Bears

Bears Grades: John Fox & Co. push all the right buttons

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Bears Grades: John Fox & Co. push all the right buttons

Whatever John Fox and the coaching staff did in the job of keeping a slumping team from quitting, bottle it. The Bears were spiraling down after three losses, had played themselves out of the postseason, had nothing to play for big-picture, and were starting four rookies on defense in addition to another on offense (center Hroniss Grasu) in addition to several other starters who were ticketed for fill-in duty when this season started.

Instead the Bears halted their skid with play marked by some creativity mixed in with a style of urgent, physical play that has been missing too often.

“It was awesome,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee. “We’ve got talent all around the field and we have a lot of young guys that have talent and it showed today. The two inside linebackers played a lot, the two rookie safeties. We have some special young talent on this team.

“That’s what we need. When people lock in on older guys, we need the young guys to step up. And they did it all year. They answered the bell. It was fun out there today.”

[MORE GRADES: Bears show off their own three-headed monster]

The roster youth also figured into a number of schematic advances.

The Bears showed a two-back I-formation with Ka’Deem Carey lined up as a fullback in front of Jeremy Langford, but with Carey bursting out left for a one-yard touchdown flip from Jay Cutler as Langford cut the nearest rusher to Carey. The play was executed precisely but also conceived with personnel that forced the Buccaneers into bigger personnel in a goal-to-go situation, against which Carey had a decided speed advantage.

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase use of three running backs in their myriad looks and packages kept a good Tampa Bay defense off balance, with Langford working as a blocker and Carey used in goal-line situations despite a smallish stature (5-10, 208 pounds).

“’Jerm’ [Langford] hit the dive with it against Detroit for his first touchdown,” Carey said. “So we put it back in the playbook and Jerm had a little success, so we put him in the backfield for the defense to get a little trickery, and then I just slide in there.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Special teams had a breakdown in punt protection but generally bottled up the Tampa Bay return game. The defense was hit for 142 yards in the fourth quarter but 80 of those came on a final drive with the Bears comfortably up by two scores.

Run fits against Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay run game were generally effective, holding the Bucs to their second-lowest rushing total (104) in the last 11 games. The three takeaways, all three by rookies, were the most since the three against the Detroit Lions in game six.

“[Takeaways are] one of the more critical statistics other than winning or losing,” Fox said. “I think we were plus-three on the day. I think all of them were rookies. Jonathan Anderson was responsible for one, [John] Timu recovered [two] and then Harold Jones-Quartey had the one interception that was key. That was down in minus-territory [in the Bears end zone]. Those are always big, to be on that side of the turnover margin and that helped us win today.”

Moon's Grade: A

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

While the notion of a "good loss" is more coachspeak than anything of real substance, it looks like NFL media agree. 

After a close loss to the Patriots -- about three feet close, to be exact -- Power Rankings makers aren't blaming the Bears too much. In fact, shoutout to our mothership, Big NBC Sports, for actually *raising* the Bears in their latest rankings. Thanks guys! 

Here's what they're saying: 

Ours: #17, down 4 -
You can do worse than barely losing to the Patriots, but what on earth has happened to Chicago's defense?

NBCSports: #10, up 1 - 
Bears went toe-to-toe with the Patriots and made it to the later rounds before taking one on the chin. No shame in that.

NFL.com: #11, N/A - 
The opportunities were there for the Bears, who took it to the Patriots in the first half Sunday. The second half was a different story, as Chicago was stuck in catch-up mode.

Washington Post: #16, down 1 - 
The Bears came up a yard shy of a tying TD on the Hail Mary against the Patriots. This was a far less egregious loss than falling to Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins a week earlier. But it was still a loss.

ESPN: #13, down 1 - 
Need more from: RB Jordan Howard. Howard is averaging only 3.46 yards per rush, which ranks 41st out of 47 qualifying running backs. Bears running backs as a whole rank 30th with 1.45 yards after contact per rush, and Mitchell Trubisky has led the team in rushing in two of the past three games.

Sports Illustrated: #18, N/A - 
The Bears were 3-1 before starting a four-game tour of the AFC East. They need to take care of business against the Jets and Bills to keep pace in a tough NFC North.

Sporting News: #16, down 1 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and the offense have become a fun, unpredictable and mostly explosive roller-coaster ride, but the defense is showing it has plenty of leaks behind Khalil Mack.

FanSided: #17, down 2 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and those special teams were a disaster on Sunday.

Bleacher Report: #15, N/A - 
The problem is the Bears also have five tough divisional games remaining, including two with the Vikings. A date with the Rams also looms. However, if the Bears take care of business in the first four games mentioned, they will need to go just 3-3 in their remaining six matchups to go 10-6 and (presumably) make the playoffs.

Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

We've crossed the halfway mark in the regular season for most Fantasy Football leagues, so it's officially crunch time.

As we get ready to make a push for the stretch run and with Bye Weeks in full gear, the waiver wire has never been more important in 2018.

If Nick Chubb is available in your league still, change that immediately. But considering he should've been scooped up in every league after Carlos Hyde was traded away from Cleveland Friday, we're more focused on guys who should be available and worth spending your free agent budget on.

Here are 15 guys worth targeting on the waiver wire:

1. Kenjon Barner, RB, NE

It appears Sony Michel has avoided serious injury, but he still will probably miss at least Week 8 and possibly longer. James White will see a larger role without Michel, but Barner suddenly goes from a guy not even worth sniffing at in Fantasy to a must-own. As soon as Michel left the game, Barner entered and tallied 10 rushes against the Bears defense. If you're desperate for a running back in Week 8, Barner might be a good add as he has a fantastic matchup against a Bills defense that just allowed 219 rushing yards to the Colts.

