Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 8

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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 8

What did Week 7 of the NFL season bring us? Oh, nothing. Just the greatest Vine of the year and the only real comeback for when you beat your opponent in fantasy.

We liked it, Kirk. And we hope you all will like our Week 8 start/sit picks.

Let's get into it before Kirk calls us out.

START

Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE (vs. ARZ) - We wrote about him earlier this week as fantasy football's biggest surprise at wide receiver, so it'd be tough for us not to recommend using him this week. Again, he's lifted the label of being someone to avoid just because of a matchup. He's been that good and received enough targets that you've got to start him each week, even if that means potentially Johnny Manziel facing the Cardinals defense. Don't fret; Benjamin will get his as a solid WR2 with, as always, WR1 upside. (Mark Strotman)

Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN (@ CHI) - Alright. We'll give John some props for calling this one. The Professor has been Diggs' hype man all season. The rookie out of Maryland is on a tear with 19 catches for 324 yards and a touchdown in his last three games. Forget Mike Wallace and forget Charles Johnson. Diggs is now the receiver to own in Minnesota and should have a field day against the league's fourth-worst fantasy defense vs. opposing wideots. If he's still available in your league go grab him right now, ya dig? (Scott Krinch)

Mike Evans, WR, TB (@ ATL) - This isn't about matchup (the Falcons defense is actually pretty solid this year) so much as opportunity. Evans is basically the only healthy receiver on the Bucs, as Louis Murphy is done for the season and Vincent Jackson could miss several weeks with a knee injury. Evans, meanwhile, actually looks truly healthy for the first time this year, putting up eight catches for 164 yards and a tuddie coming out of a Week 6 Bye. He should have another big game as Jameis Winston will have no choice but to target the second-year wideout early and often. (Tony Andracki)

Marvin Jones, WR, CIN (@ PIT) - Double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games, coming off the bye and facing the Steelers defense? Mmhmm, sign me up to start Jones (and every Bengal) this week. He scorched a solid Bills defense for 9/95/1 two weeks ago and, unless A.J. Green hogs all the targets, Jones is a strong FLEX play with big-play potential to shift your matchup. He's an easy start for me this week. (Strotman)

Travis Kelce, TE, KC (vs. DET) - Kelce has yet to find the endzone since Week 1, but the Lions have allowed five scores to opposing tight ends this season, including two to Kyle Rudolph. Even without tuddies, Kelce is a Top 5 TE, on pace for 78 receptions, 103 targets and 1,118 yards. He'll get in the endzone soon enough, and I'm betting that comes this week. (Andracki)

Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR (vs. IND) - For the past few seasons "The Daily Show" was more like the "once every few months show." Now, completely healthy for the first time since 2011, Stewart is looking worthy of his old nickname. He has posted back-to-back double-digit fantasy point totals, and averaged a healthy 22 carries in each of those contests. Look for the Panthers to get the ground game going early and often against a Colts team which was just torched for 187 yards by the Saints tandem of Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in a Week 7 loss. (Krinch)

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (@ KC in London) - It's been an atrocious year for Stafford in "real-life" football, but in fantasy he's still the No. 15 signal caller, averaging better than 15 points per game. That's nothing to write home about or make him a sure-fire starter, but with a new offensive coordinator in line and facing a Chiefs defense that has been beatable in recent weeks, I'm going to give Stafford a chance to prove he can still be a high-volume passer capable of putting up huge numbers across the pond. I don't care if it means success for the Lions, I just want it for my fantasy team.

[MORE: Get all your Fantasy Sports coverage for the week here]

Charles Sims, RB, TB (@ ATL) - The Falcons are 28th against opposing running backs in standard scoring. Doug Martin should get the bulk of the carries again for the Bucs but Sims is a sneaky good PPR play this week. He's still tied for the lead on the team in touchdown receptions and continues to see 20-25 snaps per game. If the Bucs do fall behind to the Falcons, Sims could get more playing time than that. It's not a sexy pick but he could be a solid option in your lineup this week. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Charcandrick West, RB, KC (vs. DET) - This time a week ago, we were all a little apprehensive about declaring Charcandrick (what a fun name to say) the must-own back in Kansas City. There's no concern anymore. West received 22 carries against the Steelers last week while the Chiefs' other two options (De'Anthony Thomas and Knile Davis) recorded just one carry each. West also got five targets and turned all that attention into 129 yards and a tuddie on 24 touches. He has another good matchup this week against a Detroit defense that hasn't yet shown they can stop the run from start to finish and has also allowed nine rushing TDs to opposing RBs on the season. (Andracki)

Danny Woodhead, RB, SD (@ BAL) - Woodhead might be the Prince of Garbage Time points. But those count just the same as points in the first quarter in fantasy football. By process of elimination, he's become the most reliable back in San Diego. The Chargers are also a team that loves to abandon the run (see 123 pass attempt in the past two weeks). Woodhead is their pass catching running back and should continue to be a PPR monster against a bad Ravens pass defense. Find a way to get Woodhead in your lineup. (Paschall)

