Sunday. The relaxing end to the weekend. The day the alarm is subdued. The day to gather with kin. The lord's day, for those so inclined.
And for those of us who play fantasy football, the day we spend all afternoon yelling at a screen because he only got us TWO AND A HALF POINTS?
Fantasy sports are a kooky thing. Almost everyone who plays them knows this and tries their best not to take it too seriously. Set a lineup, put the phone away, and flip between networks looking to catch the best of whatever games are on. Bears fans hoping against hope that the Bears actually have a good offense this year, hoping our favorite players don't get hurt, hoping a certain quarterback in Wisconsin kind of sort of just barely does. Touchdown Bears, Bear Down Chicago Bears, now go pick off a pass, "babe you going to get a beer?", OK kicker don't 'Cody Parkey' this one, "Yes we won!" or "No we lost..."
Somewhere along this path, our phone buzzes. Yes, your first-round pick already has 20 points at the half! You're projected for 15 points more than your opponent. They left an injured player in their lineup; you have it sewn up. Like all gambling, it's addictive. There's a rush from seeing a player do well for a team you never watch, knowing that your dice roll of a fake football team won you non-tangible bragging rights over your friends and family.
The toughest part is always setting a lineup that doesn't match what the projected point totals would have you set. Even with low consequences (for those in fantasy leagues with expensive buy-ins, I'm sure your therapist loves it), taking a shot against the projections can be stressful. That's why Fantasy Start/Sit Guides are among the most popular sports articles out there.
The Bears have had an infamously bad offense over the previous half-decade plus, but there is some optimism in Chicago. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields is the source for most of it, stepping into a leadership role as the unquestioned starter and one of the team captains. A big step up for the quarterback is a big step up for the entire team.
Beyond that, they have a top-20 fantasy running back in David Montgomery, the fourth-year pro looking to earn a contract extension so rarely given to running backs these days. He's projected to be the 39th-highest scorer in fantasy for all player types when quarterbacks are clipped, and he's a must-start every week he's playing.
Third-year receiver Darnell Mooney was a popular sleeper WR3/flex and WR2 in deeper leagues. Right now, his appeal is volume, as there isn't another receiver jumping off the page in Chicago, but it's wise to remember Mooney is Chicago's deep threat. His 14 receptions for over 20 yards was the T-23rd most in the NFL. He'll get more attention with Allen Robinson II gone, but Mooney is currently rostered in 94.9% of fantasy football leagues, and that's a good sign for the Bears.
Tight end Cole Kmet is the sleeper favorite for the Bears, and if he's targeted in the top-10 of all fantasy tight ends again this year, the touchdowns that inevitably come are going to put him in TE1 territory and then some.
Here's your start/sit guide for the Bears in week 1:
START: David Montgomery
Montgomery enters the 2022 season looking for a contract extension to keep him in Chicago, and to do so will likely require a Pro Bowl season. He's progressed every year since his rookie year, but injuries wiped plenty of statistics off from last season. He's still averaged 4.07 yards per carry over the past two seasons, and with the constant rotation of offensive linemen blocking for him over that time, it's clear he's doing plenty of work on his own.
From a fantasy perspective, he's a shoo-in for double-digit production, so the only time to think about taking him out of a fantasy lineup is if he's on a snap count. In PPR format, he's going to get you some free points off designed catches out of the backfield, be they screens or wheels, and the Bears have previously shown they're very willing to stay safe and let him carry it 25 times a game instead of risking Fields taking more sacks. Let the offensive line push forward.
This week he'll try to find holes in the 49ers' run defense, of which there aren't many. They allowed the 6th-fewest rushing yards per game and 5th-fewest rushing yards per attempt in 2021. It will be a good test to prove he can still run the ball well against one of the league's best, but it's not enough of a red flag to sit him this week.
The Bears will score more touchdowns in 2022; it would be hard to score less than 2021. Plenty of those will go to Montgomery, so more touchdowns plus volume should guarantee better fantasy output.
ESPN has his season outlook projected:
Montgomery is entering his fourth season as the lead back in Chicago. The 2019 third-round pick missed four games last season, but still finished seventh in snaps, ninth in carries and 16th in receptions among backs. After underwhelming as a rookie in 2019, Montgomery has been much better the last two seasons and the volume has followed suit (16.9 carries and 4.3 targets per game during 2020-21). He’s always busy near the goal line, ranking fifth with 36 carries inside the 5 since entering the league. Montgomery has finished top 15 in fantasy PPG the last two seasons and is positioned for very similar usage in 2022. The 25-year-old is a solid RB2 with back-end RB1 upside.
If you waited to draft a running back and snagged Montgomery, you're in luck. The Bears are going to run the ball plenty this year.
SIT: Darnell Mooney
If you followed this article series last year, you might have an idea why, as a Bears fan, I would put Mooney here.
Week 17 Start/Sit Guide: Sit the Bears Defense. Twenty-one fantasy points, most of any team that week.
Week 12 Start/Sit Guide: Sit Jimmy Graham. 11.4 fantasy points, and a game he caught one of his only three touchdowns last year.
Week 9 Start/Sit Guide: Sit Allen Robinson. 10.8 fantasy points, his highest output of the season.
Self-deprecation aside, Mooney is primed for a gigantic fantasy football season this year. He's the clear #1 in Chicago and has an established connection with Justin Fields. He's coming off a 1000-yard season where he was targeted an astounding 140 times. Allen Robinson is in Los Angeles now, and the Bears didn't throw all their resources at finding a wide receiver to put ahead of him in the target numbers.
But the 49ers are going to make the Bears beat them on the ground.
San Francisco is coming off a season where they allowed the 7th-fewest passing yards per game. An outside perspective might be optimistic about Mooney now that Robinson is no longer in town. Any Bears fan who watched Trubisky find Robinson in triple-coverage for 6.5 yards for years knows how much attention was away from other Bears receivers while he was in Navy & Orange. Now that attention is going to go to Mooney, and the 49ers shade very well. He'll still see targets, but the Bears may have to look for him in shorter-gain circumstances, which may take away his home run potential...this week.
ESPN has his season outlook projected:
A lot went wrong for Chicago in 2021, but Mooney was one of the major bright spots. The 2020 fifth-round pick developed into a featured target, handling 27% of the team’s targets (10th highest among WRs). Mooney finished top 20 at the position in snaps, routes, targets, receptions and yards, though Chicago’s offensive struggles limited him to only four touchdowns and, in turn, a 23rd-place finish in fantasy. Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild, but there is at least potential for a big offensive improvement if second-year QB Justin Fields makes a leap. Mooney has extremely little competition for targets and should remain one of the league’s busiest wide receivers. He’s a good WR3 with WR2 upside.
This is a great year to have Mooney stashed, as his trade value should shoot up in the coming weeks and might net a solid running back if you went for receivers early in the draft.