2. Chris Ivory, RB, BUF

LeSean McCoy was forced to leave the Week 7 contest with a concussion, opening the door for a decent game for Ivory (126 total yards on 19 touches). If McCoy continues to miss time, Ivory is the clear beneficiary, though it's not a great matchup in Week 8 against the Pats.

3. Danny Amendola, WR, MIA

It's been a while since Amendola was anything more than a tease in Fantasy Football, but the soon-to-be-33-year-old has had back-to-back good games while building a good rapport with Brock Osweiler. Amendola has hauled in 143 yards and a tuddie on 14 catches (18 targets) the last two weeks and while he is banged up, he practiced in a limited capacity Monday. If he can suit up Thursday, he should be the Dolphins' top target as both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson are expected to miss that contest with their own injuries.

4. Raheem Mostert, RB, SF

Matt Breida and Alfred Morris owners must hate this guy, but Mostert has emerged from complete irrelevance to lead the Niners backfield the last two weeks. The 26-year-old has 23 touches the last two games while Morris has tallied just 9 touches (all in Week 7) and Breida has racked up 19 touches as he works through a bunch of injuries, including an ankle issue. It will be tough to predict how this situation will play out this week, but Mostert has been the only Niners back worth starting recently and this group of RBs now has the best matchup of the week against the woeful Cardinals defense. Mostert at least deserves to be owned, even if you're not comfortable starting him at the moment.

5/6. Jalen Richard/Doug Martin, RB, OAK

With Marshawn Lynch on IR, Richard and Martin should be owned in all formats just for the sheer possibility of a heavy workload. However, both are questionable Fantasy starts for Week 8 — even coming off a Bye. Richard should be the call in PPR leagues while Martin figures to eat up most of Lynch's carries. 

7. Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC

Williams is owned in hardly any league, but he's racked up 236 receiving yards and 3 TDs the last two weeks. He's not getting a heavy workload (only 8 targets in that span), but the Chargers love throwing deep to this guy and it's paid off in back-to-back weeks. Williams isn't close to being a safe bet as his value is completely contigent upon whether he catchs a deep bomb or not, but you could do a lot worse in your Fantasy lineups.

8. Martavis Bryant, WR, OAK

With Amari Cooper now in Dallas, somebody's gotta catch balls for Jon Gruden's Raiders. There's no guarantee that's Bryant, but he's slated to start Week 8 and he has the talent and resume to be at least a servicable Fantasy player the rest of the season.

9. Donte Moncrief, WR, JAC

The good: In 3 of the last 4 weeks, Moncrief has tallied at least 5 catches and 76 yards. The bad: In the other week during that stretch, he did not record a single catch on 3 targets. So there's clearly some risk here, especially considering the state of the Jags passing offense and QB situation. But Moncrief may be worth a pickup and start in Week 8 if you're desperate, as the Eagles have given up some of the most Fantasy points to opposing WRs. 

10. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, BUF

Benjamin was drafted in most leagues but was unable to post as many as 10 Fantasy points in even full-point PPR leagues until Week 7, and that was a modest 11-point total. Nobody blames you if you've given up on Benjamin, but he finally topped 3 catches and 50 yards in Week 7 and has a rapport with Derek Anderson from their time in Carolina. 

11. Trenton Cannon, RB, NYJ

Who? Cannon is owned in 0.0 percent of Fantasy leagues, which makes sense given he had a grand total of 2 Fantasy points entering Week 7. But when Bilal Powell left the game with a neck injury, it was Cannon that stepped up with 69 receiving yards on 4 catches while Isaiah Crowell still handled rushing duties. If Powell misses time in Week 8 or beyond (neck issues are no joke), Cannon is the main beneficiary in the passing game and should be rostered in all PPR leagues.

12. Chris Herndon, TE, NYJ

The Jets' fourth-round pick from this spring is another no-name in the Fantasy world, but that's quickly changing after back-to-back weeks with a TD. Herndon has clearly become the top tight end for fellow rookie Sam Darnold, seeing 7 targets last week and hauling in 4 of those catches for 42 yards. If you're desperate for a TE or you're in a dynasty league, target Herndon now. 

13. DeVante Parker, WR, MIA

Parker has been worth absolutely nothing in Fantasy this year, finding his way out of the lineup on a weekly basis. But he's worth a speculative add in case he's traded by next week — like he wants — and he also receives a boost for Week 8 by default, as the other Dolphins wideouts are all banged up and Parker essentially has to play.

14. Jakeem Grant, WR, MIA

Notice a trend here? We're all-in on South Beach receivers this week. Same logic applies because of injuries to Stills and Wilson, but obviously all of Parker, Grant and Amendola will not be worth a Fantasy start in Week 8. This is still Osweiler and the Dolphins we're talking about. But Grant is fun with his gamechanging speed and has at least contributed in every single week of the season so far even before he's become an increased part of the gameplan, so his floor isn't "0" like Parker's or some of the other WR options on the market.

15. Colts D/ST

We can't end this without a defense/special teams unit, right? The Colts gave up at least 31 points for 3 straight games from Week 4 through 6, but they absolutely dominated the Bills last week and now draw a Raiders team that just lost its two best offensive playmakers over the last 10 days. There is no better D/ST to stream out there than the Colts, and they're available in more than half of leagues.

Bonus: Rishard Matthews, WR, NYJ

Matthews is reportedly signing with the Jets, who need some WR help. Matthews quit on the Titans earlier this season after they completely went away from him in the gameplan, but this is a guy that racked up 1,740 yards and 13 TDs from 2016-17. He's worth an add in all leagues just for the potential.