San Francisco 49ers (6-6, 5-7 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5, 6-6), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
The 49ers are 5-2 toward overs in their last seven games.
Elijah Mitchell will be in a race to play after landing in the league’s concussion protocol this week. Mitchell has seen 22+ carries in each of his last three games and he’s reached 17+ FP and 3+ catches in his last two contests. Jeff Wilson would be the team’s lead runner if Mitchell is unable to play, but he’s dealing with his own injury issue with a flare-up in his knee this week — JaMycal Hasty is the only other option right now. Wilson managed just 19/50 rushing (2.6 YPC) and 1/8 receiving in his lone game as the team’s lead runner in Week 11 against the Jaguars. The Bengals are giving up 4.0 YPC to RBs this season.
Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown for two TDs in four of his last five games, and he’s averaged 8.0 YPA or better in six straight games. He completed 20/30 passes for 299 yards (10.0 YPA), two TDs, and two INTs against the Seahawks last week. The Bengals held three straight QBs to fewer than 17 FP before Justin Herbert ripped them for 317/3 passing last week.
George Kittle definitively answered the question of who would step up in Deebo Samuel’s absence in Week 13 by posting the second-best fantasy performance by a tight end this season. He erupted for 9/181/2 receiving on 12 targets (40% share) in San Francisco’s loss to the Seahawks, rumbling for two touchdowns that came from outside the red zone. Outside of disappearing against the Vikings in Week 12, Kittle has hung 13+ FP and 4+ catches in four out of his five games since returning to the lineup in Week 9 with five touchdowns in that span. It’s a four-man race for the TE1 in terms of FPG between Rob Gronkowski (16.1), Travis Kelce (15.9), Kittle (15.0), and Mark Andrews (14.9). Darren Waller posted 7/116 receiving on eight targets in this matchup in Week 11.
Deebo has a chance to return this week after missing last week for his groin injury. He was used as a glorified RB with 19/181/4 rushing over his last three games, but he had just 2/27 receiving on six targets in his last two games. The Bengals are giving up the 11th-most FPG (35.9) to WRs this season.
Brandon Aiyuk managed just 3/55 receiving on six targets with Kittle doing the heavy lifting last week with Deebo out of the lineup. He has 3+ catches in six straight games and he’s reached double-digit FP in four of those contests. Mike Williams went off for 5/110 receiving in this matchup last week.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals are 5-1 towards overs in their last six games.
Cincinnati is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games.
Joe Mixon found the end zone for a ninth straight game (13 total TDs) last week, but he had a back-breaking fumble early in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown after the Bengals had cut a 24-point deficit to two points. He finished with 10.4 FP against the Chargers, which was his worst fantasy performance since Week 2. He averaged just 2.8 YPC (19/54/1 rushing) with RT Riley Reiff and C Trey Hopkins out of the lineup. The 49ers are giving up the fourth-most rushing TDs per game (1.0) to RBs.
Joe Burrow dislocated his pinky on his throwing hand and he played through pain in Week 13. He finished the game with three turnovers, which gives him 14 INTs and two fumbles lost this season. He’s failed to throw multiple TDs in four straight games but he did throw for 300 yards for the first time since Week 7. He already said he won’t miss any games because of the injury, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be quite as effective moving forward. The 49ers have held five straight QBs to fewer than 18 FP.
Tee Higgins has vaulted into the #1 WR role the last two weeks with 15/252/2 receiving on 22 targets, which give him 13+ FP in five of his last six games. He’s also seen 8+ targets in three of his last four contests. D.K. Metcalf finished with 5/60 receiving on eight targets last week.
Ja’Marr Chase has had a rough go of it in recent weeks with fewer than 55 receiving yards in five straight games. He dropped what could’ve been a 71-yard touchdown early in Week 13, which turned into an INT for the Chargers. The 49ers are giving up the 16th-most FPG (35.2) to WRs this season, but they did give two TDs to Seahawks WRs last week.
Tyler Boyd finished with 5/85 receiving on seven targets last week in a tough matchup against Chris Harris and the Chargers last week. He’s scored just two touchdowns this season, and he’s reached double-digit FP three times in his last eight contests. Tyler Lockett went for 7/68/1 receiving on eight targets in this matchup last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.4 (28th)
Plays per game: 59.4 (27th)
Pass: 51.5% (30th) | Run: 48.5% (3rd)
Pace: 29.6 (25th)
Plays per game: 65.9 (8th)
Pass: 59.3% (20th) | Run: 40.7% (13th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
While the total in this game is the third-highest on the slate (48.5), the pace between these two offenses leaves a lot to be desired and could slow down what looks like a fun matchup overall. 49ers-Bengals has the second-worst adjusted combined pace on the slate, which is saying something considering Week 14 is filled with a lot of mediocre matchups.
As Brolley mentioned above, the Bengals have been a dead over team as of late as their last six contests have combined a whopping 56.5 total points on average. Cincy is averaging 30.5 points per game in this stretch while their defense has been up-and-down, allowing 34 to the Jets, 41 to the Browns, and 41 to the Chargers – but they’ve held the Ravens, Raiders, and Steelers to under 17 points.
Meanwhile, the 49ers offense was equally hot before they committed 3 turnovers and Jimmy Garoppolo took a safety last week in Seattle. Before that, San Francisco had previously scored 30 or more points four times in their previous five games. The 49ers plan as of late has been simple and effective: Run the ball a ton, sustain drives, and kill the clock. That worked like a charm in their three-game win streak over the Rams, Jaguars, and Vikings as the 49ers dominated time of possession in each of those contests by eating up 114 minutes of game-clock while those three opponents had the ball for just 66 minutes.
