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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Chicago Bears

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a team getting rid of Mike Martz is not that they would become more offensive. But that's where we are with the Bears.

Martz is gone as the offensive coordinator, taking with him his deep-drop passing system that nearly got Jay Cutler killed, and he will be replaced by Mike Tice. Cutler is not going to take many seven-step drops this year behind a porous offensive line, and the Bears gave him some new weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Bush.

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Cutler has the chance for a solid year, especially being reunited with Marshall, and we like him as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. Marshall also projects as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with the chance to be a No. 1 option even though former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammed once said that "Chicago is where receivers go to die." Marshall is worth drafting in Round 4 in most formats.

A big key for the Bears on offense will be what happens with Matt Forte and his contract. He was designated as the franchise player this offseason, but he wants a long-term extension. The Bears covered themselves by signing Bush, but Forte is the best player on Chicago's offense and a Fantasy star when healthy.

If Forte has a long holdout then his Fantasy value will plummet and the Bears could struggle. But if he signs a new deal prior to training camp then he can again shine, and the Bears could be tough to stop.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Jay Cutler 10
Running Backs
Matt Forte 2
Michael Bush 6
Kahlil Bell ND
Wide Receivers
Brandon Marshall 4
Alshon Jeffery 12
Earl Bennett ND
Devin Hester ND
Johnny Knox ND
Tight Ends
Kellen Davis ND
Kickers/Defense
Robbie Gould 14
Bears DST 13
ND - not expected to get drafted

Bust ... Matt Forte, running back
Forte's Fantasy value would be in trouble even if he wasn't dealing with a contract situation. The addition of Bush, who had 1,395 total yards and eight touchdowns last year for the Raiders, would already hinder his production. Bush is expected to share carries with Forte, and he will likely work at the goal line. Forte only has one year with double digits in touchdowns, which was as a rookie in 2008 with 12 (he has two seasons with only four), so scoring would be limited. Factor in less rushing yards, and we're talking about his receiving skills having to carry him. On top of that, factor in a potential holdout, and Forte is not looking too attractive as an elite Fantasy option. We saw what happened to Chris Johnson last year with his holdout, but Johnson didn't share carries. If you want to draft Forte in standard leagues then you should probably select him in Round 2, but it's better to wait until Round 3 if possible. His value is higher in PPR formats because he does have at least 51 catches in every year of his career, but I would avoid drafting Forte with an early-round pick because he seems to have more cons than pros this year.

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Impact rookie ... Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver
The Bears plan to start Devin Hester opposite Marshall, but we expect Jeffery to be the No. 2 receiver for the Bears, especially with Johnny Knox (back) possibly out for the season. Jeffery has plenty of upside thanks to his size, hands and opportunity. With the Bears likely to lean on Marshall, Jeffery should have plenty of single coverage. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound former standout at South Carolina totaled 179 career receptions for 2,894 yards (16.2 yards per catch) and 22 touchdowns in college. He'll probably take a while to be that productive in the pros, but expectations are growing for him. He's worth a late pick in deeper seasonal drafts, a mid- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a second-round choice in rookie-only formats.

Sleeper ... Kellen Davis, tight end
If you were to guess who led the Bears in receiving touchdowns in 2011 you likely wouldn't have thought of Davis. But he had five touchdowns while playing in an offense that didn't utilize tight ends as receivers on a regular basis, and he finished with just 18 catches for 206 yards. This year, the Bears have a new offense, and Davis should be much more involved. Davis has tremendous size at 6-foot-7, 267 pounds, and he's a big target for Cutler in the red zone. He could emerge as a Marcedes Lewis-type receiver with minimal catches and yards but a decent amount of touchdowns. Davis isn't worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he is someone to put on your radar. If he starts off the season playing well then he is someone to add off the waiver wire.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
IND @GB STL @DAL @JAC bye DET CAR @TEN HOU @SF MIN SEA @MIN GB @ARI @DET
The Bears shouldn't be any worse than 3-2 going into their bye (they might even be 4-1). It's a great early first-half schedule for their offense. Things will get worse starting in Week 10, but they should still be productive. Some quirks: They play the Vikings twice in three weeks, with their second meeting the first of three road dome games they'll play over the final four weeks. Getting their Thursday game out of the way early helps.

Training camp topics

The last time Cutler played with Marshall was 2008 in Denver, which was the best season of his career. He passed for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Likewise, Marshall had 206 catches for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns during the two years Cutler was his starter. It also helps that joining them will be former Denver coordinator Jeremy Bates, who is an assistant now with the Bears.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Matt Forte 203 carries, 52 catches
Marion Barber 114 carries, 5 catches
Kahlil Bell 79 carries, 19 catches
Johnny Knox 37 catches
Roy Williams 37 catches

We hope they pick up where they left off, and this passing game has the chance to shine. It should be fun to watch the different wrinkles in the offense with the change from Martz to Tice.

Of course, having Forte in camp will be huge, and Fantasy owners will continue to monitor what develops with his contract. The longer he stays out the worse his value will be and the more owners will start to focus on Bush. If Forte is not a holdout then plan on drafting Bush with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 Fantasy running back.

Injury update

Cutler (thumb; probable for the start of training camp) ... Jeffery (leg; probable for the start of training camp) ... Johnny Knox (back; doubtful for the start of training camp) ... Brian Urlacher (knee; questionable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Branden Oliver looking like less of a sure thing
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:37 pm ET) After taking the league by storm with consecutive 100-yard rushing games, Chargers running back Branden Oliver has come back down to earth over the last two weeks.

