Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Week 14 kicks off in less than thrilling fashion as the Cowboys visit the Bears in a game with a whopping 43 total. The visiting Cowboys are three point favorites. It’s worth noting, though, that Mitch Trubisky has looked at least a little bit better the last couple of weeks, throwing for 278 and 338 yards after previous not throwing for more than 253 yards in a game. That comes with four touchdown passes against three interceptions, so all is not well in Bears-land, but some progress is welcome for Chicago and for DFS players who want to bet on their offense.
We’ll start with the Cowboys. The run game is, of course, Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke is playing almost all of the snaps but he has not been quite the bellcow that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, averaging a still-healthy 22 touches per game against over 25 last season. What was really nice to see last week, though, was that when Dallas got down early to Buffalo, Zeke saw a season-high 10 targets. The pass game work has often been missing this year, so this is a great trend for Zeke’s usage going forward. The Bears run defense has been slipping in the past few weeks and they’re down to a middling 12th in DVOA; this isn’t the horrible matchup we feared to attack last year or even earlier this season. Zeke is the most expensive player on the slate but his floor and ceiling are sound and he’s going to have a multi-touchdown game at some point this season. Behind Zeke, Tony Pollard occasionally mixes in for some pass game work (four targets in two of the last three games, but then just one last week), but is too inconsistent to be viewed as anything but an MME target.
In the pass game, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper are the full-time wideouts, with Randall Cobb ranging from 50-80% of the snaps depending on game plan. Tavon Austin works in for a few plays per game. Everyone’s favorite dad runner Jason Witten is the clear leader at tight end, though Blake Jarwin brings more athleticism on lower target volume. Depending on game plan, Witten and Jarwin will share the field just a few times per game or several if the Cowboys run more 12 personnel. Against the strong pass rush of the Bears, I’d expect to see more 12 in this game, which (slightly) dings Cobb’s role and increases Jarwin’s. Cooper and Gallup are really the 1A and 1B of this offense, and as explored in this column in prior showdowns, the gap in usage between the two of them is really quite narrow. The gap in price, however, has shrunk as Draftkings has realized this as well, and now it’s kind of a shot in the dark. I’ll take Amari as I think he matches up better against the Bears’ secondary, but that’s frankly more of a hunch than anything else (plus it’s been a few weeks since one of his real blowup games, so he’s due, right?). Cobb has been a fairly consistent presence in the slot but he hasn’t just been used in a possession receiver role and is showing more of his old burst from his early career in Green Bay with a healthy 15.1 yards per catch this season. He’s only had a couple of ceiling games this year as he is generally a 3-5 target guy, so unless you happen to catch him on a spiked-volume week, he’s a bit overpriced for his median outcome. Jason Witten is a reasonable floor play but also somewhat overpriced at $5,600 despite not yet hitting 60 receiving yards this season; he’ll need a touchdown to really pay off. Jarwin and Austin both have shakier roles, with Austin being used very inconsistently and being nothing but an MME dart while Jarwin sees 2-4 targets per game and provides a little bit of floor at just $2,200 with some upside to go along with it. He’s a non-crazy punt even outside of massive tournaments.
The Bears’ run offense has been extremely confusing lately as despite Mitch Trubisky’s struggles, they’ve leaned extremely pass heavy even when playing with a lead. Overall Chicago is 9th in passing play percentage at 62.2%, up to 64.4% in the last three games. In Weeks 8 and 9, David Montgomery was getting a lot of rushing work and it seemed that the Bears were committing to the run as the heart of their offense, but a combination of mediocre offensive line play and Montgomery himself looking poor has resulted in their lead back averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Chicago may want to run, but with a 27th-ranked offensive line they seem to have mostly given up on it and are content to put the ball in Mitch Trubisky’s somewhat less-than-capable hands. That leaves poor David Montgomery handling 15, 15, and 18 touches over his last 3 games with a total of eight targets in that span, turning him into basically a mediocre-volume, yardage-and-touchdown back. If the Bears get out to a healthy lead they may lean on Montgomery more, and of course running backs with goal line roles always have value in showdowns, but it’s hard to see D-Mont as a core piece here. Tarik Cohen, meanwhile, is being used very differently from last year; while last year he was often used to create defensive mismatches and get open in space for long gains, this year his pass game role is much more short yardage as he’s averaging just 5.7 yards per catch. Cohen gets pretty healthy pass game volume, though, averaging over six targets per game with a solid catch rate. He’s a high floor play who still has a strong ceiling even if it’s mostly been hypothetical this season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him bust a 50 yard touchdown in any given game, and his lack of sexy game logs has kept his ownership modest in his last couple of showdown appearances.
The Chicago pass game starts with Allen Robinson and (mostly) ends there, too. The Bears have not really been capable of supporting more than one solid receiving performance at a time and Robinson has hogged almost all of them, with five 20+ DK point performances compared to two for every other receiver combined. That changed last week when Anthony Miller saw 13 targets and caught nine for 26 DK points in a week in which Robinson also had a big game — the first game all season with two big performances from Bears receivers — but I think that is unlikely to become a trend as it was a result of A) a great matchup against a Lions defense that has been very giving to passing attacks and B) a narrower target tree with Taylor Gabriel missing the game. As I write this on Tuesday night, Gabriel has not been cleared from the concussion protocol, and if he misses again Miller is a reasonable play once again. If Gabriel plays, you could certainly believe that Miller has passed him in Trubisky’s trust, but I would favor the significantly less expensive Gabriel (who saw 14 targets as recently as Week 11 before he got hurt). If Gabriel misses, Javon Wims should remain in basically a full-time role, which resulted in six targets last week. At just $3,200 that’s healthy volume for a cheap price and makes him one of the strongest cheap plays on the slate. The tight end situation for Chicago is a disaster, with Jesper Horsted (who?) seeing one target in each of the last two weeks and catching a touchdown last week. Ben Braunecker would be an interesting value play at $800 if he plays, as he should retake the lead role back from Horsted, but as of Tuesday he looks unlikely to suit up. I was excited when the Bears signed Cordarelle Patterson as they had gotten so much great value out of Tarik Cohen as a mismatch guy and I thought they would use him similarly, but he hasn’t seen an offensive touch since Week 9. These guys are all just MME punts.
The most likely way for this game to play out is a relatively slow-paced slog. The most important factor here is Mitch Trubisky. If we get good Trubisky (or even decent Trubisky), we could have a game with some decent offensive fireworks on our hands, while if we get crappy Trubisky as we’ve had for most of this year, Dallas could just win in what would likely be a relatively low-scoring but one-sided affair.
Some other ways this game could play out:
- Dallas just stomps the Bears as bad Trubisky can’t get anything going and gives up multiple short fields. Zeke is the optimal captain in this scenario and you’re probably looking at a receiver as your single Bear.
- Good Trubisky shows up and manages to keep the Bears in it, resulting in a game with more back and forth scoring, leading to multiple strong receiver performances.
- Finally, while Dallas possesses the league’s overall #1 offense by DVOA, we’ve seen them be shut down by good defenses before (in each of the last two weeks, in fact). It’s not impossible to think the Bears could stifle them.
My overall favorite captain is Zeke, followed by Allen Robinson, but most of the full-time receivers are viable options here (Amari, Gallup, Cobb, Gabriel, Miller in no particular order).
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 defense
- At most 1 kicker
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 1 receiver (at Trubisky’s price and with at least some rushing ability, and with Dak having solid rushing ability, I’m comfortable with just a single receiver pairing here)
- At most 1 non-Robinson Bears receiver
- At most 2 of Cobb, Witten, and Jarwin as their roles somewhat cannibalize each other
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