It’s hard to get away from any of the players here – you can’t bench Kittle, Chase, Mixon, etc – but there is definitely some downside risk that this game disappoints in the box score between these two clock-draining offenses. Especially if the 49ers build a lead like they did in Weeks 10-12 against the Rams, Jags, and Vikings.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Losing Emmanuel Moseley could not have come at a worst time for the 49ers. Without Moseley — their top perimeter corner — SF will be forced to feature ‘21 fifth-rounder Deommodore Lenoir. And Lenoir will face a massive challenge from Ja’Marr Chase on Sunday.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
A key development to watch for Cincinnati will be the availability of RB Joe Mixon, who was out all week with an illness.
Do not see Bengals RB Joe Mixon practicing at the start of today’s walkthrough. Been out this week with an illness.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) December 10, 2021
Bengals RB Joe Mixon is anticipated to play, per Zac Taylor. Will see where the illness is tomorrow.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) December 10, 2021
As an aside, “will see where the illness is” is an all-time coachspeak phrase.
It’s been kind of a rough go of late for Bengal QB Joe Burrow of late, and now he has the added difficulty of playing through a broken pinkie.
Here is Scott Barrett from Start/Sit on Burrow:
“Burrow has quietly struggled in recent weeks, averaging just 13.6 FPG since Week 9. And now he’s dealing with a dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand. This injury occurred late in the 2nd quarter, and Burrow completed just 12 of 23 passes for 158 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception in the 2nd half.
Burrow was a fringe-QB1 prior to injury, ranking 12th in FPG (18.4). But, we like him this week as just a high-end QB2. In addition to the injury concerns, this is also a difficult matchup; San Francisco ranks 6th-best by passing FPG allowed (13.9), and over the last 5 weeks opposing QBs are averaging just 14.2 FPG against them.”
“Tee Higgins has hit at least 23.0 fantasy points in back-to-back games, and at least 13.0 fantasy points in 5 of his last 6 games (averaging 16.1 FPG over this span). He now ranks 16th in targets per game (8.9), 17th in XFP/G (15.6), 21st in FPG (14.6), and, interestingly, 1st in end zone targets per game (1.1).
But, what happened to Ja’Marr Chase?
Chase averaged 20.9 FPG across his first 7 games, but just 10.8 FPG over his last 5.
What happened? Well, basically, everything we warned about in Week 8. His ultra-absurd levels of hyper-efficiency were incredibly unstable. (He had the highest PAR of any player in at least 14 seasons.) And especially so, because so much of his production was coming on deep targets, which is inordinately unstable and heavily tends to regress to the mean. That, and also, the volume never really picked up. He averages just 10.9 XFP/G over the last 3 weeks, which ranks 43rd among WRs, and well behind Higgins (16.4).
It’s also possible that opposing defenses are now going out of their way to stop Chase — intentionally gameplanning against him; bringing safety help over the top or increasing their rate of bracket coverage against him specifically. And, thus, leaving Higgins in the far more advantageous matchup.
But, beyond all this, Chase has also gotten extremely unlucky. As have his fantasy owners.
Drops aren’t a sticky stat. It’s not something to worry about long-term. But they can be pretty costly.
Chase has 7 drops over his last 5 games. 3 of those targets have come deep, and 2 of those targets have come in the end zone. He averages just 10.8 FPG over this span. But if he caught all 7 of those passes, he’d be averaging somewhere between 16.8 FPG and 27.8 FPG.
So, earlier in the season we were projecting a negative regression to the mean. This week, I’m projecting a positive one.”
Indeed, as Wes noted above, the absence of Emmanuel Moseley is good news for Chase, and you would simply think that he’ll have some better luck in the coming weeks. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack on more about Chase’s struggles:
Since dropping 8/201/1 on the Ravens in Week 7, Chase is the WR36 in FPG (10.6) over his last five games.
Chase’s target share in Weeks 1-7 was 24%. Over his last five games, Chase’s target share is 23%.
So, his usage hasn’t changed, but his production has dipped because Chase and Burrow aren’t linking up on deep targets like they were early in the season…
In Weeks 1-7, Burrow-Chase connected on 12-of-20 deep targets of 15+ air yards for 426 yards and 4 TDs.
In Weeks 8-13, Burrow-Chase’s deep connection has dwindled (1-of-9 for 16 yards and 0 TDs) including Chase’s bizarre drop last week that popped up in the air and was picked off.
Speaking of Tee Higgins, he, along with Mixon, is listed as questionable. Higgins has an ankle injury, but coach Zac Taylor expects him to play.
It’s looking unlikely the 49ers will have RB Elijah Mitchell this week as he deals with a concussion and knee issues.
In addition to being in concussion protocol, 49ers' RB Elijah Mitchell also underwent an MRI on his knee that came back and showed what HC Kyle Shanahan termed as an "irritation."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 8, 2021
If Mitchell doesn’t play, it appears Jeff Wilson will be the 49ers’ top RB.
Practicing. He might still be listed as limited at the end of the day but he's currently the frontrunner to start in Cincy. 1. Wilson. 2. Hasty 3. New guy Brian Hill. https://t.co/6k3BtE9JDO— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) December 9, 2021
It also appears that 49er WR Deebo Samuel is pushing to play, but his groin injury may well hold him off the field again.