In the offseason, the Chicago Bears sent the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for a hefty package centered around DJ Moore and the Panthers’ own first-round pick in 2024. Carolina used the pick to select Alabama prodigy Bryce Young. Now, Young will make his first NFL appearance at Soldier Field, which may have been his home had the trade never happened. He’ll look to show the Bears why they would’ve been wise to select him. Let’s dig into some Panthers vs. Bears player props for Thursday Night Football, as we’ll take a closer look at Young, DJ Chark Jr., and Cairo Santos.
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With Tyson Bagent likely set to start for the Bears again, not too many props for Chicago are available. Instead, let’s dig into some Panthers who could have a banner day against a very vulnerable Bears pass defense.
Bryce Young Over 221.5 Passing Yards (-115)
Yes, this number is a bit above Young’s season average, but the Bears pass defense is much worse than the average NFL unit. They’re a pretty solid run defense, making this a clear-cut scenario for Young to get the ball in the air early and often. The Panthers’ run offense ranks in the bottom five of most metrics, including both EPA and DVOA, while the Chicago defense ranks top five in both EPA and success rate against the run, and closer to 10th when it comes to DVOA.
The Panthers will want to throw the ball.The good news is that they should be able to do so. The Bears are within a spot or two of the bottom in terms of pass defense EPA and DVOA, while their success rate is a shred better, but far from acceptable. They’re also on or near the bottom of the list when it comes to adjusted sack and pressure rates, due to a pass rush that PFF considers to be the league’s worst.
The Panthers air offense doesn’t grade supremely well in the advanced metrics, but it’s a notch better than the rushing attack, so they’ll be happy to try to exploit Chicago’s biggest weakness. In a game where Chicago should be able to move the ball as well, the Panthers will be looking to score early and often. They should be passing the ball all game long, giving Young plenty of chances to accumulate yardage.
DJ Chark Longest Reception Over 15.5 Yards (-120)
Of course, if Young is picking up yards through the air, somebody has to be on the other end. The targets have definitely flowed toward veteran wideout Adam Thielen. But his yardage prop is too high to play in this one, and he’s not the kind of home run hitter for which we want to bet on a longest reception. Thielen’s average depth of target is just 7.4, and his average catch goes for 9.8 yards. Those figures are 13.8 and 13.5, respectively, for DJ Chark, whose game is much more predicated on verticality.
Even so, Chark’s longest reception prop is set at just 15.5, compared to 21.5 for Thielen’s. That’s some poor pricing, which means a great value opportunity for us to bet the over for Chark. We’re buying low, after he caught just two passes for 9 yards in Carolina’s most recent game against the Colts. But before that contest, he had been making big plays with regularity.
Chark had recorded a catch of over 15 yards in each of their previous five games, breaking the 20-yard plateau in three of those. The only other game was Opening Day, and he came close in that one too. His best catch went for 15 yards. This Bears defense isn’t exactly elite at limiting big plays, as evidenced by the small but noticeable gap between their allowed success rate and both their EPA and DVOA figures. Chark doesn’t always get high volume, but if he gets involved at all, expect him to crack this number.
Cairo Santos Under 1.5 Field Goals Made (-135)
The 2023 Bears have plenty of flaws and shortcomings.Red-zone offense does not fall into that category. They’ve scored on an even 64% of their trips inside the 20, a pretty efficient figure that places them seventh in the NFL. You might imagine that the dynamic Justin Fields was the driving force behind the trend, and that it might not apply with him ou t- but you’d be wrong.
Bagent has officially been at the helm for three games. Across those contests, the Bears have actually scored touchdowns on 77.78% of their red-zone trips, far better than their season average. They’ve also found the end zone on a very strong 70% of their red-zone drives at Soldier Field, where this game will be played.
On the other side of things, the Panthers are tied (with the Bears) for the league’s worst defensive red-zone percentage. They’ve allowed touchdowns on 75% of their opponents’ drives inside their 20 yard-line, and that figure swells to 83.33% on the road. Even worse, the number has been 88.89% over their past three games, so they’re not in awesome form.
The Bears could struggle on offense and fail to put together solid drives. But if they move the ball at all, they should be able to punch it in. We’ve seen this trend play out over the Bagent mini-era, as Santos has made a total of two field goals in his three starts, and I don’t expect him to be used any more heavily in this one.