This game between the Chargers and the Bears carries an Over/Under of only 40.5 — the lowest mark on the Main Slate.
A few big-picture thoughts ::
Some big-picture thoughts before we dive in: each backfield has a split workload; the Bears are inept on offense; the Bears still have a strong defense; Allen Robinson will be stuck facing Casey Hayward; Keenan Allen still requires heavy volume to hit; the Bears have still allowed the sixth fewest receptions of 20+ yards and are shaving 25% off the league-average aDOT (easily the best mark in the league), which is a dent for Mike Williams. The Bears are also shaving 5% off the league-average YAC per reception rate.
On a 12-game slate, if looking at likeliest scenarios, this is a good game to avoid. Similar to what we talked about with last week’s Bears game, then :: the best way to target this game is to target an unexpected shootout.
How good things might happen?
Outside of just building around this game for an unexpected shootout, here is a look at how some other good things could happen ::
The Bears are allowing only 3.65 yards per carry to running backs (a very strong mark), but are allowing the fifth most receiving yards to the position. One thought in this spot is that the Chargers might look to get Austin Ekeler involved as their best player — even if this means putting their “big name” back Melvin Gordon on the bench for a larger portion of this game. The Chargers coaches are adaptable enough to lean this direction — though they are not adaptable enough to sell out fully and turn Ekeler into a workhorse. This requires him to still post some nice efficiency to really get things going.
Another thought is that the Chargers could focus on hammering Keenan Allen on underneath routes. He would likely require 12 to 15 targets to hit for 100+ yards, but he could still get there along less-likely paths with a broken play, and he also has the ability to catch a touchdown pass. With the Bears allowing the third fewest wide receiver touchdowns on the year, things get a bit thin here, but Allen at least has a spot in the “small exposure in large-field” discussion.
If chasing elsewhere on the Chargers, you’re purely hoping for broken plays or (again) guessing on a shootout, as the Bears are stout vs downfield wide receivers (Mike) and tight ends (Hunter Henry).
On offense, the Bears are an absolute mess, with Mitchell Trubisky having posted a comical 5.2 yards per pass attempt, with only five touchdowns on the year. Trubisky can’t read defenses or hit open wide receivers or make decisions under pressure. He has five rush attempts for 21 yards all year. Something is not right, and his confidence seems to be getting worse. Allen Robinson will also be shadowed by Casey Hayward (a matchup he’s good enough to beat if you want to fire off a shot in large-field play — but it definitely lowers his floor and his paths to ceiling). So how might good things happen here? The biggest issue for the banged-up secondary of the Chargers has been communication away from Hayward, with opposing receivers running completely free a few times each week. There is a chance, then, that Matt Nagy is able to free up a player (the likeliest wide receiver would be Taylor Gabriel; the likeliest player would be Tarik Cohen) on a misdirection play to create a chunk gain — creating some large-field bets to consider outside of betting on A-Rob to win his tough matchup.
On the ground, the Bears rank 29th in DVOA and 28th in yards per carry, while ranking 29th in adjusted line yards. But there has been a lot of talk around the team this week concerning the low run volume for this offense, and it’s fair to expect this to be a focus this week.
David Montgomery played 66.9% of the snaps in Week 3 and 4 and picked up 16 and 24 touches (after 19 touches in Week 2), and with Mike Davis taking a backseat of late, we should see Montgomery push for 15+ touches here. We’ll also likely see Davis regain a bit of a role; and while the Bears have been poor on the ground, the Chargers rank 24th in DVOA and 21st in yards allowed per carry.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I am unlikely to end up on any Chargers players myself this week. The most attractive option on this side of the ball to me is Ekeler for the upside he would carry on the off-chance the Chargers emphasize him — though the speculation here makes the play a bit thin. There are also ways in which the Chargers passing attack could produce some nice pieces, but I’ll look elsewhere myself.
I’m slightly intrigued by Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen in tourneys, though there are better plays than these guys — while the most attractive play on the Bears is Montgomery, who could easily push for 15+ touches with the run a likely point of emphasis this week, and who has underperformed relative to his role this year (with his last three matchups all coming against teams that rank top 11 in DVOA against the run).
Outside of Montgomery (who’s certainly no smash; more of an “add to the mid-week list” than a “lock-and-load”), I’m likely to leave this game alone. There’s a reason this game has the lowest Over/Under on the slate, and while each team has the pieces to break through, most of the tributaries for this game have it landing on the lower end of the scoring scale.
:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!