Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Playoffs Week 1

amari-cooper-fantasy-playoffs-start-sit-slide.png

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Playoffs Week 1

The fantasy playoffs are upon us.

That means everybody is freaking out about who to play and who to sit and doing more tinkering to their lineups than Ruxin:

Don't sit your studs, the guys that got you here.

Julio Jones is going up against Josh Norman and the Panthers defense? So what? Rob Gronkowski could be limited, but still may suit up? If he plays for the Pats, he plays in your lineup. It's that simple.

You don't want to risk keeping a guy like that on your bench and then watch as they put up a surprising and unpredictable fantasy day that would have meant victory for you...if only you hadn't tinkered with your lineup.

That would hurt worse than a ref lowering his shoulder to blindside a high school kid:

 

 

We don't have a crystal ball to know what will happen this week, but we can guarantee we put more effort into these Start/Sit picks than Tom Brady put into trying to make a tackle last week:

 

So let's find a way to STREAK to the championship, eh?

 

START

Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA (at BAL) - Five touchdowns in the last two games? Baldwin is coming up huge for fantasy owners in a critical time of the season. He's taken Jimmy Graham's yards and then some. We've said for a while that the Seahawks don't really have a "go-to" passing option in their offense but Baldwin is starting to emerge as the best fantasy receiving play there. He's also got a great matchup against a beat up Ravens team that has been very susceptible to big plays. I like Baldwin this week to help you in the playoffs. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, IND (@ JAC) - I know, it's crazy. Do I really expect you to start Matt Hasselbeck in the first round of the fantasy playoffs? No. But if you're desperate you could do way worse than the wily vet. Hasselbeck has multiple TDs in three of his last four starts and he's now going up against a Jacksonville defense that has surrendered seven passing TDs the last two games and multiple tuddies through the air in six of the last seven contests. Hasselbeck is a Top 20 QB play this week. (Tony Andracki)

Vincent Jackson, WR, TB (vs. NO) - To be honest, you can't go too wrong with a lot of the Bucs offensive options this week. It's the Saints defense, after all, that they're going up against. Jackson has had some success against the Saints in the past (3 catches, 54 yards, TD in Week 2), and there's just something going on with Mike Evans that worries me (case of the dropsies). Jackson may end up being a more reliable target for Jameis Winston, who is really starting to pick up the offense. In what should be a shootout, a lot of the Bucs are good plays this week, including Jackson. (Paschall)

[MORE: Complete Fantasy Football coverage at Rotoworld]

Duke Johnson Jr., RB, CLE (vs. SF) - I guess I'll hop on the Johnson hype train this week. He's been pretty disappointing so far this year after getting hyped up throughout the preseason (like that's never happened before...). But I got a feeling this might be his week to breakout. In standard leagues this year, the 49ers are the worst defense against running backs. He's about even with Isaiah Crowell for playing time so that doesn't concern me either. With Johnny Manziel back in at quarterback, the Browns might try to lean on the running game a little more (especially with Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge as major question marks to play). Johnson's a good play this week if you're debating who to put in your FLEX spot. (Paschall)

Ryan Mathews, RB, PHI (vs. BUF) - This is another risky call, but I think it's a risk worth taking. The Eagles clearly seem committed to the run lately and everybody but DeMarco Murray has had a degree of success in the Philly backfield. With Murray supposedly benched and Mathews returning from a concussion issue, he could be a sneaky-good play against a Buffalo defense that has been beaten by the ground game this season. Mathews has looked explosive in limited touches this year, so the thought of him with a lot of looks is incredibly enticing. (Andracki)

Charcandrick West, RB, KC (vs. SD) - West is back and ready to roll. After missing a game with a hamstring injury and being somewhat limited against the Raiders last week, West should be unleashed against the poor Chargers defense in the opening week of playoffs. The Chargers have been given up a ton of points to fantasy backs this season, allowing 100 or more rushing yards in nine of 12 games thus far. West should get back to that must-start status after this week. (Andracki)

SIT

Buck Allen, RB, BAL (vs. SEA) - Did you see what the Seahawks did last week to Adrian Peterson? I get it the game got out of hand quickly but that's because the Seahawks never let Peterson establish himself. There's no denying Allen isn't anywhere near the caliber that Peterson is so how can Allen have success against this Seahawks D that's shut down running backs all year long? (Paschall)

Gio Bernard, RB, CIN (vs. PIT) - With the playoffs upon us, there are two schools of thought: Bet big and boom-or-bust players or play it safe and put the most reliable players in your lineup. Bernard definitely does not fall into the "reliable" category after turning in five single-digit fantasy performances in his last six games. But he's not boom-or-bust either, with zero games this season at 15 points or over in standard scoring. The Steelers are also the second-best team in the NFL at limiting fantasy RBs and with Jeremy Hill actually playing pretty good lately, stay as far away from Bernard as you can. (Andracki)

Charles Clay, TE, BUF (at PHI) - I get it. There just aren't that many tight ends out there to play these days with injuries and what not. But Clay isn't a good option this week. The Eagles have yet to give up over 100 yards in a game to tight ends this year and have only let them score three times. Tyrod Taylor is going to be too busy throwing to Sammy Watkins all day anyway to focus on Clay. Get him out of your lineup. (Paschall)

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Amari Cooper, WR, OAK (@ DEN) - Cooper has fizzled a bit lately, with 17 catches for 267 yards and no scores the last four games. Now he goes up against the RIDICULOUS Broncos defense that has permitted only one touchdown to opposing wide receivers all season. In 12 games. That's just...wow. Even in PPR formats, Denver has allowed 7 fantasy points or less to the ENTIRE group of opposing wide receivers in three of the last four games. Just, don't play any receivers against them. None. Not right now, anyways. (Andracki)

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL (at CAR) - It's official: Matt Ryan is just a brand name now. He's not playing well at all, especially given the fact that he has one of the best receivers in the game (has anyone also noticed Julio's production dip a bit too??). He's thrown six interceptions in the past three games compared to five touchdowns and did not go over 300 yards in any of those games. In fact, he's only gone over 300 yards in three games this year. THREE. You can't trust Ryan on your team in the playoffs. Oh, and did I mention he's going up against the Panthers defense? (Paschall)

Delanie Walker, TE, TEN (@ NYJ) - Delanie Walker is a Top 5 tight end, regardless of league format. He's a stud with three straight games of at least six catches and 90 yards. But that will come screeching to a halt against the Jets this week. The Jets have been phenomenal against tight ends this season, with their only blemish being a 21-point output from Gronkowski in Week 7. But since then, New York has allowed just 18 fantasy points to TEs in six games (21 catches, 206 yards), including four games with 3 or fewer fantasy points. I know Walker is probably the best tight end you own, but he is a risky, risky play this week. (Andracki)

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

jlandry.png
USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.