XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 10 begins with Carolina visiting Chicago for a 40 total game in which the Bears are favored by 3.5. When the Bears are favored, you know things are weird. The big question for this game is around Justin Fields and whether will he make his return from the thumb injury he suffered in Week 6. So far he’s gotten two limited designations, but they’re just estimated practice reports, so they don’t mean much. Hopefully, we’ll get more information on Wednesday, but I have to write this game up, so here we go. I’m going to assume Fields misses one more game and Tyson Bagent starts again because frankly the Bears are terrible and there’s really no reason to rush him back.
INJURY UPDATE: Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert and DJ Chark are out
- Khalil Herbert looked like he might have had a shot to return this week, but will not, so the Bears writeup all stays the same.
- Where we have a change is on the Panthers side, with DJ Chark being ruled out (somewhat to my surprise). That will push Terrace Marshall into a nearly full-time role, with Ihmir Smith-Marsette likely seeing a small handful of WR4 snaps.
- Smith-Marsette can be tossed into the MME punt player pool, while Marshall is suddenly going to be an interesting and popular play.
- Marshall has played over 50% of the snaps on three occasions this season and has 6, 8, and 10 targets in those games. Not shabby. They’re fairly short targets (his average yards per catch this season is just 7.2), which may actually be a mark in his favor due to the inaccuracy of Bryce Young. He also gets one of the best possible matchups a pass catcher could ask for. That’s a lot of volume in a good matchup for just $600. He’s a very strong on-paper play. He’s also likely to be very chalky.
- Given the difficult rushing matchup, I’m personally inclined to lean into the chalk here, and just make sure my lineups are differentiated elsewhere, but fading Marshall is absolutely a viable choice as well.
We’ll start with the Bears run game. D’Onta Foreman has the lead back role, and even though his snap counts are relatively modest in that role, he has a solid lock on the actual touches. In the last four games, Foreman has 60 carries and eight targets, while backups Darrynton Evans and Roschon Johnson have 28/10 and 8/5, respectively. We know the Panthers defense, while generally not great all around, is especially vulnerable on the ground, and we know the Bears like to run the ball, with a 41% rushing play rate on the year (tied for 5th highest in the league). Assuming the Vegas line holds true and the Bears are playing from ahead, we can expect significant work from their backfield in a strong matchup. Foreman is primarily a yardage and touchdown back, averaging just two targets per game, but in a plus matchup and at $8,600, he’s very reasonably priced for his workload. Behind him, Johnson seems to have regained the RB2 role from Evans after returning from injury in Week 8 (Evans only played 9% of the snaps last week). We know Johnson is talented and we know he’s a capable pass catcher, making him a viable RB2 option at his price. Evans is a punt play.
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The Bears passing game, though, is tough to trust at the best of times and even more so with Bagent at quarterback. While Bagent has shown some flashes of aptitude (leading two scoring drives against a tough New Orleans defense last week), he has also thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in three and a half games. He’s averaging an extremely low 6.3 yards per pass attempt, 28th in the NFL (though ahead of Joe Burrow, which is hilarious). D.J. Moore at $10,600 is a tough sell here for that price. Yes, we have to spend the money somewhere, but yikes, that’s a lot of salary for a guy with just 20 targets in three Bagent starts for a total of 153 receiving yards. Moore is uber-talented, so you could bet on him finding his own way to success via a breakaway play or something like that, but there’s really nothing that makes him stand out here as anything more than a pay up to be contrarian kind of play. WR2 Darnell Mooney has spent most of the year in the $4-5k range but is up to $7,400 for this one despite only having two games of double-digit Draftkings points, one touchdown on the season, and a high of seven targets in a game while averaging under four. Yikes. WR3 Tyler Scott is on the field a fair bit but has only seen 17 total targets on the year – he’s a punt option, but not a significant member of the passing attack. Trent Taylor and Velus Jones Jr. can be considered as VERY thin punt plays who are playing only 10% of the snaps or so per game.
At tight end, Cole Kmet seems to have built some rapport with Bagent, seeing 18 targets in the last two games (after a lovely zero in Bagent’s first full game in Week 8). Kmet fits Bagent’s short passing game plan very well, and at $6,600, he is both a very strong on-paper play and likely to be very popular. All the data points to him as long as Bagent is at quarterback (and frankly even before then – Kmet’s underlying metrics around yards per route run, target share, etc. are up in the elite tier of tight ends as Hilow noted earlier in the season). He’s a very sharp play. Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis will back up Kmet, with Lewis primarily a blocker – they’re both viable but thin punt options.