We kick off the second half of the 2023 NFL season with a matchup between two NFC teams that have an odd history of being tied together in a variety of ways. John Fox coached both of these teams. Greg Olsen played for both as did Julius Peppers. Hell, even Andy Dalton has served as the backup quarterback for both teams. These two organizations have a bit of a history tying themselves together and that’s certainly the case heading into this matchup. The Carolina Panthers traded DJ Moore and some first-round draft picks to the Chicago Bears in exchange for the first overall pick in last year’s draft. They used that selection to take Bryce Young as we all know. However, the Bears now own their own first-round draft pick in 2024 while also owning Carolina’s. So if the Bears win this game, they’re hurting and helping their own draft picks. And if they lose it’s still the same situation. So maybe they should just settle for a tie? Of course, that last sentence is me being mildly facetious, but it’s kind of intriguing how this game plays a pretty big role in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. But we’ll make the most of this awful game and find our own approach to Thursday’s NFL DFS Showdown action!
Spread: Chicago Bears (-3.5)
Over/Under: 38.5 Points
Weather: Temperature in the high 40’s around kickoff with partly cloudy skies. Winds likely won’t exceed 15mph and no rain in the forecast.
- Brian Burns, Linebacker – OUT (Concussion/Elbow)
- C.J. Henderson, Defensive Back – OUT (Concussion)
- Laviska Shenault, Wide Receiver – OUT (Ankle)
- Stephen Sullivan, Tight End – OUT (Shoulder)
- D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver – Doubtful (Elbow)
- Xavier Woods, Safety – Questionable (Thigh)
- Vonn Bell, Safety – Questionable (Quadriceps)
- Marquis Haynes, Linebacker – Questionable (Back)
- Justin Fields, Quarterback – Doubtful (Thumb)
- Khari Blasingame, Running Back – OUT (Concussion)
- Nate Davis, Guard – OUT (Ankle)
- Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker – OUT (Knee)
- Terell Smith, Defensive Back – OUT (Illness)
- Khalil Herbert, Running Back – Questionable (Ankle)
- Equanimeous St. Brown, Wide Receiver – Questionable (Hamstring)
- Josh Blackwell, Defensive Back – Questionable (Hamstring)
NFL DFS Showdown MVP/Captain
Last week was Thielen’s worst statistical performance since Week 1 as a member of the Carolina Panthers. He caught just five-of-six targets for 29 yards against what many perceive to be one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts. This week he draws the Bears who have surrendered a touchdown to opposing wide receivers in all but one game this year. It’s probably why the betting market feels so good about Thielen finding the end zone to kick off Week 10.
He’s still top 12 at the wide receiver position in terms of yards per route run (2.46) over the last four weeks and he commands a very heavy target share. Prior to last week he had six straight games with at least eight targets and we should see a return to that kind of workload in this matchup. A change at quarterback might be beneficial to him but at the end of the day, he’s still the top target in this offense regardless of who is throwing the ball. Despite playing for the Minnesota Vikings for so long, Thielen only has 42 receptions for 409 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his career against the Bears.
DJ Moore, WR, Chicago Bears
Revenge game narrative. I wish the analysis could stop there, but I suppose I’ll dive a little deeper. Truthfully, I don’t know if the Panthers legitimately have a good secondary or not. They can certainly be run on, that’s for damn sure. But over the last two weeks, opposing wide receivers have a total of just 189 receiving yards against Carolina. And mind you, the two quarterbacks they faced were C.J. Stroud and Gardner Minshew. Stroud is a legitimate star in the making and while Minshew is on the fast track to becoming his generation’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, he loves to play the role of “hero” and can have a monster game every so often. Moore is certainly missing his QB1 over the last couple weeks. He had a monster game on Thursday Night Football a little over a month ago but has been relatively quiet with Tyson Bagent under center. But Moore still has the revenge narrative here and I anticipate that really juices up his MVP/Captain exposure for the rest of the field.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Chicago Bears
For all the hype surrounding Moore’s revenge game, the same could be said for Foreman who had easily the best statistical season of his career in 2022 with Carolina. Foreman has also benefitted from additional playing time with the injuries to Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson. He touched the ball 20 times last week and gets a great matchup Thursday as it’s clear you can run on Carolina. Since their bye week, Carolina has been a little better against the run, but they’ve still allowed a dozen touchdowns on the ground to opposing backs. Additionally, the Panthers will be without Brian Burns. If the Bears are smart, they’ll attack the opponent’s weakness on the ground. The one concern is that Khalil Herbert is eligible to come off IR for this game. He practiced in full this week but it’s still a short window for prep. I like Foreman at Captain but wouldn’t expect the same workload as last Sunday.
Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears
Conventional wisdom would have put Chuba Hubbard in this last spot, but I am trying to be a bit more contrarian with my last Captain suggestions. We’ll get to Hubbard in the next section, but for now, Kmet seems to be Tyson Bagent’s favorite target. Kmet has 16 catches on 18 targets over his last two games and while the Panthers have only allowed three receptions to the tight end position in their last three games, they won’t have Brian Burns Thursday night. Kmet surprisingly has the third-most receiving touchdowns among tight ends since the start of the 2022 season and five of those have come in his last six games. He caught two touchdowns last week and has been getting volume. If the casual players are scared off by the matchup, I’ll take the leverage here.
Mid-Tier & DFS Value Plays
The quarterbacks in this matchup somewhat remind me of what we saw Sunday night between the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets. Remember that one? When Zach Wilson threw for 100 yards more than Justin Herbert but then still lost two fumbles and then neither quarterback was great for fantasy football? Yeah, this game is giving me those vibes. Young is averaging just 13.1 fantasy points per game on DraftKings. If there’s a positive to this matchup it’s that the Bears are horrendous against opposing quarterbacks. They’ve allowed 19 passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks over their nine games. However, the implied total from Vegas is very low at 38.5 points and that doesn’t give us much confidence in either quarterback. Young has had his struggles with just one performance over 15 fantasy points this season and he’s yet to reach 250 passing yards in a game. He’s a fine Flex play but not a great Captain candidate.
Justin Fields hasn’t been medically cleared to play so for now, we operate as if Bagent gets another start, which is what most reports are indicating as of Wednesday night. I don’t feel as confident in Bagent compared to Young, but he has provided somewhat of a decent floor at times for Chicago. The problem is that the Panthers are better to attack on the ground as they’ve done well against the aerial attacks this year. The Panthers have allowed just 11 touchdowns in eight games this year but only two quarterbacks have thrown for over 250 yards against this secondary. It could be the kind of game where neither quarterback reaches 15 fantasy points so don’t try and force both into your lineups.
Playing Hubbard at Captain is totally fine. I fault nobody for doing so. He’s certainly getting the volume over Miles Sanders even if he hasn’t been efficient with just 76 rushing yards on 31 carries over his last two games. Fortunately, he does get work in the passing game and he has double-digit touches in five straight games. He’s taken on 70% of the rush attempts since Carolina’s bye week and opposing running backs have 23 receptions over Chicago’s last four games. No running back has scored a touchdown on the ground against Chicago since Week 3, but given that running backs have PPR value against the Bears, we can play Hubbard with a little confidence if Bryce Young routinely checks down to his running back.
Nobody is going to really love Mooney in this matchup. The Panthers are a tough matchup for wide receivers, but he has at least shown some chemistry with Tyson Bagent. Mooney hasn’t scored since Week 1, but he has at least one reception of 35+ yards in three of his last four games and if he can take one to the house then he’s paying off his price tag if he’s finding the end zone in a game with a very low implied total. There also may be some leverage here considering most players will try to pay up for Chuba Hubbard or they’d settle for the savings and touchdown equity with Cole Kmet. It’s not a great play on paper, but there’s some upside and leverage with Mooney.
I’d prefer DJ Chark ($5,600) for $400 more, however he is doubtful for this game. There’s no mistaking the fact that Sanders is no longer the RB1 in Carolina. It’s not like it was an incredibly surprising move. He had an opportunity and failed to do anything with the job. But it is worth noting that he had nine touches last week. It’s a great matchup for running backs on both sides of the ball, but as a point-per-dollar play, Hubbard is the better option. If you’d rather find a cheaper option, then consider Hayden Hurst ($4,800). The Bears rank as a terrible team against tight ends. Truthfully, they’re bad against every position. But their stats look horrendous against tight ends because of Taysom Hill’s performance last week but they’ve still allowed five touchdowns to the position in their last seven games.
He’ll need to be activated by 4:00pm ET to be eligible to play tonight but all signs are pointing to that happening. He was a full participant in practice Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and it looks like he’ll find his way back into the rotation. If this game were being played on a Sunday I’d feel much better about him seeing a decent workload. However, it’s a short week and he is coming off injury. But he’s cheaper than he would be if he never got hurt. Through the first five weeks of the season he only had one touchdown, but was averaging roughly a dozen touches per game. I think there’s a possibility he sees six-to-eight touches in his first game back. He doesn’t have as much of a rapport with Tyson Bagent as D’Onta Foreman does. This backfield has become pretty congested so we tread carefully here. If you need a punt, then Roschon Johnson ($3,600) is the way to go. I think we have enough of a sample size at this point to know that he probably won’t be a thing this year. Even when Herbert was out, he couldn’t be trusted to receive a larger workload and I’m not even sure he gets 10 touches in this game despite the great matchup.
Neither defense is good. The Bears are awful against every position. The Panthers are awful against the run, but decent against the pass. However, we have an implied total of 38.5 points and the Bears are favored by a field goal. For my weekly NFL DFS D/ST Coach, this would certainly be a game we want to target. Moreover, it’s a Thursday night game and we’re expecting this game to be complete garbage.
