PACKERS // BEARS OVERVIEW
When the schedule was set at the start of the year, this game looked like an opportunity for an up-and-coming Bears team to potentially play the role of spoiler against the Rodgers-led Packers — but 14 weeks into the season, the story has changed, with the coach-fired, 5-7-1 Packers traveling to take on a division-leading, 9-4 Bears team fresh off a primetime win over the 11-2 Rams. The Packers have posted a 5-1-1 record at home this year while incredibly going 0-6 on the road. The Bears are 6-1 at Soldier Field, where they are currently installed as 6.0 point favorites. This game opened with an Over/Under of 46.5 before being bet down to 45.0. Both of these offenses have explosive upside, but the likeliest outcome for this game is a tightly-contested, modest-scoring affair.
PACKERS PASS OFFENSE
Chicago continues to play elite pass defense this year, shaving 5% off both the league-average catch rate and aDOT, while shaving 7.5% off the league-average YAC/R rate. The Bears lead the NFL in interceptions and rank fourth in sacks. Only the Ravens are allowing fewer yards per pass attempt than the Bears. No team has allowed a lower quarterback rating.
While the Bears have been elite against the pass as a whole — constantly making life difficult on quarterbacks and limiting production with the 10th fewest passing yards allowed per game — they have been more attackable with wide receivers than most probably realize. The Bears have allowed the ninth fewest receiving yards to running backs and the sixth fewest receiving yards to tight ends, but only seven teams have allowed more yards to wideouts than the Bears this year, while they have allowed the fourth most wide receiver catches in the league. These yards and catches have come with a low 61.7% catch rate, but with Chicago destroying teams on the ground and limiting aerial production to running backs and tight ends, opponents are generally forced to lean on wide receivers in this matchup. This has allowed the Bears’ aggressive unit to pick off 25 passes and score six defensive touchdowns, but it has also led to a few notable, volume-based wide receiver stat lines, including:
:: Kenny Golladay — 5-90-0 on eight targets
:: Stefon Diggs — 13-126-1 on 18 targets
:: Kenny Golladay — 6-78-1 on 13 targets
:: Josh Gordon — 4-100-0 on seven targets
:: Albert Wilson — 6-155-2 on nine targets
:: DeSean Jackson — 5-112-0 on eight targets
:: Christian Kirk — 7-90-0 on eight targets
:: Davante Adams — 5-88-1 on eight targets
:: Randall Cobb — 9-142-1 on 10 targets
Adams is the undisputed alpha in this attack, with recent target counts of 12 // 8 // 13 // 11. He has topped 100 yards only once in his last six games, but he should be able to approach a floor of around 6-70-0 in this spot, and his wide receiver leading 12 touchdowns on the year will keep his upside intact. A monster game is obviously not the likeliest scenario in this spot, but his usage provides a solid floor, and the upside remains intact.
Behind Adams, this passing attack has become nothing more than low-volume dart throws, with Cobb unsurprisingly failing to top even 43 yards since his Week 1 explosion against the Bears, and with Equanimeous St. Brown (34 snaps last week) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (30 snaps last week) now splitting time at the lightly-used number three receiver spot for this squad. With Jimmy Graham providing almost no upside across the last couple months and taking on one of the most difficult tight end matchups in the league, this passing attack is simply guessing and hoping behind alpha Adams.
PACKERS RUN OFFENSE
This is a tremendously difficult spot for the Packers’ run offense, against a Bears defense that has stomped out enemy attacks this year — shaving almost 17% off the league-average yards per carry, while allowing the second fewest running back touchdowns in the league. Only four teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to the position. Only eight teams have allowed fewer receiving yards.
If choosing to attack this difficult matchup, your best bet is Aaron Jones, who did not quite see the expected workload spike with Mike McCarthy’s departure (Jones played 42 snaps to 24 for Jamaal Williams), but who did touch the ball 20 times — the second time in the last three weeks in which this has been the case. Jones has not topped 110 scrimmage yards in any of his last four games, but he does have seven touchdowns across his last five contests, giving him some sneaky upside in this spot. He should see enough usage to provide a floor of around 60 to 80 total yards (with three to five receptions in five straight games), and a broken play or a multi-touchdown game would make him a strong play at low ownership. This is a low-floor play, but there are non-invisible paths to upside.