Oliver rushed for just 36 yards on 13 carries in Week 8 against the Broncos, his second straight game with six or fewer Fantasy points. Though it looked like he might take the starting job and run with it, Oliver's struggles over the last two games should leave the door open for Ryan Mathews to take on a solid role when he comes back from his knee injury -- whenever that might be.

As long as Mathews remains out, Oliver will be the go-to back in San Diego, but this is something to keep an eye on. He could remain useful in the Danny Woodhead role, however, even when Mathews is back, so don't expect Oliver to lose all of his value. He has a tough matchup on the way in Week 9, however, with a Dolphins defense that is allowing just 3.70 yards per carry to running backs on the way.  


Eagles in good shape heading into Week 8 game at Arizona
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:31 pm ET) The Eagles have released an injury report Friday that has just one player worse off than questionable. Wide receiver Brad Smith (groin) will not play.

Those designated as questionable are center Jason Kelce (hernia), linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) and running back Darren Sproles (knee). Running back Chris Polk (hamstring), linebacker DeMeco Ryans (groin) and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (wrist) are probable.


Keenan Allen still searching for the big play
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen put together his second double-digit Fantasy point effort of the season Thursday, but does Week 8 represent a turning point in his season?

Allen finally found the end zone for the first time all season en route to a seven-catch, 73-yard effort, which made for his best outing of the season. However, we still see some of the big issues that have limited him all season lurking in Allen's supposed breakout game.

Targets and catches have been there all season for Allen, but he hasn't done much with them, and that was still something of an issue Thursday. He had a season-high 41 yards after the catch, but that came out to an average of just 4.6 per reception. That is still down from 6.2 per catch a year ago.

Allen's role in the offense is still big enough that there is reason for confidence, but his inability to break off the big play remains troubling. Until he starts to turn that trend around, Allen's upside remains limited. 


Patriots RB Shane Vereen not practicing Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Patriots running back Shane Vereen was absent from practice Friday for unknown reasons, per ESPN. He was not listed in their previous injury reports and had participated in the team's three previous sessions this week in preparation for the Week 8 game against Chicago.

Vereen, who dealt with a shoulder issue early in the season, is coming off his most productive game of 2014. He rushed for 43 yards on 11 carries and added five catches for 71 yards and his first two receiving touchdowns of the year in Week 7 against the Jets.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald not worried about fewer targets
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is not concerned with his lack of targets this season. The 11-year wideout has not been targeted more than six times in a game this season. Through six games, he's had 23 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown.

Fitzgerald called his slow start, "champagne problems," per the team's official website.

"We all care about our touches and looks, don't get me wrong," Fitzgerald said. "We just don't put our touches and looks in front of what we are trying to accomplish as a team. There is a distinct difference. You are playing ball your whole life, you are in the NFL, you've been 'The Man' your whole life, so you have to put that aside and focus on what is best for your team. I think everyone has a good grasp of that."

Fitzgerald will face the Eagles at home on Sunday. He's scored 10 times in six career appearances against Philadelphia.

Steelers OLB Jarvis Jones eligible to practice Nov. 3
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:13 pm ET) Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could return to practice as early as Nov. 3, the team is reporting. He has been sidelined since undergoing wrist surgery and was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list.

Jones cannot return to game action until Nov. 17 against Tennessee. He played in the first three games of the season and registered two sacks.


Emmanuel Sanders becoming a red-zone factor?
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:11 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was already off to the best start of his career before Thursday's game, but he put it all together in Week 8's win over the Chargers.

Sanders snagged his fourth 100-yard receiving game in seven tries Thursday, and was finally able to combine that with a touchdown. Three, in fact, as Peyton Manning looked his way constantly in the red zone, including two touchdowns within the 5-yard line. That is good news for Sanders' long-term value, assuming it can remain a consistent part of the team's game.

The main difference between Sanders and the man he replaced in Denver, Eric Decker, has been red-zone proficiency. Decker hauled in 24 touchdowns over two season with Peyton Manning, a pace Sanders can't hope to compete with. However, he is also already on pace for more than 1,400 yards, so he just needs to become a passable red-zone target to be an elite Fantasy option.

Peyton Manning loves to spread the ball around in the red zone, so don't expect Sanders to come anywhere close to three touchdowns in a game at any point again this season. Still, with how big a part of the offense he is overall, Fantasy owners have to be thrilled that Manning finally started looking Sanders' way in the red zone. 


Ravens TE Daniels red-lighted again from Friday practice
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) A knee ailment has again prevented Ravens tight end Owen Daniels from practicing Friday, per the Baltimore Sun. He has yet to participate in any session this week, though offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has claimed Daniels to be fine.

Daniels still appears likely to play Sunday against Cincinnati.


Report: Colts RB Trent Richardson absent again Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson remained sidelined from the media availability portion of Friday practice with a hamstring issue, according to the Indianapolis Star. His status for the Sunday game against Pittsburgh therefore becomes more in doubt.

Richardson is coming off one of his best games since joining the Colts early last season. He rushed for 77 yards on a season-best 5.5 YPC and added four receptions for 41 yards in the thumping of Cincinnati.


All designations included as Lions issue Friday injury report
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) The injury report released Friday by the Lions for the Week 8 game against Atlanta runs the gamut - two out, two doubtful, two questionable, two probable.

Ruled out are tight ends Joseph Fauria (ankle) and Eric Ebron (hamstring). Running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (foot) are doubtul. Star wideout Calvin Johnson (ankle) and tackle LaAdrian Waddle (concussion) are questionable while defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (toe) and running back Theo Riddick (hamstring) are probable.


 
 
 
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