Thursday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Buccaneers vs. Bears

QUARTERBACKS

Two of the last three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks will face off Thursday night, though they'll be wearing different uniforms than those championship teams. The headliner is obviously the Bucs' Tom Brady ($11,200 DK, $15,000 FD), who completed 30-of-46 passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns last week against the Chargers. It marked the third time in four games that Brady accounted for at least three touchdowns, and he'll surely be popular Thursday night despite being the most expensive player on both sites. Another reason his roster percentage will rise is the general mistrust of the Bucs' backfield, which we'll get to later, but just know Brady will be popular, both in the flex and as captain/MVP, even against a Bears defense that's allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, allowing one or zero touchdowns to Matthew Stafford, Daniel Jones, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers.

Facing Brady is Nick Foles ($10,000 DK, $14,000 FD), the second most-expensive player on FanDuel and third most on DraftKings, though he doesn't come in with Brady's recent success, throwing for 249 yards and one touchdown last week against Indianapolis. Preceding that one was a better performance against Atlanta when he threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns, and while he seems better off than Mitchell Trubisky, a monster game seems pretty unlikely. The benefit of Foles is that there's an expectation that Chicago could be behind, which would prompt him to have to throw more, plus the fact that Bucs have been excellent against the run this season and last. That being said, it might be better to focus on the guys catching the passes than Foles himself.

RUNNING BACKS

We mostly have a clear running back situation in this game, which is a nice change to what we have seen in the NFL over the first four weeks of the season.

