Cincinnati Bengals (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at Chicago Bears (0-1, 0-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Bengals 21.25, Bears 23.25
Spread/Total Movements: 3 to 2, 45.5 to 44.5
Weather: 85 degrees, 0% chance of rain, 10 mph
Bengals Injuries to Watch: CB Trae Waynes (hamstring, out), S Ricardo Allen (hand/hamstring — on IR)
Bears Injuries to Watch: LT Jason Peters (quad, questionable), OT Larry Borom (ankle, out), NT Eddie Goldman (calf, doubtful)
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
Cincinnati is 7-3 ATS in the 10 games finished by Joe Burrow.
Burrow returned to action last week and poste a promising 261/2 passing while averaging 9.7 YPA. He did take the third-most sacks (5) last week and he ran just once for two yards after averaging 14.2 rushing yards per game last season. Matthew Stafford ripped the Bears’ secondary for 321/3 passing, 12.4 YPA, and 24.3 FP last week.
Ja’Marr Chase had no issues catching the ball in his professional debut with 5/101/1 receiving on a team-high 30 routes and seven targets (27% share), and he ran right past Bashaud Breeland for a 50-yard touchdown. Van Jefferson burned the Bears for a 67-yard touchdown early in Week 1.
Tee Higgins has posted 60+ receiving yards and/or a touchdown in seven straight full games with Burrow after posting 4/58/1 receiving on five targets on 27 routes last week. The Bears allowed a whopping 16.9 YPR to Rams WRs last week.
Tyler Boyd went from averaging 6.9 catches per game with Burrow last season to just 3/32 receiving on four targets in his first game with Chase in the lineup. Cooper Kupp posted 5/90/1 receiving on seven targets from the slot last week against the Bears.
Joe Mixon lived up to his second-round ADP by handling a healthy 29 carries in an overtime game for 127/1 rushing (4.4 YPC). Perhaps more promising, he ran 18 routes compared to six routes for Samaje Perine, which he turned into 4/23 receiving. Darrell Henderson turned 17 touches into 87 yards and a touchdown against the Bears last week.
Brolley’s Bears Stats and Trends
The Bears are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games.
Chicago is 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a favorite
The Bears are 4-1 to the over in their last five games.
David Montgomery has scored in seven consecutive games with nine scores total in that span. He’s also averaged 5.4 YPC with 706 rushing yards in that same span. Damien Williams (4/28 receiving) did step into Tarik Cohen’s role from early last season as Williams and Monty both ran 20 routes. The Bengals held Dalvin Cook to 3.1 YPC and 20/61/1 rushing in the season opener after allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game (125.1) to RBs last season.
Andy Dalton continues to be one of the league’s worst starting QBs after averaging 5.4 YPA with an aDOT of 4.2 yards in the season opener. The Red Rocket posted a miserable 185/1 passing in a #RevengeGame last season while with the Cowboys.
Allen Robinson saw a promising 11 targets in his first game with Dalton last week, but he turned them into just 6/35 receiving with a gross aDOT of 4.3 yards. Adam Thielen posted 9/92/2 receiving on 10 targets in this matchup last week.
Darnell Mooney had an aDOT of just 7.1 yards in the season opener, and he turned his seven low-leverage targets into 5/26 receiving. The Bengals allowed 22/250/2 receiving to Vikings WRs last week.
Cole Kmet finished third in routes (32), which he turned into 5/42 receiving on six targets, but Jimmy Graham nearly scored on a target near the goal line. Tyler Conklin posted 4/41 receiving against the Bengals last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.3 (30th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 73 (11th)
Week 1 – Pass: 50.7% (28th) | Run: 49.3% (5th)
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.8 (27th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 74 (9th)
Week 1 – Pass: 64.4% (12th) | Run: 35.6% (21st)
The Bengals eked out an overtime win over the Vikings in their home opener and changed up the way they operate on offense in Joe Burrow’s first start since his devastating knee injury. Cincinnati slowed things down and simplified their offense – as they got plays off at the third-slowest clip and ran the ball with Joe Mixon way more. Mixon looked fantastic, so they continued to put the ball in his hands in a game that was close throughout. The Bengals went 53% run-heavy when the game was within a score on Opening Day, which was the sixth-highest rate on the week. You’ll remember that the Bengals were extremely pass-heavy last year when Burrow was healthy – OC Zac Taylor went 62% pass-heavy when the game was within a score, which was the second-highest rate in the league. I absolutely loved the Bengals Week 1 plan because 1) keeping Burrow healthy and not overloading him too early is sharp and 2) the Vikings run defense is going to be one to target all season. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bengals open their passing game up more here in Week 2 considering Chicago’s front-seven is the strength of the team and especially after the Bears secondary offered no resistance to Matthew Stafford (20-for-26, 321 yards, 3 TDs) on SNF.
