Chicago Bears (1-1, 1-1 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (1-1, 1-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Bears 19.5, Browns 26.5
Spread/Total Movements: 8.5 to 7, 46.5 to 46
Weather: 65 degrees, 10% chance of rain, 10-15 mph
Bears Injuries to Watch: QB Andy Dalton (knee, out), WR Darnell Mooney (groin, questionable), DB Tashaun Gipson (hamstring, doubtful), NT Eddie Goldman (knee, questionable)
Browns Injuries to Watch: WR Jarvis Landry (knee, IR), WR Odell Beckham (knee, probable), LT Jedrick Wills (ankle, questionable), C JC Tretter (knee, questionable)
Brolley’s Bears Stats and Trends
The Bears are 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games and they’re 2-6 ATS in their last eight games as an underdog.
Chicago is 4-1 toward overs in its last five road games.
Justin Fields got his first shot at significant playing time in Week 2 with Andy Dalton (knee) leaving in the second quarter with a knee injury. The first-round pick completed 6/13 passes for 60 yards (4.6 YPA) with an ugly interception deep in his own territory that gave the Bengals life late in the fourth quarter. He added 10/31 rushing and he nearly lost a fumble that almost resulted in a scoop-and-score touchdown for the Bengals. Allen Robinson didn’t help him with a dropped 35-yard touchdown, but the aggressive throw highlighted the biggest difference between these two QBs. Fields aDOT sits at 10.5 yards while Dalton is averaging 4.6 yards this season. Tyrod Taylor had 125/1 passing and 15/1 rushing in a half of football last week.
As mentioned above, A-Rob dropped a 35-yard touchdown last week, which would’ve given him two scores last week. He’s managed just 8/59/1 receiving on 15 targets through two weeks, but he’s seen four of the 15 passes (27% share) attempted by Fields.
Darnell Mooney leads the Bears in routes (75), targets (15), catches (11), and receiving yards (92) through the first two weeks of the season. The Browns have struggled with speedy receivers Brandin Cooks (9/78/1 rushing) and Tyreek Hill (11/197/1) in the first two weeks.
Cole Kmet had no chance to do much with the Bears completing just 15 passes for 116 yards in Week 2. He caught his only target for no gain against the Bengals after posting 5/42 receiving against the Rams in the season opener. The Browns weren’t challenged by TEs last week with Jordan Akins catching just a 17-yard pass.
David Montgomery is averaging 20.0 touches and 98.5 scrimmage yards per game through the first two weeks of the season. He ran more routes than Damien Williams (20 to 8) in Week 2 in a positive game script but they ran the exact same number of routes (20) in a negative game script in Week 1. The Bears could face a negative game script against the Browns this week as 7.5-point road underdogs. The Browns are giving up just 2.9 YPC and 58.5 rushing yards per game, albeit against the Chiefs and Texans.
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a favorite.
Cleveland is 4-1 toward overs in its last five games.
Nick Chubb has scored in eight consecutive regular season games with 10 total TDs in that span. He’s also averaging 5.6 YPC awith 83.8 rushing yards per game in that span. Kareem Hunt has just 19/84/1 rushing and 4/30 receiving through two games, but his role could increase some with their issues at WR. The Bears limited Joe Mixon to 20/69 rushing (3.5 YPC) and 8.1 FP last week and they’re giving up 3.8 YPC to RBs in the early going.
Baker Mayfield is in a tough spot with Jarvis Landry (knee, IR) out of the lineup and with Odell Beckham potentially limited even if he does suit up for the first time in Week 3. Baker owns just one passing TD through two games but he’s averaging 10.9 YPA and he scored a rushing TD last week. The Bears limited Joe Burrow to 207/2 passing with three INTs last week after getting torched by the Rams in the season opener.
Odell Beckham is hoping to see his first action since he tore his ACL in October last season. OBJ was easily off to the worst start of his career last season with 23/319/3 receiving on 42 targets in his six full games. He could be on a snap count if he does play this week.
The Browns will use a rotation of Donovan Peoples-Jones (22 routes on 28 dropbacks in Week 2), Rashard Higgins (19), Anthony Schwartz (17), and Demetric Felton (3) at WR this week with or without OBJ in the mix. Higgins is the most likely to step into Landry’s slot role after running 50% of his routes from the slot last week, but the Browns could ramp up Felton’s role too. This is a matchup to attack against a Bears’ secondary that’s allowing the fourth-most FPG (50.5) to the position, but using any of Browns’ WRs (OBJ included) takes a leap of faith.
Kevin Stefanski is also using a rotation at TE with Austin Hooper (19 routes on 28 dropbacks last week) leading the way followed by David Njoku (15) and Harrison Bryant (11). All three TEs have between 11-14 FP through the first two weeks of the season. Tyler Higbee posted 5/68 receiving in the first game of the season against the Bears.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-2 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.8 (22nd)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 65.5 (15th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 56.5% (24th) | Run: 43.5% (9th)
Week 1-2 – Pace: 33.3 (30th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 58.5 (25th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 49.6% (28th) | Run: 50.4% (5th)
Chicago is making the switch to Justin Fields this week, which likely means an even bigger emphasis on the run game here in Week 3. We know what the Browns want to do and that is run the ball as well – so we’ve got two run-heavy, slow-paced teams and a rookie QB making his first ever start. That isn’t exactly the recipe for a fantasy points fest. These two teams combine for the second-slowest matchup in pace on the week and this game could turn even more sluggish if the Bears offensive line struggles and the Browns front-seven harrasses Fields.
