Thursday Night Football
NY Giants @ Chicago
Thursday night trends suggest Giants-Bears box-score production may underwhelm, but you could certainly forecast otherwise based on the banged-up state of each team's defense. ... The Bears lost their starting three-technique defensive tackle to an ACL tear for the second game in a row when Nate Collins joined Henry Melton on I.R. following Week 5. Top CB Charles Tillman (knee/groin) has been an injured liability all year and won't play against the G-Men. NT Stephen Paea missed last game with a toe injury and is also inactive. ... On the other side, The Giants' defense has allowed 19 more points than any team in football, and is again minus three of its top-four corners. LCB Corey Webster (groin) and slot CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring) didn't practice this week. Webster fill-in Aaron Ross (back) was placed on I.R. ... Jay Cutler bounced back from his Week 4 hiccup to light up a Saints defense that entered the game ranked top five against the pass for season highs in passing yardage (358), completion rate (72.8%), YPA (10.9), and QB rating (128.1). Still playing his best football since Denver, Cutler is worth a long look as a QB1 streamer against the Giants' sorry defense. The G-Men rank 31st in sacks (5) and TD passes allowed (12). This is a plus matchup for Cutler and all of his pass catchers. ... The Bears really started to get Alshon Jeffery involved in their passing game on Sunday Night Football at Pittsburgh three weeks ago. Here is Cutler's target distribution since: Jeffery 32, Brandon Marshall 27, Martellus Bennett 22, Matt Forte 16, Earl Bennett 10, Michael Bush 1. Behind Dez Bryant, Jeffery is the No. 2 overall fantasy receiver over the past three weeks. Ride him while he's hot and has great matchups, like this one.
Marshall still leads Chicago in 2013 targets and is far more likely to pick it up than flatline. He's one of fantasy's premier buy-low candidates. Current owners should thank Jeffery, because he's making defenses pay for bracketing Marshall out of plays. These things tend to come full circle, with Jeffery sure to command increased attention going forward. Marshall has a great schedule over the next month: vs. NYG, @ WAS, @ GB, vs. DET. ... The Giants coughed up a combined 5-85-1 stat line to Eagles tight ends in Week 5, and 7-91-1 to Chiefs TEs the game before. Dallas tight ends against the Giants in Week 1: 9-77-2. Broncos TEs in Week 2: 7-52-1. Facing his old team, Martellus is a quality start. ... The No. 4 fantasy back in standard scoring, Forte has racked up at least 95 total yards and/or a touchdown in each of the Bears' first five games. Meantime, the Giants are tied for 27th in run defense in large part because they have no prayer of sustaining offensive drives due to their inability to run the football. Tom Coughlin's team ranks dead last in the league in time of possession (25:60). This translates to more plays, touches, and points for opponents. The Giants are especially unlikely to sustain offense in this game because top back David Wilson (neck) won't play. And that's good news for Bears skill-position players. ... No more than a fantasy handcuff, Michael Bush has played nine combined snaps over the past two games, touching the football twice. His fantasy value is wholly dependent on Forte getting injured.
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The Giants' ground game is a nightmare. They're without their best runner, and ranked dead last in rushing even before Wilson got hurt. The O-Line has been depleted by season-ending injuries. Brandon Jacobs is running like 2012 Michael Turner after several trips through the buffet line. The Bears rank 13th in run defense and surrender only 3.69 yards per carry. New York's backfield is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid. It's entirely possible OC Kevin Gilbride schemes up a pass-dominated game plan to avoid leaning on his incapable tailbacks. ... If you're truly desperate, Jacobs is the Giants' best bet in standard leagues because he might luck into a goal-line plunge. Da'Rel Scott is Gilbride's chosen passing-down specialist and would be the superior PPR option in the event he hauls in a few checkdowns from Eli Manning. ... Fantasy owners desperate enough to consider starting Manning need to hope for one of two scenarios (or both): 1. Pass-happy comeback mode. 2. A pass-heavy approach from Gilbride. They also need to be able to live with interceptions. Although the Bears' defensive line is banged up and has been an early-season disappointment, it stands to reason turnstile Giants OTs Will Beatty and Justin Pugh will struggle to block RE Julius Peppers and LE Shea McClellin one on one. Pugh is 60th of 71 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' offensive tackle grades, while Beatty is 63rd. Only Ryan Tannehill and cement-footed Brandon Weeden have taken more sacks than the 15 absorbed by Eli through five weeks.
Eli's target distribution through five losses: Victor Cruz 55, Hakeem Nicks 37, Rueben Randle 36, Brandon Myers 31, Scott 17, Wilson 6, Jacobs 5. ... Cruz owners need to shake off last week's clunker (5-48) and trot him out at Soldier Field. Bears first-year slot CB Isaiah Frey's coverage has been solid to this point, but facing Cruz could be Frey's wakeup call. Cruz is the No. 3 overall fantasy receiver, and has at least eight targets in each of the first five games. ... Based on the following opponents' stat lines -- A.J. Green 9-162-2; Antonio Brown 9-196-2; Calvin Johnson 4-44-1 -- Chicago's defense has had trouble with No. 1 receivers who run most of their routes outside the numbers. Despite Hakeem Nicks' maddening week-to-week inconsistency, he's worth firing up as a WR3 against the Tillman-less Bears. Nicks is coming of his best game (9-142) since Week 2 of 2012. ... Randle's talent is undeniable, as is his significant role in Gilbride's offense. He has one fewer target than Nicks, and is playing 66.8 percent of the snaps. Randle's inconsistency makes him a weekly shot in the dark. Here are his stat lines on the year: 5-101, 3-14, 2-40, 1-7, 6-96-2. With only two teams on Week 6 byes (ATL, MIA), it's hard to imagine fantasy owners not being able to find a more reliable WR3/flex. ... Brandon Myers' matchup isn't an issue -- the Bears have allowed the second most receptions (38) and fourth most yards (434) in the league to tight ends -- but Myers' performance is. Battling rib and ankle injuries, Myers has been one of the NFL's least effective tight ends in terms of both receiving and blocking, and has failed to exceed 35 yards in three straight games. The matchup is right, but here's hoping you've rostered a better fantasy tight end.
Score Prediction: Bears 27, Giants 20