Chicago’s offense predictably flopped against L.A. – as the Andy Dalton-led Bears played at a snail’s pace on offense despite trailing the entire contest. Matt Nagy’s stubbornness resulted in his offense gaining just 3.2 yards on their first-down plays (last in Week 1) while Dalton’s average depth of target was a pitiful 4.2 yards downfield (second-lowest among QBs in Week 1). The Bears will likely be able to rely more on David Montgomery this week as home-favorites against a far easier Bengals front-seven, and Montgomery has done his best work in similar spots. Over the last two years, Montgomery has averaged 6.48 more fantasy points per game when the Bears are favored compared to when they are underdogs.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
In Week 1, Bengals HC/play-caller Zac Taylor and OC Brian Callahan put three-wide on the field on 70% of snaps. With the game script in their favor for much of the game against Minnesota, the offense leaned in favor of the run, particularly in heavy sets. Just seeing the Bengals field heavy sets after doing so at the third-lowest rate is simply a rare example of Cincinnati maintaining a lead over any stretch of time. The most significant alteration is shifting the rushing attack toward featuring Outside Zone blocking, potentially placing a positive spin on Joe Mixon’s season outlook.
Defensively, the Bengals did not travel their CBs in the wake of losing CB William Jackson III to Washington. While the Bengals did give up production to Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and KJ Osborn, I was pleasantly surprised with the play of former Cowboy Chidobe Awuzie on the perimeter for the Bengals.
For the Bears, their offense is going to be limited until they make the inevitable QB switch, and much-hyped DC Sean Desai had a tough draw in Week 1 against the Rams’ offense. His zone-heavy scheme got torched, and QB Matthew Stafford was perfect on play action. The Bengals utilized play action on about a third of Burrow’s dropbacks in Week 1.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I think Week 1 was an extremely encouraging performance for Bengals fans. While Cincy coaches were clearly conservative with Joe Burrow after an early hit and five sacks — Cincinnati went 53% run-heavy when the game was within a score against the Vikings, which was the sixth-highest rate of the week — the second-year QB played a very clean game in his return from a catastrophic knee injury. I would expect Cincy’s pass rate to increase later in the season, but potentially not to 2020 levels, when the Bengals passed at a second-highest rate in tight games with Burrow. Burrow is a high-end QB2.
Also encouraging was the usage and play of first-round WR Ja’Marr Chase. Chase posted a 5/101/1 line on 7 targets in his NFL debut, including a 50-yard TD from Burrow, his college QB (they hooked up for 9 50+ yard TDs at LSU, and picked up right where they left off). Moreover, Chase led the Bengals’ receivers in snap share (90%, to 74% for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd) and routes run (30, to 27 for Higgins and Boyd). So the club used him as their #1 despite the preseason drops. Internally, they sure didn’t think he was struggling. He’s a strong WR3, and given his upside and how encouraging Burrow looked in Week 1, a hard guy to bench. Higgins is also in the WR3 mix (as a strong one), and my assertion is Boyd gets back in the good graces of fantasy players this week — Bengals slot defender Marqui Christian gave up the most receiving yards and 2 TDs to slot receivers in Week 1, per PFF. He might get benched in Week 2, but for the inexperienced Duke Shelley. Boyd ran 23 slot routes in Week 1, ahead of Higgins’ 13, per SIS.
Matt Nagy says the team is still working through the nickel position. Marqui Christian started in that spot Week 1.— Jeff Dickerson (@DickersonESPN) September 16, 2021
Though many who have been burned by him in the past scoffed, Bengal coaches and beat reporters talked up Joe Mixon as a bell cow all off-season. Well, in Week 1, Mixon touched the ball 33 times (most of any player in Week 1), racked up 150 yards from scrimmage, and scored a TD. He played 31 snaps on run plays, the most of any back in Week 1 (PFF). Does that qualify as bell cow work? Moreover, Mixon’s longest gain of the day was 19 yards, which suggests he was consistently picking up chunks of yardage. Most importantly, Mixon played on 23 of 33 pass plays (70%). Last year, Mixon was on the field just 55% of the time when the Bengals passed. In 2019, Mixon played on just 46% of pass plays, so this is true bell cow usage in the absence of Gio Bernard. With the game projected to be another tight one, Mixon is an RB1 — and Bear NT Eddie Goldman (calf) is doubtful to play.
I’m less interested in Chicago from a fantasy perspective, at least until they pull the plug on Andy Dalton. At minimum, it appears Chicago wants to get Dalton the start against his successor, Burrow, but it’s so clear that Justin Fields is the better option. Fields ran for a TD in his NFL debut last week as part of a limited package, while Dalton was the only QB in the NFL not to attempt a single pass beyond 15 yards. The Fields package will soon expand until he’s the starter. Keep in mind Dalton is behind an offensive line that would be down to its third-string left tackle if Larry Borom (out) and Jason Peters (questionable) can’t play.
I personally thought RB David Montgomery looked great in Week 1, showing his elite contact balance and surprising long speed, and while he saw just 1 target to Damien Williams’ 5, he ran just one fewer route than Williams did. Williams could be annoying this year, but with the Bears favored at home, the gamescript looks strong for Monty to be a high-end RB2.
I’m also considering WR Allen Robinson a WR1 this week against a Bengal defense that allowed the third-most FP to WRs in Week 1 — ARob had a terrible matchup against the Rams in Week 1. If you want to use an upside WR3, Darnell Mooney played every snap in Week 1 and ran 41 routes, one more than Robinson (SIS). And again, it’s a much better matchup — the Bengals still might be without top CB Trae Waynes (hamstring). (Mooney is listed as questionable with a back injury… but practiced in full all week.)
Cole Kmet is a usable streaming TE after his 5/42 showing last week. Jimmy Graham ran just 8 routes, but could be a factor near the goal line. The Bengals did lose S Ricardo Allen to a broken hand this week.