The Bears have not quite been the dominant unit they were last year on defense, when they allowed the third fewest yards and the fewest points while posting the most takeaways in the league — but they have still allowed the eighth fewest yards and the fourth fewest points per game (in fact, their 17.4 points allowed per game is even better than their 2018 mark), and in games at Soldier Field this year they have given up point totals of 10 (Green Bay) // 6 (Minnesota) // 26 (New Orleans) // 17 (L.A. Chargers) // 13 (Lions — with Driskel). This week, they will be taking on a Giants offense that ranks bottom 10 in yards per game and points per game, in spite of Daniel Jones beating up on the soft defenses of the Bucs (32 points), Redskins (24 points), Cardinals (21) points, Lions (26 points), and Jets (27 points) to boost his overall production. In games against quality defenses with Jones under center, the Giants have scored 10 (Minnesota) // 14 (New England) // 18 (Dallas). This is a tough test for the Giants offense.
The Bears, meanwhile, have fallen off the edges of the map on offense this year, notching the third fewest yards and the fifth fewest points per game — in the company of names like “Washington,” “Miami,” and “Cincinnati.” On average, the Bears start with the 13th best field position in football, and yet they rank 28th in points per drive. Mitchell Trubisky has completed only nine touchdown passes this year, on an impossibly low 5.6 yards per pass attempt. He also has only 58 rushing yards all year — a far cry from last season, when he rushed for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago is bottom five in adjusted line yards on offense and bottom five in yards per carry. Very little is going well for this offense right now.
With all of this added together, the Over/Under on this game sits at only 40.5 — the third lowest on the Main Slate. (The Giants — at 17.0 — also carry the second lowest Vegas-implied team total, ahead of only the Broncos at 16.5.)
The Giants’ side of the ball will require some small miracles for big games to show up, as the Bears shave 17% off the league-average aDOT (the second best mark in the league — behind only the 49ers, and far ahead of nearly every other team), while this Giants offense is designed to work the short areas of the field outside of occasional downfield shots to Darius Slayton. This short-area approach requires busted plays or volume in order for a player to be useful — and with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram tentatively expected back this week for the Giants, even “volume” will be difficult to predict. If Engram and Shep both miss another contest, it will concentrate touches more heavily on Golden Tate (recent target counts of 11 // 10 // 6 // 8) and Slayton (2 // 5 // 4 // 14) — against a Bears defense that has allowed the third fewest passing touchdowns in the league. If one of Shep or Engram returns, it will be tougher for volume to pile up in one specific spot.
The Bears have been slightly easier to attack on the ground — ranking 12th in DVOA (compared to sixth vs the pass) — but they are giving up only 3.62 yards per carry to the running back position. They have also given up the third most receptions to running backs…but only the 10th most yards. And while they have quietly given up the third most running back rushing touchdowns in the league, Saquon Barkley has only four carries inside the five-yard-line (nine fewer than the league leader), 10 carries inside the 10 (19 fewer than the league leader), and 18 carries in the red zone in all (25 fewer than the league leader). In this broken-down offense, Saquon has touch counts on the year of 15 // 21 // 12 (injury) // 21 // 27 // 20 // 18.
While the Giants’ players would be “talent over matchup” plays, the Bears’ players would be “matchup over talent” plays — and we’ll begin where the Bears would like to focus if they’re able to play with a lead or keep this game close: the backfield.
Since their commitment to the run heading into Week 8, the Bears have given touch counts to David Montgomery of 31 // 17 // 17 // 15, while also involving Tarik Cohen for touch counts of 7 // 4 // 7 // 14. Before tilting to the air in negative game script last week, the Bears had called on Trubisky to throw 35 // 21 // 23 pass attempts in those games — which adds up to 1.3 more RB-directed plays per game in that stretch than Trubisky passes per game. With game flow likely to tilt in favor of the Bears, another 17+ touches is likely for Montgomery (with Cohen likely to see another rise in touches if the Giants somehow find a way to jump out to a two-score lead). Pros for Montgomery are the workload and the fact that only Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook have more carries inside the five than he has. Cons for Montgomery are his horrible offensive line, his somewhat limited pass game role (recent target counts of 5 // 4 // 0 // 3 — but only 22.3 receiving yards per game in this four-game stretch), and a matchup against a Giants team that has been better against the run (14th in DVOA) than against the pass (28th). Ultimately, this is an average “isolated” matchup for the Bears’ lead back, while the game environment is a ceiling boost. The floor, of course, remains somewhat rickety.
While the Giants have been average against the run, they have been Santa’s little helpers against wide receivers — allowing the fourth most receiving yards and the fifth most receiving touchdowns to the position. Six wide receivers have topped 100 yards in this matchup (only the Eagles and Bucs have allowed more such games), while the Giants have allowed nine notable stat lines in all to the position. Trubisky has not topped 253 passing yards in a game this year, so concentrated targets (or a big play) are typically necessary for a Bears wideout to hit. Allen Robinson has recent target counts of 7 // 5 // 9 // 6, but these lower lines have been a function of circumstance, as he squared off with Jalen Ramsey last week (six targets), while Trubisky threw the ball only 26.3 times per game in those other three contests (good for a 26.6% target share for Robinson). Of course, the Bears don’t want to have to pass a ton, so volume remains a concern — but if Chicago does take to the air, this would be a good spot for A-Rob to return to his standard “seven to nine” target range, with some upside for more. Behind A-Rob, Taylor Gabriel (recent target counts of 6 // 3 // 6 // 14) and Anthony Miller (3 // 1 // 2 // 11) benefitted last week from game flow and “Ramsey on A-Rob.” Each player is likelier to hit from a big play (Gabriel) or a busted play (Miller) than from volume this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
In my hunt this week for players who can help me win the slate, I’ll be primarily focusing on A) games that have a shot at producing a lot of points, or B) players in other games who have a fairly clear path toward a big game. Neither of those fit this game — though there are a few players worth singling out before moving on ::
Barkley is too good to be ignored — and while his usage has been maddening this season, he is the kind of player who can pop off for a monster “all on his own” game on just a handful of highlight-reel plays. It’s likely that Saquon’s ankle is still bothering him a bit, and now he’s dealing with a shoulder issue, but I’ll at least wait until late in the week to cross him off my list if multi-entering, as some level of exposure on low-owned Saquon can certainly (always) have a case made.
On the Bears’ side, the offense has been ugly enough that it’s tempting to stay away altogether — but the slate as a whole is ugly enough that Allen Robinson and David Montgomery will at least be players I keep in mind. Montgomery in particular — with his locked-in touches and his big scoring-position role — stands out as an “embrace risk to try for upside” play on this fairly ugly-across-the-board slate.