BEARS PASS OFFENSE
The Packers’ pass defense — behind stud rookie corner Jaire Alexander — has been quietly above-average this year, shaving 3.6% off the league-average catch rate and allowing the eighth fewest passing yards in the league. With that said: the Packers have allowed the second most wide receiver touchdowns in the league, and they have lost wars-of-attrition against receivers who see heavy volume — with Julio Jones (11 targets), Adam Thielen (nine targets), Josh Gordon (nine targets), Kenny Golladay (nine targets), Adam Thielen again (13 targets), and Stefon Diggs (13 targets) all going for 98 or more yards against them. For what it’s worth: with the exception of speed threat Marquise Goodwin, every wide receiver this year who has seen eight or fewer targets against the Packers has failed to top even 75 yards. On the spread-the-wealth passing attack of the Bears, this should be considered a below-average, but not impossible spot.
Recent target counts on the Bears with Mitchell Trubisky under center have looked like this:
:: Allen Robinson — DNP // DNP // 8 // 7 // 8
:: Anthony Miller — 7 // 6 // 6 // 3 // 1
:: Taylor Gabriel — 6 // 5 // 3 // 9 // 7
:: Trey Burton — 4 // 3 // 4 // 1 // 5
Trubisky has not topped 31 pass attempts in any of his last five games, and this team is dialing up almost no passes beyond the intermediate areas of the field, making all of these guys thin from an “upside” perspective. With a narrow and predictable group of utilized players, however, there is some thin hope-to-guess-right appeal on this unit. Robinson is the likeliest bet for solid yardage production and a multi-touchdown game; he’ll see the most of Alexander’s coverage, but his role is more consistent than anyone else on this team. Miller and Gabriel are guys who can be bet on for a broken play or a touchdown. Burton will be taking on a Packers defense that has allowed the sixth fewest tight end receptions in the league.
BEARS RUN OFFENSE
The Packers have been perfectly average against the run this year — ranking 19th in yards allowed per carry — but with this team inviting opponents to attack on the ground, they have faced the ninth most rush attempts in the league, which has led to them allowing the 10th most running back rushing yards. This is not a great spot for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but it is not a bad spot either, and this backfield should see at least a small boost in volume along the way.
In last week’s win over the Rams, Howard topped 82 rushing yards for the first time all year — going for 101 yards against a defense that ranks dead last in yards allowed per carry. As he has shown us all year: Howard is a yardage-and-touchdown back who rarely piles up big yardage — though at his basement-level price, he always has a shot at providing some value with a multi-touchdown game.
Cohen is the more explosive component of this backfield, though his touches are never exactly assured, with recent touch totals of 6 // 7 // 13 // 10 // 10 // 20 // 13. His 20 touches came in a dump-off-heavy game with Chase Daniel under center, and that type of volume can only be chased-and-hoped-for in this spot (rather than being predictable). His likeliest range here is another 10 to 13 touches — giving him the big per-play upside he carries on these looks, but keeping his floor low along the way.
The Bears are a tourney-focused play for me, as this offense still ranks seventh in the league in points per game even with a recent dip in production, and the Bears’ ability to create turnovers (combined with Trubisky’s ability to pick up yards on the ground) always creates opportunities for this unit to pop off the page. From a pure projections perspective, the floor is fairly low across the board on this offense — taking these guys out of the “core play” discussion for me — but the ceiling on this group makes it a stackable team if multi-entering, in the hopes that you can capture one of their blowup games.
On the Packers’ side, it’s Davante Adams and nothing else for me — with Adams certainly not a standout play on the road against a tough defense, but still very clearly in the high-priced receiver conversation given his big role and his touchdown upside. Behind Adams, I won’t be trying to guess on this passing attack myself. The same goes for the Packers’ rushing attack — with Aaron Jones carrying some clear paths to upside, but taking on too little floor for me to be interested myself.
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