Kickoff: Sunday, Oct 1 at 1:00 PM EST
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Betting Odds: DEN -3.5 O/U 46 Total via PFF.com
If you are betting on this game, please seek help immediately. Your family loves you.
Writer: Matt Prendergast (@amazingmattyp on X/Twitter)
Disclaimer: It’s perfectly okay if you don’t want to read this one. Or think about this game at all. If this is the regional game in your area, it’s perfectly acceptable to go outside and take a walk, paint your house, or just sit with your eyes closed and daydream about nachos and dogs and power tools. It’s going to be alright. There will be real games on later.
Russell Wilson (Start, QB1)
This is probably going to sound a little strong, but here goes: If there has ever been a ‘Get Right’ game opportunity to potentially start the hard road uphill to rebooting and reclaiming a man’s late-stage legacy, this is it. If Russell Wilson can embrace this idea and reaches deep down and pulls out ‘the Russ that Denver expected’ for this game, then maybe Wilson (and Payton) can limp out of this first month making a positive move in the right direction, finally. If Russ cannot see this and instead shows up to Soldier Field on Sunday looking like Strong Sad, it’s all over. This is just what you are now, Denver. You gotta be angry about last week, Danger, and more importantly, you need to show all the other guys you’re angry and aren’t going to take it anymore! Will this actually happen? Is there a chance for a Wilson renaissance? Probably not. The guy does not seem to exhibit any emotions outside of ‘Smugly Self-Assured (Seattle version)’ and ‘So Very Very Sad (Denver version)’. But he’s still playing the Bears and has dropped 6 scores in the air on 791 yards passing- the last two games both cleared the 300 threshold. I think the oddsmakers are being incredibly generous with the spread here – the Broncos can score some points, and will, and it’s going to be Wilson behind most of them.
Javonte Williams (Start RB2, Flex), Jaleel McLaughlin (Sit), Samaje Perine (Sit)
To be honest, there’s not much about this backfield I can get excited about – Javonte Williams is the clear lead, but I don’t think he technically qualifies as an RB1 on his team, because usually those guys have done something you can point to and say ‘see? he’s gonna be the guy!’. In three weeks, Javonte has put up 13 carries for 52 yards (Vegas), 12 carries for 44 yards (Washington) and 11 carries for 42 yards (Miami). Those are pedestrian – and that’s being generous. AJ Dillon has produced at about this same level, and I’ve told you to drop that guy for two weeks now. Jaleel McLaughlin saw a slight increase in usage in week 3 and did all of 15 yards on 5 attempts. Somehow Samaje Perine contributed less than that. None of these guys are worth playing right now – there’s a lot to fix in Denver, but the emphasis is going to go to tightening up the defense first because, 70. Even with an okay matchup against Chicago here – the Bears are square in the middle of the league at 17th in yards allowed, I don’t see that Javonte or any of this crew can capitalize on it. It’s the old adage ‘what happens when a resistible force meets a moveable object’ come to life on our screens! And it’s not fun to watch!
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Courtland Sutton (Start, WR2) Jerry Jeudy (Start, WR3), Marvin Mims (Start, Flex), Brandon Johnson (Sit) Adam Trautman (Sit)
In a game with so many, many question marks all around, Courtland Sutton is here to give you a big warm hug and let you know it’s all going to be okay. Expected to be the second fiddle once Jerry Jeudy got healthy, Sutton has instead provided a stable source of nutrition for a team that is desperate to feel better soon. Both yards and receptions have increased each week for Courtland (32/66/91 on 4/5/8 respectively, and he has scored touchdowns in two of the three weeks. While none of these weeks have been spectacular, I remind you sternly that a) he’s been doing this as a Bronco, and b) He gets to play the Bears this week.
To that point, is there some other term we can use for the Chicago defensive back end? Like ‘Secondary’ doesn’t feel right, because that indicates they may provide a second chance at something, and that feels like lying. Maybe the ‘Thirdly’ or ‘Quarterly’. Or ‘Lastly’! That’s it! I digress. We all saw or read or heard about from our grandparents over the teletype the disaster that was the Broncos last week.
Here’s the thing: that was mostly on the defense. To compliment Sutton’s performance, Jeudy showed up on the tote board with an additional 81 yards on 5 for 7 handiwork, and rookie fast guy Marvin Mims added in another 73 yards on 3 catches. Those are decent numbers for all three, and with a better matchup against the Bears, who are allowing 277 yards and 2 touchdowns a week to opposing air games, I like running all three of them out there in a game Denver should be playing from start to finish like jobs depend on it. Because they probably do! Week 3 fantasy point thief Brandon Johnson dropped back into the abyss last week in a game that featured a LOT of throwing because ‘down by a million points’, so I don’t like the idea of keeping him on a roster with the lead three starting to perform well at the same time. I like Adam Trautman‘s ZERO FOR TWO performance in that game even less, though I wish him nothing but the best in leagues that reward semi-adequate blocking.