The Chicago Bears ($4,600) are such an odd play. If you look at their expanded profile on DraftKings, they had three consecutive performances with double-digit points but in every other game this year they’ve returned two or fewer fantasy points. They are a bad team, but the Panthers are arguably worse and this is a position of variance. Bryce Young had three interceptions last week but had zero in his previous two games. With nine total turnovers on the year, and in a potentially close game, it’s possible the Panthers lean more on the run if this game is truly sluggish. A heavy run game is bad for DFS because that means fewer sacks and interception opportunities. This defense is bottom 10 against every position under the sun. But it’s a short week and a position of variance. Don’t play them with any Carolina Panther at Captain because that’s just negative correlation.
The Carolina Panthers ($4,000) are surprisingly $600 cheaper than arguably the worst defense in the league. In two games since their bye week they’ve hosted the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts and they’ve allowed just 28 points and 427 total yards of offense in those two games. They only have two takeaways and three sacks in those two games and those matchups were at home. Impressive? Sure. I’d feel better in this matchup if it wasn’t on a Thursday. But Tyson Bagent has six turnovers over his last two games so we do like how that projects for this defense. But again, if Chicago leans more on the run with Foreman and Herbert, then that isn’t great as teams have shown you can run on them. I love getting exposure to one of these teams in my DFS lineups because they’re affordable and we have some turnover-prone quarterbacks, but I’m likely not playing both in the same lineup.
Cairo Santos ($5,000) is more expensive than the D/ST’s and I don’t quite know why. It’s not his fault. Kickers are dependent on their offenses. But at the same time in nearly half his game this year, we’ve seen Santos attempt one or zero field goal attempts. That’s not ideal for us when trying to project how this game plays out. Want to hear a stat that’ll put your brain in a pretzel? Last week, Matt Gay attempted two field goal attempts against the Carolina Panthers. That was the first time a kicker attempted a field goal against Carolina since Week 3. They went four straight games without an opposing kicker attempting a field goal. Now in that same sample size they were constantly torched and allowed plenty of touchdowns. Santos doinked a kick off the upright on Sunday but that was his first miss of the season. Santos could pay off his price tag so long as long as the Bears offense flails in the red zone.
Eddy Pineiro ($4,400) The Bears are awful against all positions, EVEN THE KICKER! Imagine that. The Bears allow, on average, 9.4 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers. In six of nine games this year, opposing kickers have put up at least eight fantasy points and four opposing booters have put up double-digits points. Opposing kickers have attempted 14 field goals in that span and they’ve made seven extra points. We value field goals more than extra points so I do like how this shapes up for Pineiro on Thursday. The fewest fantasy points a kicker has recorded against the Bears? That would be a six-point effort from Dan Carlson. Pineiro has gone five-for-five his last couple games and could be another kicker to do well in this matchup so long as Carolina can move the ball between the 20’s against one of the worst defenses in the league.
NFL DFS Dart Throw Bargains
He’s probably the best play under $3,000 on DraftKings. He hasn’t come off the field recently and he’s had an aDOT of 9.2 and 9.75 over the last two games while seeing about 14% of the targets. That’s not a great target share. However, we likely don’t have DJ Chark in this game and Mingo has already been getting plenty of playing time. There are flashes where he creates good separation and is open and then there are others where it looks like he takes a break on a route. But with Chark out we have a very cheap play who could pop off and get five or six targets. He hasn’t found the end zone in his rookie campaign but last week was his first game all year where he was active without multiple catches.
Carolina is looking like they’ll be without DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Stephen Sullivan. That should naturally move Tremble up the pecking order and he has touchdowns in two of his last four games. If he does find the end zone this week then he crushes his value. But he also has at least two receptions in three straight games while playing roughly 40% of the snaps. At this price tag, he can easily return value given the injuries to the other weapons in this offense.
Robert Tonyan, TE, Chicago
This is ugly and I probably won’t play him, but he usually catches anything thrown his way. Big Bob Tonyan has caught all of his targets since Week 4. The bad news? He has just seven in that span. If he was under $1,000 I’d be more excited. Plus, there’s a $200 play listed below we can consider over Tonyan.
Very similar breakdown that we just had with Tommy Tremble. The Panthers are down bad with some pass catchers and it’s not like we’re completely immune to Marshall stepping into a larger role. In Weeks 3 and 4 he had 14 receptions on 18 targets for just 91 yards. Since then he’s turned back into a pumpkin but again there are snaps, routes, and targets available for this game and Marshall is only $400 on DraftKings. Another cheap option would be Ihmir Smith-Marsette for $200 but considering Marshall is only $400 I’d rather go there.
Tyler Scott, WR, Chicago Bears
I’ve touched on how difficult it is for pass catchers against Carolina. But Tyler Scott is just $200 as a Flex play on DraftKings and he has a dozen targets over his last four games. He’s only caught five of those but at $200 we just need a pair of catches for roughly 20-30 yards. If he finds the end zone then he’ll be in the optimal lineup. He also gets work as a kick returner and we nailed Derius Davis for the Chargers taking one to the house early Monday night to easily return value.