Chicago Bears (3-3, 3-3 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1, 2-4), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Bears Stats and Trends
The Bears are 1-5 toward unders, and they just squeezed over the total by two points in the season opener thanks to the Rams scoring 34 points. The Bears have gone under the total by an average of two scores (9.2 points) in their five games that went under the total this season.
The Bears beat the Buccaneers 20-19 in a Thursday night affair last season as 3.5-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 44 points.
Chicago is 1-5 ATS in its last six games as an underdog.
Justin Fields actually broke double-digit FP in his fourth NFL start. He completed 16/27 passes for 174 yards (6.4 YPA), one TD, and one INT against the Packers in Week 6. Hefinally used his legs, posting 6/43 rushing after combining for 9/25 rushing in his first three starts. Tampa’s defense has tightened up a bit even with its injuries in the secondary, allowing just 18.7 points and 269.3 yards per game over the last three weeks.
Allen Robinson has yet to reach 11+ FP in a game this season, and he’s fallen below double-digit FP in his last four contests with Fields as the starter. Darnell Mooney has shown some upside playing with Fields, topping 15+ FP in two of his four games with rookie QB, and he’s topped 12+ FP in 3-of-6 games. Mooney has reached 5+ catches four times this season while A-Rob hasn’t done it since the season opener with Andy Dalton. This has been a get-right secondary for most teams, allowing the fifth-most FPG (41.4) to WRs this season.
Cole Kmet has shown signs of life with his targets (3<4<5), catches (1<2<4), and receiving yards (6<22<49) rising the last three weeks. Zach Ertz posted 4/29/1 receiving against the Buccaneers last week.
Khalil Herbert owned the backfield last week with Damien Williams out with COVID, playing 89% of the snaps and posting 21/112/1 scrimmage against the Packers. The Buccaneers are allowing by far the fewest rushing yards per game (42.3) to RBs so this could be more of a Williams game in a more pass-heavy gameplan, if he can clearance to play. Williams had just 4/35 receiving in his last two games with Fields in Weeks 4-5.
Brolley’s Bucs Stats and Trends
Tampa Bay is 6-1 ATS in its last seven home games.
The Bucs have played over the total in four straight games as a home favorite.
Leonard Fournette has deservingly seized control of the Buccaneers’ backfield, and he’s playing the best football of his five-year career. He dominated the touches in a Week 6 victory over the Eagles, racking up 22/81/2 rushing while catching all six of his targets for 46 yards. Season-long Lenny has seen more than 60% of the snaps and 16+ touches in each of the last three weeks, and his fantasy production has risen in each week (16.9<21.0<30.7). Fournette’s role isn’t set in stone moving into the future, but the Buccaneers have seemingly moved on from Ronald Jones (19% snap share) for now while Giovani Bernard (16%) is playing in only hurry-up situations and obvious passing situations. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon combined for 24/135 rushing and 4/34/1 receiving against the Bears last week.
For his standards, Tom Brady posted a relatively quiet 297/2 passing against the Eagles last week for 19.0 FP. Brady has attempted 36+ passes in every game, but the Bears are facing the second-fewest pass attempts per game (30.6) with their deliberate pace. Aaron Rodgers reached 23.7 FP last week thanks to a rushing touchdown, but he completed just 17/23 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Mike Evans had a run of 5+ catches and 75+ yards in four straight games snapped last week. He finished with just 2/27 receiving on four targets (10% share) against the Eagles. The Bears limited Davante Adams to 4/89 receiving on five targets last week.
Antonio Brown is leading the Buccaneers in targets (42), catches (29), and receiving yards (418) in the five games with the big three WRs together, despite being a distant third in routes (Godwin 206, Evans 204, Brown 148). AB is averaging a 10-year best 14.4 YPR so far, and the Bears are giving up 14.1 YPR to WRs this season.
Chris Godwin has fallen below double-digit FP with exactly five targets in two of his last three games, and his three lowest FP outputs (8.5, 14.0, 9.3) have come in the last three weeks. Primary slot WR Hunter Renfrow manufactured 6/56 receiving in this matchup in Week 4.
Rob Gronkowski could return to action from his rib injury, which has kept him out the last three weeks. He managed 4/55 receiving on seven targets the last time he played in Week 3, which snapped his run of two touchdowns in each of the first two games. If Gronk is unable to play, O.J. Howard came out of nowhere to post 6/49/1 receiving on a season-high 65% of the snaps against the Eagles last week. The Bears haven’t allowed a TE to reach double-digit FP since Tyler Higbee did it in Week 1.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30 (25th)
Plays per game: 62.2 (29th)
Pass: 53.0% (30th) | Run: 47.0% (3rd)
Pace: 28 (16th)
Plays per game: 71.3 (7th)
Pass: 68.5% (2nd) | Run: 31.5% (31st)
It’ll be very interesting to see what the Bears plan is here against the Buccaneers league-best run defense. Chicago is the most run-heavy team above expected in neutral situations (+9.5%) while no defense is facing more passing volume than Tampa (+17.2% above expectation). Justin Fields having to play Hero Ball as massive road underdogs sounds like a fun time… until you remember Matt Nagy is still his HC. Chicago has cratered to the eighth-slowest team in the league and that combined with their run-heavy ways has nuked their overall play volume. Because this team can’t sustain offense, Chicago is second-from-last in plays per game (57) just ahead of the Jets (56.3) over the last month with Fields under center. They’re going to have to play faster and throw way more if they stand any chance at keeping up with Brady and the Bucs.