Justin Fields (Sit, QB2)
When I watched the Bears get the ever-loving (insert your favorite colorful noun here) in Week One’s matchup with Green Bay, I chalked up a lot of what had just happened out there to a ‘tough divisional rival they didn’t take seriously’. I legitimately didn’t think that was the best version of the Bears they could muster, but so far, that game was the apex of the saddest mountain you ever did see. Driving this train straight down into a seemingly bottomless chasm is still 2022 fantasy wunderkind Justin Fields, who has statistically, and in real life, somehow managed to degrade at a fairly consistent rate in some fairly critical areas by which we judge the viability of a man with his job. To wit, Mr. Fields’s completion percentage started at 64.9 coming out of the GB beatdown; entering week 2, we see quite a dip to 55.2%, and then against the Chiefs, in a game where Chicago REALLY needed some sort of passing success at any point, that dropped to a startling 50%. Parallel to this, passing yards went from 216 to 211 (hey, that’s not so bad!) to 99 total against KC (Oh.). He’s matched 1 TD per week with at least 1 interception, to keep things balanced and fair, I guess. Even the running – the thing he does the bestest – is pretty ineffective (11 for 47, 4 for 3 – and a touch- and 9 for 59). I suppose the last one shows some gains, but again, this isn’t what you draft a quarterback for, it’s just supposed to be a side benefit, like a good vision plan (which the Bears clearly don’t provide). And about that? Denver is averaging only 12 yards given up to QBs this year (see right below for more surprising Broncos defensive info!). Granted, this was against Jimmy G, Sam Howell, and Tua, none noted runners, but still. In summary: I wouldn’t start Fields this week, or any week (save maybe bye week coverage) in the upcoming month, or two, or the season, unless the Bears suddenly find God, or at minimum show signs they haven’t already thrown it in for the year.
Khalil Herbert (Start, Flex), Rochon Johnson (Start, Flex) – Updated: See Below
Remember when I said there’d be more enlightening Denver defensive facts down below? Here we are! Down below, with the Chicago rushing offense. Currently, Denver has the 11th-ranked defense against the run in the National Football League. This defense that gave up 350 yards to Raheem Mostert, De’Von Achane, and something called a ‘Christopher Brooks’ last week
STILL ranks 11th overall against the run. What we (or at least ‘I’) am inferring from that (and from watching the two previous games MIA played) is that the Dolphins’ offense is slightly spectacular, more than ‘the Broncos defense is that terrible’. I mean, that’s definitely a game a linebacker ends up in therapy over, and that causes linemen to drink paint thinner, but it’s one week. Neither Khalil Herbert nor Roschon Johnson have run for over 40 yards in any single week, splitting carries. Neither has had any impact on the passing game. Neither has scored a touchdown. Is Herbert the better overall runner in this system? Is Roschon the future? I don’t know, let me ask you a question: Would you rather eat a rotten dead fish you found washed up on the shore, or a skunk that got run over by a farmer’s tractor and has been in the sun for two days?
D’onta Foreman hasn’t seen the field since Week One and somehow that makes him the most successful runner on this team, because he’ll get to leave with his health.
Correction/Update – 9/28 – I pulled defensive ranks data to corroborate the ’11th against the run’ statement from a data set that was missing week 3 entirely, and the obvious math just didn’t catch in my mind and it was a HUGE miss. The Denver run D is dead last in yardage and 2nd to last in YPC at this point due to the abject failure against the Dolphins. That said, I still don’t like the split in Chicago, or the general inefficiencies of their run game to this point, BUT it would be irresponsible to chalk off both the runners in what is an above-average matchup. I still don’t like either better than a flex play, because I cannot trust the Bears offense in the state it’s been running.. Thank you to Reddit user SirMcTrollington for catching my mistake here, much appreciated.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DJ Moore (Start, WR3), Darnell Mooney (Sit), Chase Claypool (Cut), Cole Kmet (Start, TE2)
The biggest victim of this evolving crime scene that is the Matt Eberflus’ Bears is DJ Moore, and I hope they figure something out that works, or grant him release to the outside world sooner rather than later before he loses all his good years in another place that doesn’t know how to get it together. From a fantasy perspective – and we saw this when he was stuck in Carolina as well – he has the talent to get you some fantasy value even when surrounded by despair. Week 2 got you a hundred yards, Week 3 a conciliatory touchdown in an otherwise abysmal game. He’s hard to sit, and even when things are terrible with Chicago, he should get you some output, I just can’t trust it’s going to be any more than the 10-15 range due to all the surrounding failure. Rage against the dying of the light, DJ. Darnell Mooney exited his Week 2 follow-up to a promising start of the season with a knee injury, but thankfully was able to return triumphantly in Week 3 and made a statement with…(shuffles through papers)…uh, 0 catches on 1 target. Sit until something drastic changes in Chicago. And I’ll repeat what I said two weeks ago: Chase Claypool should not be on a roster. Not fantasy, I mean in the NFL. That the Bears continue to put him out there as one of their top 3 receivers is just misguided pride. You were on the losing end of that deal, guys. It’s okay, just eat it. You’ll make worse deals, trust me, we’ve all seen it time and again! 4 receptions in 3 games. That’s gross, Chase. TE Cole Kmet‘s picture should be the first thing that pops up when you Google the word ‘serviceable’. He’s fine.