Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Playoffs Week 1

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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)

NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

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NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

A tie is all that separates the Bears from the rest of the NFC North division. Chicago’s Week 6 loss to the Miami Dolphins dropped the team to 3-2, which just barely leaves them in first place.

Because the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings tied in Week 2, they sit just behind the Bears at 3-2-1 in the division. The Week 5 bye week also kept Chicago a little bit ahead, but they’re only a game away from dropping down to third.

They still control their own destiny, but Matt Nagy will need an upset win over the New England Patriots on Sunday to maintain their leading position. The Packers are on a bye week, so they would assume first place if the Bears lose.

The Vikings take on the New York Jets for a chance to take sole possession of the NFC North crown, but Chicago is guaranteed to stay ahead of the Detroit Lions, who also have a bye week.

These early season losses are tough on a Bears team trying to grow a division lead before they take on their NFC North foes midseason. The bigger cushion they can build now, the more wiggle room they’ll have when they face the Lions, Vikings and Lions back-to-back-to-back in November.

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

(For a bonus film review, check out the video above of Akiem Hicks' forced fumble on the one-yard line)

When Eddie Jackson didn’t stay on top shoulder of Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ season opener, there was a clear coaching point from that 75-yard backbreaking touchdown. The Bears’ defensive mantra the week after was to focus on “plastering” receivers, which this defense did a good job of over the next three weeks. 

There surely are coaching points leveled by Vic Fangio and his assistants after the Bears were carved up by Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s 31-28 loss in Miami. But maybe the over-arching though here is this: The Bears didn’t, during the off week, go from being one of the league’s more sure-handed tackling teams to one of the worst. 

A defense that swarmed to the ball over the first four weeks looked a step slow and frequently out of position on Sunday. The more likely explanation for that development isn’t the plot to Space Jam 3, where a group of cartoon aliens steal the athletic power of an entire defense to use for their own. More likely, it was the heat in south Florida that sapped this team’s energy over the course of a long afternoon.

In this week’s film breakdown, we’re going to look at Albert Wilson’s 75-yard touchdown, which was wildly uncharacteristic of this defense. 

Image 1: the Bears are in nickel man coverage with Wilson (red circle) lined up in the slot across from Bryce Callahan. Danny Amendola goes in motion to the boundary (green arrow), with Danny Trevathan (green arrow) following him, though safety Adrian Amos will be the guy covering the Dolphins receiver. Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard are the two down linemen in the interior, with Leonard Floyd rushing from the left and Khalil Mack from the right. 

Image 2: Mack is chipped by tight end Nick O’Leary (yellow circle), with Roquan Smith (yellow arrow) responsible or covering him. Trevathan (green circle) is in space with Amos (blue circle) picking up Amendola. With Mack chipped, the Bears have three pass rushers to go against five offensive linemen. 

Image 3: There’s about 10 yards of space between Mack and Osweiler (yellow arrow) after Mack comes free of O’Leary’s chip. Trevathan (green circle) is in a good position here, with Amos (blue arrow) closing on Amendola. Wilson works into space ahead of Callahan (red arrow), while both Dolphins outside pass-catchers run go routes to clear cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Kevin Toliver II out of the play. 

Image 4: First, the white circle — Hicks had his helmet ripped off, with right tackle Jesse Davis the apparent culprit. He still manages a good pass rush against a double team that could’ve hit home, or forced Osweiler to Mack (who’s about five yards from Osweiler when the ball is released) or Floyd, had the play extended longer. Meanwhile, when the ball is released, Callahan (red arrow) and Trevathan (green arrow) are in good position to bring down Wilson, while Amos (blue arrow) is there for help if Wilson were to turn upfield to the far sideline. 

Image 5: Wilson catches the ball and goes to the far sideline, away from Callahan (red arrow) and toward Trevathan (green arrow). After O’Leary and Smith engaged, the rookie linebacker is the farthest back from the play of these three when the ball is caught. 

Image 6: Trevathan (green arrow) seems to over-commit, giving Wilson a lane toward the boundary to cut upfield. 

Image 7: Amos (blue arrow) still has a chance to bring down Wilson short of the sticks.

Image 8: Amos misses the tackle, and Trevathan is blocked by O’Leary. That leaves Jackson (yellow arrow) as the last guy who can stop Wilson from breaking this play open. 

Image 9: In missing the tackle, Amos tripped Wilson a bit, which Jackson admitted threw him off (“but that’s not an excuse for it,” he added). Wilson re-gains his balance, cuts inside, and Jackson whiffs on the tackle. 

“Probably just try to shoot my shot on the tackle instead of just guessing, just probably should have shot my shot,” Jackson said of what he felt he should’ve done differently. 

Wilson goes to the house, and the Dolphins tie the game one play after the Bears took the lead. The last image here is Wilson’s route chart from NFL Next Gen Stats, which shows just how much running he did after the catch on that play — yardage-wise, it was 71 yards, but by distance it was much further. 

“We talked about how many tackles we missed,” Jackson said. “Some of that could have really changed the momentum of the game if we would have made some of those tackles. Unfortunately, two of them resulted in big play touchdowns.”

No members of the Bears defense were willing to use the heat as an excuse, instead opting for thumb-pointing instead of blaming teammates, coaches or the sun. But there’s a good chance we look back at Week 6 in Week 10 or 11 and can say with some confidence that the Bears beat themselves more than the Dolphins did, and it’s something that hasn’t happened since. 

“We know we made mistakes, that don’t kill our confidence,” Jackson said. “That don’t kill our swagger. We know what we gotta do, we know what we gotta correct. So we come in here, we’re going to play Chicago Bears football that we’re used to playing.”