Football fans' love for the game will be significantly tested this week with a brutal slate of primetime games set to take place. That trio of underwhelming matchups will begin tomorrow night, with the Chicago Bears playing host to the Carolina Panthers in a showdown between two last-place teams.
With the combined record of 3-14 between the two sides, the true reason to watch the game is for betting purposes, and with that, I’ll be going over my plays after a preview of the matchup.
Justin Field has been given a doubtful designation for tomorrow, meaning Tyson Bagent will make his 4th start of the year. After putting up a positive EPA on offense in his first start, Chicago has now gone two straight weeks with a negative EPA on that side of the ball after they finished with a (-5.71) EPA in their 24-17 loss to the Saints.
Turnovers have become a problem for Bagent in his last two starts. By throwing three interceptions against the Saints, Bagent has a five over the last two weeks and a 3:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. If there was one positive from their loss to the Saints, it was that their run game got back on track, as they finished the game with 156 rush yards on 32 carries.
Chicago is now ranked 6th in yards per attempt and 4th in rushing yards per game. Veteran D’Onta Freeman has made a bit of a resurgence thanks to some injuries, and now he’ll matchup with a below-average Panthers run defense. Not a lot has gone right for Carolina this season, and their defense is a big part of that.
Following their 27-13 loss to the Colts, the Panthers have allowed 20 or more points in seven of their eight games this season, and they currently rank 28th in rushing yards allowed per game while allowing the 8th-highest explosive run rate, according to FantasyPros.
Offensively, the Panthers could not carry the momentum from their first win of the season into last weekend, giving them five games with a negative offensive EPA. Despite averaging the 3rd most pass attempts per game, Carolina is ranked 27th in passing yards per game, but they do get a favorable matchup tomorrow against a Bears defense that is 30th in opponent completion percentage.
In a matchup between the number one overall pick out of Alabama and an undrafted rookie out of Shepherd University, the Carolina Panthers are listed as (+3.5) point underdogs. For as disappointing as the Panthers have been this season, I’ll be backing them as my play in this one. Bryce Young has not performed to the level many expected him to this season, but I think this week is a good matchup for him and the Panthers' offense.
As I mentioned before, Carolina has been very pass-heavy this season (4th highest pass-play percentage), and they get to play a defense this week that is 28th in pass yards allowed per game and 26th in yards allowed per attempt. No team has allowed more passing touchdowns than the Bears, and they also have the lowest QB pressure percentage, so Young will face less pressure than he’s typically gotten.
The only true advantage Chicago holds in this one is their run game against the Panthers' run defense, but it’s hard to win games by a big margin in this league by just running the ball. While they are 31st in points allowed per game, the Panthers defense is also 8th in total yards allowed and 7th in third down conversion percentage, so it will be much more of a challenge for the Bears to move the ball than most would think.
Adam Thielen’s receiving yards prop is currently set at 69.5 on DraftKings, and I’ll be taking the over at (-115). Before last week’s loss, Thielen had gone over this total in five straight weeks, and he is still boasting a 24.4% target share and 33.5% first-read share, per FantasyPros.
Bryce Young has formed an excellent chemistry with the veteran wideout, as he is targeting him an average of 9.5 times per game. Chicago is allowing the 7th most adjusted yards gained per pass attempt this season, and according to FantasyPros, Thielen will be guarded primarily by Kyler Gordon, who enters this week with an 85% completion percentage against him.
Carolina Panthers (+3.5) (-108) on FanDuel
Adam Thielen Over 69.5 Rec Yards (-115) on DraftKings