On that subject, Chicago playing slow and methodical on offense has not only killed the fantasy upside on their own team – it’s also hurt their opponents scoring potential, too. The Bears have played towards the under in five-straight games with none of those games broaching 40 points. Chicago’s contests have combined to average just 34.3 combined points over the last month and while Tampa is a different beast, playing against the Bears naturally dings the Buccaneers upside in this spot. That’s not to say Brady can’t get his usual 280 yards and 2 TDs, but it does make a shootout unlikely unless the Bears reverse course and try to, ‘ya know, score points.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Making his feature debut for Chicago last week, 2019 sixth-rounder (of the Texans) Xavier Crawford played a decent game manning the slot against the Packers. He limited his zone to a 3/22/0 line on four targets. That’s the good news for Crawford. The bad news is, rather than Allen Lazard, Crawford’s going to deal with Chris Godwin on far too many snaps for his mental health in Week 7. Posting less than 15 FPs in each of the last three games, Godwin is going to enter this spot starving for volume.
It looked like Damien Williams SZN when David Montgomery hit IR. That ultra-short SZN lasted all of a single game when Williams hit the COVID-19 list. No worry, Khalil Herbert has proven himself to game for the added responsibility, rushing for 172 yards and a TD over the last two games. It’s time to hit the brakes on Herbert. Tampa Bay is only consenting to 4.9 pure rushing FPG to RBs this season. And that number has reduced further over the last four (3.4).
Dolan’s Vantage Points
When it comes to the Bears, I’m really interested to see what Chicago does offensively. Not only have teams not had success running on the Bucs, they’ve actively chosen not to.
Over the last three games, the Eagles have given RBs 9 carries against Tampa, the Dolphins 7 carries, and the Patriots 6.
As Wes alluded above, that’s not good news for Khalil Herbert. We’ll see if Damien Williams can get activated for this game from the COVID list, which would further complicate things in this backfield. Herbert had most of his carries in a positive gamescript in Week 5, and then obviously did well with the backfield to himself in Week 6. But this matchup is an entirely different beast. If Williams does get activated, I wonder if Williams becomes the more important back in this game because of his receiving chops. Herbert is a volume-based RB2 who might not get volume.
So, what about Justin Fields? The Bucs have been far more exploitable through the air than on the ground, but Fields has thrown for 562 yards in his four NFL starts, with 2 TD passes and 2 INT. At least last week he finally decided running the ball (or his coaches finally decided), adding 43 yards on the ground, all on scrambles. Given how little success the Bears’ traditional run game is likely to have in this game, you might wonder if it’s a spot for Fields to get the ball down the field to Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Teams throw the ball more than three-quarters of the time against the Bucs this year, and if the Bears don’t do something similar, they’re going to get waxed. Hell, they might get waxed anyway, but maybe they’ll go down swinging. Fields is a viable streamer — I hope he continues to take off and run like he did last week.
The Bucs are very banged up in the secondary, with Richard Sherman (hamstring) the latest victim. Still, it’s been a rough go of it for ARob. Here’s Graham Barfield from the Week 7 Stat-Pack:
Allen Robinson is the WR75 in FPG.
He’s scored fewer than 10 FP in 5-of-6 games.
The good news? A-Rob ranks 11th in air yards (436) with Justin Fields under center over the last month.
The bad news? Just five of A-Rob’s 11 targets of 10+ air yards have been catchable in this span.
The opportunity has been there. Hopefully the production follows.
With Brown dinged, it’s a pretty easy decision to start Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. (Wes said above why he likes Godwin, in particular.) You likely have no option but to start Tom Brady, and I don’t know why you’d want to bench him anyway.
TE OJ Howard had a random big game last week against Philly, and the Bears are down S Tashaun Gipson (hip), if you’re desperate. He’s likely a better option in this game than Cole Kmet of Chicago, though the Bears did put Jimmy Graham on the COVID list.
One player who has been a legitimate league-winner for the Bucs? RB Leonard Fournette. Here’s Graham again, this time from the Week 7 Start/Sit column:
“The lightbulb finally flickered on for Bruce Arians that Ronald Jones has no business playing as near as many snaps as Leonard Fournette and the results for fantasy have been stellar. With RoJo demoted, RB1 Lenny has averaged 22.3 touches, 125.3 scrimmage yards, and 22.9 FPG while putting up three-straight top-15 scoring weeks over the last three weeks. Fournette has been heavily utilized near the goal-line, too, as he’s played on 83% of the Bucs’ 24 plays inside of the 10-yard line over the last three weeks. Attached to a Bucs’ team that has a gigantic 31-point team total, there is no way you can take Fournette out of a lineup right now.”