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Fantasy Football Booms and Busts: Justin Fields gives Chicago hope in Week 9

The Chicago Bears probably aren’t going anywhere this season. They’re 3-6 overall, 1-5 in the NFC, and moved two key defensive players at the NFL trade deadline. The goal is to improve and evaluate, get ready for a better day down the road.

But it looks like they’ve found something at quarterback. And in the NFL, that’s always Job No. 1.

Miami escaped with a 35-32 victory at Chicago on Sunday, but Justin Fields was the star of the day. Fields ran for 178 yards — a new regular-season record for a quarterback — and accounted for four total touchdowns, putting Chicago’s offense on his back.

Most of the Fields highlights were as a runner — most notably his exhilarating 61-yard touchdown scamper — but he also involved his key pass catchers. Darnell Mooney snagged 7-of-8 targets, covering 43 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Cole Kmet secured two short touchdowns — he’s back in fantasy play after a shaky start to the year.

The passing game overall is still a work in progress — while Fields completed 17-of-28 passes, they covered just 123 yards, a meager 4.4 YPA. But fantasy is a game about numbers, and Fields rang them up like a pinball machine. He finished the afternoon with 42.72 fantasy points, the best quarterback score of the year.

That final tally edged past the 42.62 points Lamar Jackson banked in Week 2.

Justin Fields did most of his damage with his legs in Week 9, but racked up the most fantasy points of any QB this season. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Justin Fields did most of his damage with his legs in Week 9, but racked up the most fantasy points of any QB this season. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Fields is gifted as a runner, fast and instinctive, able to keep almost any play alive. And the Bears are getting more proactive using his running ability as both a weapon and a distraction. The Bears offered plenty of misdirection calls and play-action fakes at Miami, often leading to successful plays.

And maybe the receiver play will get better soon. Chase Claypool had a quiet debut for Chicago (2-13-0), but he did draw one pass-interference penalty. Another target was a bad drop, off a screen pass. Claypool also was likely interfered with on a pass late in the fourth quarter, but the play wasn’t flagged.

You’d like to see more downfield connections from the Bears — no completion went for more than 18 yards Sunday — but surely that’s coming. Mooney threatens all areas of the field. And if Fields doesn’t get your juices flowing when he runs the ball, it’s time to get that ticker checked. The Bears were a boring team two months ago, but they look like a fantasy carnival now.

Fields' 178 rushing yards moved Michael Vick out of the record book — Vick rang up a silly 173 yards rushing against Minnesota in December 2022, finishing the game with an electrifying 46-yard touchdown run in overtime. If we include playoff games in the search, Colin Kaepernick still holds pole position. Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for 263 more — with four total touchdowns — as the 49ers knocked out the Packers in the 2012 playoffs. San Francisco eventually made the Super Bowl, losing to the Ravens three weeks later.

It almost feels unfair to get this deep into the lede and not mention the Dolphins, but that offense also paid the fantasy bills. Tua Tagovailoa was on point all afternoon (21-for-30, 302 yards, three touchdowns), playing spotless football. He was not sacked or intercepted. And to the joy of fantasy managers, the Dolphins employ a very narrow usage tree.

Tyreek Hill (7-143-1) continues to make a case for the No. 1 fantasy wideout spot (though several stars were sharp Sunday) and Jaylen Waddle (5-85-1) can’t be far behind. Jeff Wilson Jr. had the better of the backfield work (72 total yards, one touchdown), but at least Raheem Mostert had a touchdown to deodorize an otherwise shaky day (9-26-1 rushing, no catches).

There’s nothing else to study in this offense, Mike Gesicki (1-3-0, two targets) isn’t used much. Even in bye-week season, Trent Sherfield doesn’t see enough volume to merit streaming consideration. The Dolphins are a flying circus with Tagovailoa, Hill and Waddle, and the backs will pick up the rest of the scraps.

Miami’s good times figure to continue against the Cleveland Browns next week, and the Houston Texans in Week 12 (there’s a bye in the middle). Meanwhile, the Bears are looking at the Detroit Lions (yes please) and the Atlanta Falcons (sure) in Weeks 10 and 11.

Speed Round

• Mad props to Joe Mixon, who posted fantasy football’s best score of the year before the Cincinnati game hit halftime. That said, it was one of those days where all the lights were green, and the opposition was just giving chunk plays away. Mixon hasn’t had a great year.

