Chicago Bears (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (0-0, 0-0), 8:20 p.m., SNF
Implied Team Totals:
Spread/Total Movements: 7 to 7.5, 45 to 47.5 to 46.5
Bears Injuries to Watch: WR Darnell Mooney (back, questionable), RB Tarik Cohen (knee, PUP), LB Danny Trevathan (knee, IR)
Rams Injuries to Watch: None of note.
Brolley’s Bears Stats and Trends
The Rams and Bears have played each of the last three seasons under their current coaching staffs, and each contest has gone under the total by an average of 18.7 points.
The Bears are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games as an underdog.
Chicago is 5-2 toward overs in its last seven games.
Andy Dalton is 0-6 outright and 1-5 ATS on Sunday Night Football.
Dalton will be the Week 1 starter but it shouldn’t take long for Justin Fields to crack the starting lineup. Dalton doesn’t inspire much confidence after he averaged 6.5 YPA with 14 TDs and eight INTs in 11 appearances (nine starts) following Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury. Dalton has failed to average more than 7.0 YPA in each of his last four seasons after averaging 7.5 YPA from 2013-16. The Rams gave up the fewest FPG (14.6) to QBs last season.
Allen Robinson has been hanging around as a low-end WR1 the last two seasons even with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles throwing him the rock, finishing as the WR13 last season with 16.4 FPG. A-Rob’s aDOT has fallen every year in Chicago (12.0>11.1>9.6) and it bottomed out below 10 yards last year, but the addition of Fields should open up more downfield throws and more big plays. Robinson averaged 12.4 YPR with 17 scores in his first three seasons with the Bears after averaging 14.9 YPR with 20 TDs in his last two full seasons playing with Blake Bortles in Jacksonville. The Rams allowed the fewest FPG (28.2) and receiving yards per game (129.7) to WRs last season. A-Rob posted 4/70 receiving against Jalen Ramsey and company last season.
Darnell Mooney quickly established himself as the #2 receiver behind A-Rob, and he finished with the fifth-most receptions (61), the seventh-most receiving yards (631), and the sixth-most targets (94) among rookies. He played well above his low expectations but his poor QB play strongly contributed to his shaky YPR (10.3) and YPT (6.4) averages. The Rams allowed the fewest 20+ yards passes (36) last season.
Cole Kmet posted just 8/94/1 receiving on 14 targets in his first 11 games as a rookie before hanging 20/149/1 receiving on 30 targets in his final five games. He also played on 70% of the snaps or more in the final seven games after never topping 50% of the snaps in his first nine games. Los Angeles gave up the ninth-fewest FPG (11.6) to TEs last season.
David Montgomery went from being a frustrating low-end RB2 through the first 11 weeks of last season to being the overall RB2 in the final six weeks of the season behind only Jonathan Taylor. Montgomery took full advantage of a bigger workload and an easier schedule in the final six weeks, averaging 19.3/99.7/1.2 rushing and 4.0/37.7/.2 receiving per game for 25.7 FPG. He’ll have anything but an easy matchup in the season opener against a Rams that allowed the third-fewest FPG (20.3) to RBs.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams finished with the second-most unders last season with a 12-4 mark.
Los Angeles has covered in its last four season openers.
The Rams are 14-3 toward unders in their last 17 home games.
Los Angeles got the biggest quarterback upgrade in the league outside of the Jaguars going from Gardner Minshew to Trevor Lawrence this off-season. Stafford was one of the league’s best passers on throws of 15+ yards downfield, ranking fifth in on-target throw rate (67%) and sixth in passer rating (121.4). Meanwhile, Jared Goff ranked 27th in on-target passes (50%) and 20th in passer rating (85.2). Stafford posted 402/3 passing against the Bears in Week 13 last season as a member of the Lions.
Robert Woods has finished inside the top-14 at the position in each of the last three seasons while averaging 88.7 catches and 132.7 targets per season in that stretch. His YPR average has tailed off in each of the last three seasons (14.2>12.6>10.4) but his quarterback change will likely reverse that downward trend. Woods managed 3/22 receiving and 4/23 rushing in this matchup last season.
Cooper Kupp is looking to clear 100+ receptions for the first time in his career after totaling 186 catches the last two seasons. Kupp caught 92 passes despite battling through multiple knee ailments last season, and he’ll be getting a major upgrade in Stafford. Just like Woods, Kupp’s YPR average has tailed off in each of the last three seasons (14.2>12.4>10.6), which is likely to change this season. Kupp posted 6/43 receiving on six targets in this matchup last season.
Tyler Higbee saw fewer targets than Gerald Everett (60 to 62) last season despite running more routes (295 to 262), but he’ll no longer have to deal with Everett this season. The big question is will Sean McVay give Higbee a bigger role in the passing game after he finished with 44/521/5 receiving last season. The Bears gave up the second-most FPG (15.8) and the second-most receiving TDs per game (.8) to TEs last season.
Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel will split duties in this backfield to open the season, but Henderson should have the advantage in the season opener since Michel is still picking up the offense. Michel actually played his best on a per-touch basis in 2020 by averaging 5.7 YPC and 16.3 YPR, but he handled 86 touches for 563 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns — he previously averaged 237.5 touches per season in 2018-19. Henderson averaged 4.5 YPC and 9.9 YPR on 154 touches last season as the #2 RB to Cam Akers. Chicago gave up the ninth-fewest FPG (20.9) to RBs last season.
Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.0 (T-20th)
Plays per game: 63.1 (22nd)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 57.1% (20th) | Run: 42.9% (13th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 50.3% (13th) | Run: 49.7% (20th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 70.1% (6th) | Run: 29.9% (27th)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.0 (T-20th)
Plays per game: 66.6 (5th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 57.8% (17th) | Run: 42.2% (16th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 47.5% (22nd) | Run: 52.5% (11th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 61.8% (25th) | Run: 38.2% (8th)
Perhaps foolishly (and stubbornly), the Bears are rolling with Andy Dalton to start the year. I somewhat understand wanting to shield Justin Fields from the Rams vaunted defense, but Dalton stands little chance of a big outing in the face of Aaron Donald and that pass rush behind a bottom-barrel offensive line. Wouldn’t you want to play the guy with elite athleticism that can evade said rush?
Anyway, I digress. The Rams tendencies from 2020 are not at all predictive of what this offense will look like, and Matthew Stafford has a chance to get out of the gates white-hot against a Bears secondary that let top cover man Kyle Fuller walk. I think the Rams will end up being one of the top-10 teams in pass rate after adjusting for game-script this season and HC Sean McVay will be able to attack the Bears secondary for as long as he wants on SNF. For fantasy, we just need the Bears to do their part and keep up the scoring pace for this game to get hot… which is doubtful.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Bears reportedly like their young corners Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor, two 2020 draft picks, so much so that they let Kyle Fuller walk, but those two young corners get a huge test against Matthew Stafford, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Stafford is also familiar with the Bears’ scheme from years past, though the Bears do get a new DC this year in Sean Desai.
If Desai keeps some things rolling in 2021 from years past, I like the matchup for Woods a bit more than for Kupp, as Woods eats against zone-heavy schemes. That’s not to say Kupp can’t get his against slot CB Duke Shelley, but I just like it a little bit less. The matchup is tougher for TE Tyler Higbee, as the best coverage guys on the Bears’ defense are S Tashaun Gipson and LB Roquan Smith… though the numbers don’t bear that out (2nd-most FPG allowed to TEs last year).
As for the Bears… yeah. QB Andy Dalton is being thrown to the wolves here behind a bad offensive line against Aaron Donald, and top WR Allen Robinson is likely to see a heaping hunk of CB Jalen Ramsey in coverage, though he wasn’t used often as a matchup CB last year under former DC Brandon Staley. He posted 4/70 in this matchup last year. We also saw Darnell Mooney (back) pop up on the injury report this week, and it’s not like CB Darious Williams is a slouch.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
It’s start ‘em if you got ‘em for the Rams’ passing game.
I think coach Sean McVay is going to want to, and I’m using the technical term here, whip it out on national television on Sunday night. He’s been restrained by a bike the last few seasons when he wanted a motorcycle. He now has that Harley in Matthew Stafford, and while sometimes going for a joyride isn’t the best of ideas, McVay wants to use his new toy. Stafford is a strong starting option, and I can’t imagine there will be many lineups where benching Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp is advisable.
TE Tyler Higbee is one of those guys in the TE9 to 16 range where you can make an argument for any one of them, but Higbee is at least going up against the defense that gave up the 2nd-most FPG to TEs last year.
In the backfield, I expect Darrell Henderson will get the first crack here — he’s very gifted and looked explosive last year. But the fact of the matter remains that the Rams simply don’t trust him to stay on the field. That’s why they traded two picks for Sony Michel. I’m a little more bullish on Henderson than the rest of our staff, but multiple people — including Adam Schefter, Adam Caplan, and Greg Cosell — have opined that they believe Michel will eventually be the “lead” back here, as he’s reunited with Thomas Brown, his old RB coach at the University of Georgia. Again, I have Hendo higher this week, but both guys are RB3/FLEX types.
For the Bears, I’m considering two players, and two players only — RB David Montgomery and Allen Robinson. And I don’t feel great about either. We’ll see if new Ram DC Raheem Morris uses Jalen Ramsey as a matchup corner more than Brandon Staley did, and the Rams also gave up the third-fewest FPG to RBs last year.