(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
The best aspect of Justin Fields’ game for the future of RB David Montgomery is that his rushing ability is so dangerous when evading pressure that OC Bill Lazor will have little need to include designed runs for him. So Montgomery might not lose many carries to his blazing-fast backfield mate. Fields is the type of QB who keeps his eyes downfield, perhaps, to a fault. Only time will tell how much receiving involvement will be offered to Montgomery.
One statistic catching my eye benefiting Darnell Mooney’s prospects: the Browns are allowing the seventh-highest rate of deep completions in the NFL. In addition, alignment history suggests Mooney will draw the far more lenient coverage of Denzel Ward. And DC Joe Woods is likely to prefer having 6’1” Greg Newsome II working over Allen Robinson II (6’3”)
rather than Ward (5’11”) as much as possible.
I’m not a fan of Baker Mayfield against the Bears’ typical coverage shells, nor am I a fan that he’s got a thin receiving group — it’s a tough-ish draw for Odell Beckham in his return to the field against CB Jaylon Johnson. It’s possible rookie RB/WR Demetric Felton fills in the slot for Jarvis Landry (MCL), where the Bears have really struggled to defend — Duke Shelley did not show well last week. Felton is an interesting dynasty stash.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Let’s start with the Browns, a team that I feel is good yet has no overly appealing fantasy options.
That’s obviously with the exception of RB Nick Chubb, who should eat with the Browns 7-point favorites at home. Chubb averages 95 yards rushing and .87 touchdowns per game in Browns wins as opposed to 69.5 rushing YPG and .59 touchdowns per game in losses. Moreover,d ating back to last year, Chubb has out-scored Kareem Hunt in 11 of their last 15 games. HC Kevin Stefanski has made it apparent that he wants to get Chubb more involved in the passing game, which is bearing out — Chubb has actually run more routes (28) than Hunt (25) through two games. Chubb is a locked-in RB1 and Hunt a mediocre FLEX. Keep in mind Bear NT Eddie Goldman (knee) didn’t practice on Friday and could miss, making this an easier matchup for the backs.
Outside of the backfield… how could we possibly trust anyone here? Odell Beckham is expected to make his return from ACL surgery (he has no injury designation), but he could be limited in some fashion. Otherwise, not a single Brown has more than 8 targets through two games, which is tied for 100th in the NFL. The Browns really need Beckham, but he’s no more than a dart throw this week.
I can't think of a "good" NFL team that is or was less appealing for fantasy than the Browns.— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 22, 2021
With the exception of Nick Chubb...
No Top-50 WRs
No Top-16 TEs
Not a single Brown has more than 8 targets... tied for 100th in the NFL.
For what it’s worth, the Browns’ official website is pumping up Rashard Higgins this week, but he’s little more than a speculative add in deep, deep formats.
Higgins will have a bigger role following the injury to Jarvis Landry— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 24, 2021
Obviously, the story for Chicago is QB Justin Fields, who will start for the injured Andy Dalton and will have the opportunity to take this job for good. The Browns have a rock-solid defense, but the appeal of Fields is that he doesn’t even have to play well to produce for fantasy.
Case in point: including the preseason, Fields has played on 139 snaps so far. That’s virtually two weeks of games — he would be 10th among QBs in snaps. Over those two games, he has accumulated 22/126/2 as a runner. That would rank him third among QBs in rushing, behind only Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. The rushing floor alone makes Fields a must-roster player in all formats, and a borderline QB1 this week.
In the backfield, the presence of Fields could help open looks for David Montgomery. Montgomery is averaging 20.0 touches and 98.5 scrimmage yards per game through the first two weeks of the season. With the Bears ahead all game last week against the Bengals, he ran more routes than Damien Williams (20 to 8) but they ran the exact same number of routes (20) when behind all game in Week 1. The Bears are pretty hearty underdogs against the Browns, but will the backfield rotation change with Fields in there? I’m considering Monty more of an RB2 this week, and I’d have to be desperate to play Williams.
At receiver, it’s probably too early to say the Bears have a new #1, but they’re sure treating Darnell Mooney like it. Mooney leads the Bears in routes (75), targets (15), catches (11), and receiving yards (92) through the first two weeks of the season. Mooney’s 94.6% snap share this season is behind only Terry McLaurin, Adam Thielen, and Cooper Kupp, and as Wes noted above he could draw the more appealing matchup than Allen Robinson. I think Robinson will want to get off the schneid after dropping a perfect throw from Fields that would have been a TD last week, but I still think Mooney is rising. He’s a WR3 this week and ARob a WR2, with this a situation to continue monitoring. (Mooney was limited all week with a groin injury, but it would be a surprise if he didn’t play. The Bears are liberal with their “questionable” designations.)