The Bengals get a Week 10 bye, then face a handful of nasty rushing defenses in the second half of the schedule. Mixon surely isn’t a must-sell by any means, but his production forward is likely to be more about opportunity and volume than efficiency. He’ll be fantasy-useful of course, but the best possible time to trade him could be in the coming week.

• The league has plenty of good quarterbacks, but it’s silly to compare anyone to Patrick Mahomes. He’s working with a solid but unspectacular supporting cast. The running game is ordinary, no matter how badly some pundits want to make Isiah Pacheco a thing. Travis Kelce is still very good, but slightly past his peak. If the entire league redrafted tomorrow, Mahomes would deserve to be the No. 1 pick with zero hesitation. He’s also the league’s 2022 MVP to this point.

• If the Jets had even a league-average quarterback, they’d be a threat to make noise in the playoffs. And even with Zach Wilson and his growing pains, this team is a dangerous draw for anyone. Garrett Wilson is the type of receiver who’s capable of thriving no matter who’s throwing the ball to him.

The New York defense has impact players on all three levels, and corner Sauce Gardner is already a star. Most importantly, the Jets defense can get consistent pressure while rushing only four men; that's the key to the kingdom. If you can do that, everything else becomes easy.

• Nobody knows if the Packers really tried to add an impact receiver at the deadline, but this offense missing several ingredients. Aaron Rodgers looks more and more miserable with every passing week. And if it’s not going to happen against the Lions defense, when is it going to happen? Sometimes there really isn’t a monster under the bed — sometimes the monster is in your imagination. Stop factoring in the past when making your Rodgers decisions. I have zero problem dropping him in most fantasy formats.

• The Raiders are a get-well defense, but it was encouraging to see Trevor Lawrence play a clean game — zero sacks, zero picks, one fumble lost. He also was handy as a runner, and he especially clicked with Christian Kirk, his best receiver. The Jaguars still need more proactive passing work to Travis Etienne — why have him constantly tackled by the heaviest guys on the defense? — but Sunday was a sizable step in the right direction.

• For all the bellyaching about Davante Adams, he entered the week as the WR9 and obviously he’s moving upward after a monster half at Jacksonville. Maybe he’s a slight disappointment against his ADP, but that’s it. Adams is not the reason why the Raiders are on a road to nowhere.

• The Patriots might have just four playable commodities — Rhamondre Stevenson, Jakobi Meyers if looking deep, reliable kicker Nick Folk, and the defense when the opponent is right. Mac Jones will be asked to manage games for the balance of the year, and there isn’t a special playmaking talent on the flank, anyway.

Matt Ryan is compromised at this stage of his career, but the Colts are likely benching him to save money and reboot for the future. Sam Ehlinger looks over his head, and that torpedoes the value of three good receivers, Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, and Parris Campbell. There’s nothing to grasp at here. And assuming Indianapolis is looking to the future, it probably won’t be in any hurry to rush Jonathan Taylor back from his high ankle sprain.

• I don’t think I can handle watching Taylor Heinicke on a snap-to-snap basis. Even when his passes connect, he gives you a near heart-attack. He’s like so many backup quarterbacks in this league, the donut tire in the back of your car. Everything is fine if you’re just traveling 25 or 50 miles, looking to fix the engine. But you can’t travel cross country with these makeshift parts.

• Other than DeAndre Hopkins (who disappeared Sunday after a hot start), tell me anything you like about the Arizona offense. I’ll wait. Zach Ertz and Rondale Moore aren’t bad players, but sometimes Kyler Murray plays like he’s never been coached. It was insulting to favor Arizona over Seattle this week — the Seahawks are better in just about every measurable way. And Seattle definitely has a better coaching staff.

Ken Walker gets the check mark that all great runners earn — even when an opponent knows he’s coming to salt away a late lead, it’s still unlikely to stop him. Walker runs physical and runs angry, and although that can be worrisome for long-term prognosis, it sure is fun to watch. And he’s not a zero in the passing game, either.

• I suspect Sean McVay will take some time off from coaching after this year. The Rams mortgaged the future to make a run at last year’s title and hey, it worked. Flags fly forever, banners hang forever. But the Rams offense looks unfixable, and McVay might be a little burned out. He’s too much of a football junkie to be out of the mix for long, but why not recharge for a year or two, and then take your pick of the litter when attractive jobs present themselves? The Rams look like another team headed for an unavoidable rebuild.