has been posted, it carries a game total of 45.0, with the Bears installed as four point favorites.
BEARS PASS OFFENSE
The Giants’ defense ranks middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt, with a roughly league-average aDOT and catch rate allowed. Coverage has not been a major liability for the Giants, but with the worst adjusted sack rate in the NFL, receivers have time to get open. As we have noted the last few weeks: the Giants have been tough in the red zone, ranking eighth in opponent red zone touchdown rate, and only the Vikings have allowed fewer passing touchdowns this season. But the biggest drawback to the matchup for Mitchell Trubisky and company will be volume, as teams typically prefer to attack the Giants on the ground. Only one quarterback all year has tossed more than two touchdown passes against the Giants, while only three teams have allowed more touchdowns to running backs.
Reports on Wednesday have Trubisky set up as a game-time decision, which will be interesting to track throughout the week. As expected: Chase Daniel showed a firm grasp of this offense in his Week 12 start, after playing with Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, and Doug Pederson over the last several years (with a second stint with the Saints mixed in last year) — essentially functioning as a less-attacking version of Trubisky, focusing on the short areas of the field instead of taking things deep. Against a Giants defense that is extremely difficult to score on through the air, a Trubisky return would be preferable from an “upside” perspective for pass catchers on this team.
Target counts for Bears pass catchers across their last three games look like this:
With no clear alpha in this attack, it is difficult to bet on any of these guys from a floor perspective. In turning our attention to ceiling: these four players have combined for only five total games this year of 100+ yards receiving — with Gabriel notching two such games, and with the other three grabbing one apiece. Outside of Gabriel’s 100-yard games, he has not topped 52 yards; outside of Miller’s 100-yard game, he has not topped 49 yards; outside Robinson’s 100-yard game, he has topped 64 yards only once; outside of Burton’s 100-yard game, he has topped 55 yards only once. As explored last week: Robinson, Miller, and Gabriel carry almost identical aDOTs, with none of these three separating from a role or usage perspective. Burton appeared to be a preferred target for Daniel, which is worth noting if Trubisky sits again this week — though it is also worth recognizing that Zach Ertz is the only tight end who has managed to score against the Giants this year, as they have played strong coverage in the red zone across the board.
BEARS RUN OFFENSE
The Giants have ranked middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry on the year, but only five teams have faced a higher rush play rate, and only three teams have allowed more touchdowns than the Giants have allowed to the running back position. Disappointingly, this production has not extended much to pass-catching backs, as the Giants have allowed the eighth fewest receptions and the seventh fewest receiving yards to the position.
Across the Bears’ last three games, Jordan Howard has played 113 snaps while Tarik Cohen has played 83, with Howard seeing carry counts in this stretch of 11 // 18 // 7, and with Cohen going 7 // 7 // 3 on the ground while adding target counts of 7 // 5 // 8. Howard, of course, has been entirely ineffective this year, failing to top 82 yards in any games this year while adding only four catches across his last eight contests. He’s a “hope for touchdown” play. Cohen does not quite see the touches to justify his price, but on DraftKings and FantasyDraft he can typically be counted on for at least five to eight points through the air, with upside for big plays or scores from there — keeping him in the large-field tourney conversation.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
One of the biggest mismatches on the slate will come between a Bears pass rush that ranks sixth in the NFL in sacks and has been absolutely dominant in the pass rush department when Khalil Mack has been healthy — taking on a Giants team that has allowed the second most sacks in the league. With Chicago getting after the quarterback so well, they are shaving 6.3% off the league-average aDOT — and with a below-average catch rate allowed and a below-average YAC/R rate allowed, the Bears have allowed the third lowest yards per pass attempt in the NFL. This talented, disciplined unit creates a tough matchup for a passing attack that primarily relies on yards after the catch for its upside.
The best bet on this passing attack, of course, is Odell Beckham, who has seen nine or more targets in all but one game this season. Beckham does not come without some “bust” to his game — with three consecutive games of five or fewer receptions, and with no games in this stretch above 85 receiving yards — but before this recent lackluster stretch, Beckham had topped 130 yards three times in a four game stretch. In spite of the Bears’ strong defensive play as a whole, they have faced the fifth most pass attempts in the NFL, leading to the fourth most wide receiver receptions in the league. Matchup should worry us less than Beckham’s attachment to this low-scoring offense and a quarterback who will be under duress all day, and will be largely unable to push the ball downfield.
Behind Beckham, Saquon has become the clear number two receiver, leaving volume thin for other players on this team. Across his last three games, Sterling Shepard has seen target counts of only 3 // 2 // 6, and he has topped 37 receiving yards only once in his last five games (a 167-yard explosion against the Falcons being the one exception).
Evan Engram injured his hamstring in pregame warmups last week and failed to play (in spite of not being announced with the injury), and he is looking iffy for this week — which would primarily serve to further lock in targets for Saquon and OBJ while providing a slight target boost for Shepard. If Engram plays, he should step into his typical four to five targets, against a Bears defense that has allowed the fifth fewest receptions to the position this season.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
The Bears have been awesome against running backs this season, shaving 21% off the league-average yards per carry mark (with the fewest yards allowed per carry in the league), while also allowing only three touchdowns on the ground to backs (the fewest in the league). The Bears have allowed the eighth most receptions to backs, but only nine teams have allowed fewer receiving yards to the position.
This is a tough spot for Saquon Barkley, but the biggest dent to his upside is simply the bleak scoring outlook for this Giants team as a whole against a Bears team that has allowed the second fewest points per game. Boosting Saquon’s floor is an enormous pass game role that has yielded recent target counts of 12 // 10 // 10 // 5 // 3 // 8. In this stretch, Saquon has touch counts of 22 // 23 // 22 // 25 // 30 // 21 — with those 25 and 30 touch games coming in the contests in which his pass work dipped, further solidifying his status as one of the most game flow independent backs in football. If any running back can beat this matchup on his own, it’s Saquon (to frame Saquon’s unique, individual awesomeness: the Giants’ offensive line ranks 26th in adjusted line yards…yet he has consistently matched the production of Gurley // Kamara // Gordon // Zeke // McCaffrey, who all boast offensive lines that rank top nine in adjusted line yards), and the usage should be in place for floor concerns to be somewhat mitigated. Upside, of course, becomes more thin than normal, with this poor Giants offense taking on this dangerous Chicago defense.
If Trubisky starts this game, he and all of his pass catchers will become viable in large-field tourneys, with potential to stack this offense a variety of ways in the hopes of capturing the upside this squad is capable of producing — though it would be difficult to isolate a single pass catcher in this group to feel comfortable with from a floor perspective, and the difficult matchup in the red zone means that ceiling is not guaranteed. If Trubisky sits, this offense will become even more difficult to bet on. It is likely that one or two guys in this passing attack will produce a useful price-considered score, but big games will be difficult to come by.
I won’t have much interest in the Bears’ rushing attack, but it won’t be surprising for Cohen to post a solid game here, while he does have enough long-shot upside to be worth considering in large-field tourneys. Howard could theoretically be rostered in hopes of catching a multi-score game, but it’s a thin play given his usage in this offense and his production to date.
The Giants’ offense is not attractive from a “scoring upside” perspective, which will make it difficult for any individual player to post a monster score — but the locked-in usage for Saquon and OBJ gives each of these guys a nice floor, and each guy has enough “on his own” talent to be considered as a floor/ceiling option, even on the higher end of the price range. Both guys will be in consideration for me this week. Behind these two, usage and upside on this offense grows thin — and in this matchup, I will almost certainly leave things alone.