Matchup: Lions @ BearsMonday, October 22, 2012
Monday Night Football
Detroit @ Chicago
Jay Cutler strung together back-to-back QB1-caliber fantasy efforts at Dallas and Jacksonville before Chicago's Week 6 bye. Cutler certainly can be an effective matchup play, but sustained top-end production is elusive because the Bears' porous offensive line can torpedo the passing game in any given week. Cutler will be minus promising rookie wideout Alshon Jeffery on Monday night due to a fractured hand, and Detroit's front four teed off on Michael Vick last week with 15 quarterback hits. The return of FS Louis Delmas (knee) is also a difference maker for the Lions' back four. If the Bears are smart, they will lean on Matt Forte, who is as healthy as he's been all season coming off an open date. Although always hard to "trust," Cutler remains an upside option facing a Detroit defense that will be without two of its top three cornerbacks in RCB Jacob Lacey (concussion) and nickel back Bill Bentley (shoulder). ... Gunther Cunningham accepted the Lions' defensive coordinator job before the 2009 season, and Forte has had his unit's number ever since. In six career matchups with Cunningham's Detroit defense, Forte has poured on them an average of 130.5 total yards per game, 5.27 yards per carry, and five all-purpose touchdowns.
Brandon Marshall can be an absolute terror for the shorthanded Lions secondary. Marshall's average of 11.2 targets per game entering Week 7 ranked third in the NFL, behind only Victor Cruz and Reggie Wayne. The Bears are effectively moving him all around the formation, creating favorable matchups and making Marshall more difficult to double team. Per Mike Clay of Rotoworld and Pro Football Focus, Marshall has played 51 percent of his snaps at split end, 32 percent at flanker, and 17 percent in the slot. 11 of Marshall's targets have come at slot receiver, and he's secured 15 of his 16 targets when aligned wide right. The Lions simply don't have a cornerback capable of containing him. ... Perhaps in response to the Jeffery injury, Bears OC Mike Tice this week talked up an expanded role for TE Kellen Davis. Davis is big and moves well for his size, but this is an I'll-believe-it-when-I-see it deal. The guy has played in 69 career games, and topped 40 receiving yards in one of them. So let's keep an eye on Davis, but not start him in fantasy. ... Devin Hester will "start" in Jeffery's place, but a healthy Earl Bennett figures to play the second most snaps in the Bears' receiver corps Monday night. Bennett is a volume-dependent possession receiver lacking big-play ability. He's worth a desperation look in PPR.
The Bears' secondary is playing at as high a level as it ever has under Lovie Smith, but Chicago's Cover 2 has yet to solve Calvin Johnson. In Megatron's last seven meetings with the Bears, he's averaged six catches and 93 yards with four TDs. And Johnson may be more of a zone-beater than ever this season because of how often he's playing in the slot. ... Megatron is 6-foot-5, 239 and jumps 42.5 inches vertically. Bears slot CB D.J. Moore is 5'9/192 with a 39.5-inch vert. They may need a bigger boat. ... Megatron can have success against the Bears on Monday Night Football, but that may be where it ends for this Lions offense. Matthew Stafford is performing so poorly that he needs to be downgraded to QB2 status until he picks it back up. Stafford is playing the worst football of his career. Still fruitlessly working to perfect the sidearm fadeaway, Stafford is the No. 22 fantasy quarterback and has four touchdowns through five games. The Bears lead the NFL in interceptions, and no defense is allowing a lower quarterback rating to opposing passers. Chicago is also fifth in the league in sacks. And 28th in passing scores allowed. This is a really difficult matchup for Stafford. I'd bet on Cutler outscoring him in this game. ... You know the drill with Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew by now. They both lack playmaking ability and possess fantasy outlooks wholly dependent on a high volume of of pass attempts. Burleson and Pettigrew are fantasy garbage to me, but I suppose one man's trash can be another man's treasure.
Mikel Leshoure didn't clear 100 total yards or find the end zone in his first game back from the Lions' Week 5 bye, but his on-field play was promising. Leshoure continues to be used regularly in the passing game, and appeared to have more juice in his legs following the week off. Leshoure clearly isn't going to be the 30-touch back he was in his NFL debut a month ago at Tennessee, but he's settling in as a viable low-end RB2 who should see no fewer than 16 touches a game. Even against the Bears' top-ranked run defense, Leshoure is a quality fantasy start during the bye-week blues. ... Averaging eight touches over the Lions' past four games, Joique Bell is a pedestrian chance-of-pace back with some receiving skills. He's depth in fantasy leagues. ... The light isn't flipping on for Titus Young, who might be the NFL's most disappointing young receiver north of Jacksonville. Trying to play through a knee injury, Young has drops in back-to-back games and has caught just one pass of longer than 17 yards on the season; a fluke 46-yard Hail Mary in the aforementioned Titans game. Chicago's defense is designed to eliminate deep threats like Young. ... Tony Scheffler has exceeded 30 yards in 1-of-5 games and isn't on the fantasy radar.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 17