SIT

Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET (@ KC) - Abdullah has been consistent, if only in the fact that he's proving he's not worth a start, regardless of how many carries he's getting. The Lions cannot run the ball consistently and they're unable to commit to one back. Throw in a tough matchup (the Chiefs have allowed only four scores to opposing RBs, but they all came in Week 4 against the Bengals) and the writing is on the wall for Abdullah: Do not start him. (Andracki)

Gio Bernard, RB, CIN (@ PIT) - Bernard has been shockingly consistent this year, earning double digit points in every week (in PPR leagues) despite not even receiving double digit carries each week. Coming out of a Bye, don't be surprised if Jeremy Hill is more of the featured back, but either way, it's a rough matchup for the Bengals' RBs. The Steelers are fourth in the league against opposing RBs and have let up just one score on the ground (to Charcandrick last week). Stay away from Gio this week if you can help it. (Andracki)

Alfred Blue, RB, HOU (vs. TEN) - Congrats on winning the waiver claim on Blue! Now he should probably stay on your bench this week. Blue just haven't been very effective so far this year (outside of an outburst against the Bucs) and that was even when Arian Foster was sidelined. Expect the Titans to stack the box against the Texans and force Brian Hoyer to beat them. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. (Paschall)

Dez Bryant, WR, DAL (vs. SEA) - We know. You've been patiently waiting to let Bryant loose in your lineup, and it appears he has a chance at playing this week. But consider two people: Matt Cassell, the guy who will be trying to throw Bryant the ball, and Richard Sherman, the guy guarding Bryant. This isn't a tasty matchup for Bryant, who may need to shake off a little rust after missing six weeks. If you're really impatient, toss him in your lineup and see if he can throw up the X for you. My guess is this week he throws up a dud. (Strotman)

Amari Cooper, WR, OAK (vs. NYJ) - Cooper should check his iCal because he's got a ticket booked this Sunday for Revis Island. As fun as it has been to watch him play this year, he has yet to face a corner the caliber of Darrelle Revis. It's likely Revis will shadow Cooper for the game and that's bad news for Cooper owners. The Jets just don't give up a lot of points to top opposing receivers so keep your expectations for Cooper this week extremely low. (Paschall)

[MORE: Complete Fantasy Football coverage at Rotoworld]

Denver Broncos, D/ST (vs. GB) - The Broncos defense has been a fantasy force this season as the unit has totaled 106 points this season. I would advocate playing them every single week this season expect for in Week 8. I get that there is always high upside for a defense that creates turnovers and gets to the quarterback at a ridiculous clip, but I just can't recommend starting a defense against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming off a bye. Look for a streamer option like the Titans instead. (Krinch)

T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND (@ CAR) - The Panthers are fourth in the NFL at limiting opposing WR fantasy production and they've been ridiculous the past two weeks, surrendering just 15 catches for 149 yards and a TD. It's a bad matchup for Hilton, but beyond that, you can't trust last week's line. Both of Hilton's TDs (just his second and third scores of the season) came on 40+-yard pass plays, meaning they were as much fluky as anything. With Andrew Luck clearly still off (his shoulder has to be bugging him), Hilton would be a shaky play even if his matchup is good. As it stands this week, keep him firmly on your bench. (Andracki)

Darren McFadden, RB, DAL (vs. SEA) - Maybe I'm just bitter that McFadden burned me in multiple leagues last week (come on, who saw a Joseph Randle injury coming?) but his revival may be put on hold this week. The Seahawks, even with their poor record, are no joke. To make things even worse, Matt Cassel is still the quarterback and Dez Bryant will likely be taken away by the Legion of Boom. Seattle should key on McFadden and make sure he doesn't have another big game. And, by the way, the Seahawks have only given up two rushing touchdowns all season (came in one game) and one 100-yd game from a backfield. Look elsewhere. (Paschall)

Donte Moncrief, WR, IND (@ CAR) - Moncrief has quietly put together a solid fantasy and heads into Week 8 as the No. 22 ranked wide receiver in ESPN standard leagues. While Moncrief has a touchdown in each game that Andrew Luck has started this season, I'm predicting their luck will run out on Monday. See what I did there? The Panthers have been eating opposing wide receivers alive as of late, with Josh Norman turning into one of the best corners in the league. Temper your enthusiasm for any Colts wide receiver this week. (Krinch)

Latavius Murray, RB, OAK (vs. NYJ) - Normally you wouldn't see me bench one of my favorite players in the league, but I just can't see any positives in starting Murray against the Jets in Week 8. New York has allowed just one rushing touchdown to a running back this season and opposing teams have averaged a measly 50 yards a game on the ground against them this season. Look for the Raiders to showcase a heavy dose of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree if they want to come out on top this weekend. (Krinch)

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.
 

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

With the Bears releasing Josh Sitton and having the option to franchise Kyle Fuller, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at two of the first big decisions for Ryan Pace’s offseason plan.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.