David Montgomery ($7,800 DK, $11,000 FD) is officially in bell-cow territory for the Bears, as he's really only dealing with touch competition from Cordarrelle Patterson ($2,200 DK, $6,000 FD), who got only three carries and two targets on six routes last week while playing 18 percent of snaps versus Montgomery's 85. In terms of usage, Montgomery is exactly what we're looking for in a running back. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers were elite against the run last season, and while they are middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to the position this year, a vast majority of that came in Weeks 1 and 2 against Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey, including plenty of passing game fantasy points. Otherwise, their 2.43 yards per carry allowed is the second-lowest in the league, while will likely make many move away from Montgomery. Then again, if most people are moving away from a bell-cow running back, then maybe he's exactly what the leverage seekers want. Patterson's usage just isn't high enough for most people who make only a handful of lineups, but those who make a lot will surely have him in their player pools because his speed is dangerous enough that he's always a touchdown threat when the ball is in his hands. The difficulty is that it's just not in them that much. Third-stringer Ryan Nall ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) is the ultimate long-shot, though he's much more likely to play zero offensive snaps than to make some kind of meaningful contribution, even at a minimum-priced salary. There was some pre and early season excitement about Ronald Jones ($7,400 DK), though that was tempered pretty quickly after the Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. Luckily for fantasy players, Fournette is not expected to play Thursday and McCoy won't, so Jones will only have to battle with Ke'Shawn Vaughn ($1,000 DK) for touches. Vaughn could be somewhat popular given his price, though Jones is still likely to get most of the carries against a Bears defense that has been more successful against the pass than the run. Working in Vaughn's favor is that he seems to be the guy for passing downs, as he caught two of three targets for 22 yards and a touchdown last week, but maybe more importantly played 14 snaps in the fourth quarter versus Jones' 13. And we also need to consider this from Jerry Donabedian: Rostering Jones and Vaughn together could also be a viable path because you basically lock up all of the carries while getting potentially the no. 2 pass catcher. And given how much better the Bears have been defending the pass than the run, maybe it's not so bad to captain/MVP the guy who is coming off a 20-carry, 111-yard game against the Chargers, even if he did only turn six catches on nine targets into 17 receiving yards. WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS The Buccaneers are dealing with a number of injuries to their pass-catching group, as they will be without Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard  and Justin Watson, while Mike Evans ($9,400 DK, $12,000 FD) and Scotty Miller ($7,000 DK, $8,000 FD) are questionable to play, with Evans unable to even practice this week because of an ankle injury he suffered last week. Evans actually left the game to get his ankle looked at, but he returned and ended up with seven catches on eight targets for 122 yards and a touchdown, giving him a score in every game this season. Evans is expected to play despite being limited, and that situation is likely to make many consider Miller, who should play mostly in the slot where Godwin thrives. However, we can't forget that the Bears defense is excellent, including allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, as not a single player at the position has scored a touchdown against them. Obviously that won't be the case all season, but it's tough to make a great case that one of the Tampa guys will have a monster game against this defense.  Evans and Miller will be the ones you'll go to if you want access to the Tampa receivers, but there will be those who try their luck on Rob Gronkowski ($5,800 DK, $7,500 FD), whose six-catch, 48-yard game against Denver is looking more like an outlier because he's otherwise failed to catch more than two passes or accumulate more than 30 yards in a game this season. That being said, Evans and Miller are the only active Buccaneers with more targets, receptions and receiving yards as Gronkowski, so there's that. Those who expect him to continue to falter may want to consider Cameron Brate ($3,800 DK, $6,000 FD), who is a decent pass catcher and could see an uptick in action specifically because of the injury absences. The Bears' pass-catching situation is much different because Foles should have all his weapons available, other than running back Tarik Cohen. Headlining the group is wide receiver Allen Robinson ($10,600 DK, $11,500 FD), who has vastly improved with Foles under center, as he had 107 receiving yards in the first two games combined with Trubisky before catching 10 of 13 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 at Atlanta and then seven of 10 for 101 and another score last week against Indianapolis. There's little doubt that Robinson is the clearest path to the Bears' air attack, it's just a matter of whether he's worth the price. Many are likely to think so, especially with the Buccaneers' success against the run, and Robinson provides a bit of security that Foles may not, making him a viable captain/MVP play. But he's not the only one. Rookie Darnell Mooney ($4,600 DK, $7,000 FD) is questionable because of a shoulder injury, though he practiced fully all week and is expected to play. Mooney has seen an increase in targets each of the past two weeks, catching five of nine for 52 yards last week, and his 120 air yards were the ninth-most in the NFL last week, helping him close the season-long gap between himself and Anthony Miller ($6,400 DK, $9,500 FD), who has two touchdowns in four games. Nevertheless, Mooney has more targets (20 to 19). more catches (13 to nine) and more receiving yards (145 and 133) than Miller, and seems like the better use of funds specifically in this game. If Mooney is unable to play, that theoretically gives a bump to Miller, of course, but we also then bring Ted Ginn ($800 DK, $5,500 FD) and Javon Wims ($200 DK, $5,500 FD) into the discussion. It's tough to get excited about either player given how little they've produced, and they really belong in the MME discussion than anything else. Realistically, tight end Jimmy Graham ($6,800 DK, $8,000 FD) will be the one who sees the bigger increase in popularity, as he's second on the team in receptions (14) and receiving touchdowns (three), and importantly got 15 of his 23 targets, and two of his three scores, in the past two games with Foles at quarterback. Graham is likely to be popular anyway, especially with seven red-zone targets this season, including a league-high five inside the 10-yard line and four inside the five. The difficulty with Graham is that he doesn't get a plethora of receptions, so you really need him to get in the end zone to pay off. Along those sides, theoretically Demetrius Harris ($400 DK, $5,000 FD) and Cole Kmet ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) could be in the player pools of those who make up to 150+ lineups, but they're tough considerations for those with only one or a few shots at the top prize. KICKERS Neither kicker has reached double-digit fantasy points this season, but they're very reasonable cash-game options because they have decent floors versus the players in their salary ranges on both sites. They are on the cheaper side on DraftKings, where Ryan Succop ($4,200 DK, $9,000 FD) and Cairo Santos ($4,000 DK, $8,500 FD) will be in consideration versus players like Mooney, Brate and the defenses, while on FanDuel they're up against both Millers, Graham and Gronkowski. From a GPP perspective, you usually need touchdowns over field goals, but if the game ends up being somewhat low-scoring, kickers would work in tournaments, too. DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS The Buccaneers defense ($5,400) had 13 sacks and eight turnovers in the past three games, which has been much more valuable than the three turnovers and seven sacks in that same span for the Bears ($4,400), who have been a very good real-life defense but not a great fantasy one. Both quarterbacks can make mistakes, however, especially after we saw Brady throw a pick-six just last week. Neither quarterback is that mobile, and therefore prone to sacks if they don't get good enough blocking, but ultimately we need turnovers to make these defenses smart plays.

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