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Is Darnell Mooney Being Groomed?

The Bears could actually be grooming Darnell Mooney for No. 1 receiver in 2022 by what he's done and Sunday he can get to 100 yards three straight games, something Allen Robinson has never done in Chicago.

Darnell Mooney on Sunday has the chance to do something Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson has never done in 3 1/2 seasons with the team.

Mooney can come away with 100 receiving yards for the third consecutive game. Robinson has had two over 100 and 90 in the third but never three times over 100.

It shows how far Mooney has come from being a obscure fifth-round draft pick from Tulane to now possibly being groomed to take over as the No. 1 Bears receiver next year, if he hasn't already done it this year.

"I'm just playing the game," Mooney said. "Whatever, the opportunity that is coming to me I try to take the most of it as I can and exceed with it as well. I'm just going to continue to play and whatever happens, happens."

Mooney's work ethic became well known his rookie year. With Robinson's contract status for next year undecided, and cash demands possibly colliding with a potentially new coaching and/or personnel department, it could very well be a case where Mooney is counted on in 2022 as the main receiver and others who come in to Chicago are the secondary players. There are no other wide receivers besides Mooney under contract for next season.

"I mean, I think of myself as a guy and I expect a lot of things out of myself," Mooney said. "So regardless of what others may think of me or put me in a position or rank me wise, I feel like I’m a top receiver and I believe in myself highly. Nothing to shade away from what I've done. I just have a good mindset for myself."

Bears coach Matt Nagy sees the drive within Mooney to achieve despite what has been a trying season.

"You can see somebody that continues to challenge himself throughout each week," Nagy said. "You could see the other game when he had all those targets and he had five or six catches, he was kinda frustrated about that, that he had a lot of targets and not a lot of catches off of that. But I like that about him because he cares."

Mooney was upset over his five catches for 123 yards against Baltimore because he had 16 targets that day.

"I think his want to be great is really, really high," Nagy said. "We see that, we feel that. He's always staying after practice. He's getting extra work in, and that pays off.

"We knew that when we drafted him, that he had that in him. I can remember the very first game he played in Detroit. We weren't sure physically was he going to be able to hold up, and he's been phenomenal with that and it's just a credit to him."

For fantasy football owners with Mooney, the challenge this week is determining whether to stick with Mooney or look elsewhere considering the Bears face a pass defense ranked fourth in the league.

There are other matters to take into account, like he has Andy Dalton throwing passes again this week, and also the Bears have fewer wide receivers who can complement him. Can Damiere Byrd draw attention away from Mooney the way Marquise Goodwin did?

Fantasy owners have plenty to think about in this Bears-Cardinals matchup beyond Mooney, like should they start Kyler Murray or not, and if they have DeAndre Hopkins is he worth the play?

Mooney's dependability so far could make him far less of a question than the others.

Start 'Em

WR Darnell Mooney

The Cardinals will be up pressuring Andy Dalton and he won't always have time to get it downfield to Mooney. It's a similar defensive scheme to what Pittsburgh uses, and the Bears got it downfield against the Steelers but that was with Justin Fields' legs letting him get away from the rush. Still, Mooney is the type of receiver who runs plenty of different types of routes well and even if he isn't big he somehow slips physical cornerbacks either to get open or while carrying the ball after catching it. Mooney is definitely worth investing in for this week's game on the Bears side.

RB David Montgomery

The Bears have problems springing their running backs when Justin Fields isn't at quarterback, but Montgomery will need to also be a receiver without Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin available. Perhaps this is the week they finally use Montgomery as a receiver because it hasn't been a big part of the offense and Arizona's defense has been vulnerable to screens as well as to simply throwing to backs. Carolina beat the Cardinals in Arizona with 14 receptions by the running backs. Aaron Jones had seven catches against them in the Packers' win.

QB Kyler Murray

It's a tough call but it seems like coach Kliff Kingsbury is playing the Bears. They might even be playing tricks with the injury report. When a player is listed  going through a full practice, it is supposed to mean they took part in running plays or play reps with the first team offense. A limited practice is one when a player simply goes through individual work and doesn't take part in possible contact situations. The Cardinals have been calling Murray limited all week in practice but reporters have quoted Murray as saying he took play reps. The two don't jibe. If he is taking play reps, then it should have been listed a full practice. Even if he didn't take all the first-team reps, it should have gone down as a full practice because he did work of this kind. Count on Murray playing. Even if he had the dreaded high ankle sprain, it will have been five weeks since he was hurt and that's plenty of time for it to heal. Rust should be Murray's only problem in this game because the Bears secondary has been carried all year by their pass rush, and the pass rush will be offset by Murray's mobility—even if he is coming off an ankle injury.

WR Christian Kirk

Anyone who was smart enough to pick up a player like this who produces but is underrated will benefit this week. Kirk catches passes all over the field and will be up against either Xavier Crawford or DeAndre Houston-Carson, or even Artie Burns. This will be a complete mismatch. For Kirk, it doesn't matter if it's Colt McCoy or Murray throwing passes because he's been catching them all year from both. He leads the Cardinals in receptions.

TE Zach Ertz

The only thing holding Ertz back is Kingsbury's offense, which wasn't necessarily tight end friendly. But Kingsbury has done an excellent job of adjusting it the last few games and Ertz is coming off his high with the Cardinals of eight receptions before their bye. He has always been able to burn the Bears while in Philadelphia, both in regular season and the playoffs. There's no reason this should stop with Roquan Smith suffering from a hamstring pull and the rest of the Bears secondary in a state of flux.

RB James Conner

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The Bears would like for you to believe they solved their problems stopping the run after the last game but they really didn't. The Lions gave up on the run once they lost D'Andre Swift to injury and fell behind by six points. Jamaal Williams still averaged 4.3 yards an attempt against the Bears in replacing Swift. The Bears don't have Akiem Hicks to shut down the run and the play from the rest of their front seven has been sporadic, except for Smith. And he's either watching or playing injured. With the Bears defense so focused on the passing aspect of the Cardinals offense, Conner could find wide-open spaces in the running game.

WR Rondale Moore

The rookie might break a couple of shorter passes or wide receiver screens for big yardage with the field spread out, but one other thing he might do is break some long end-arounds or jet sweeps because the Bears have struggled against these plays, especially since Khalil Mack went to injured reserve.

Sit 'Em

WR DeAndre Hopkins

Unless a team owner has no one else, there is no need to risk Hopkins here as his injury status is far more uncertain than Murray's even though both were listed questionable. After the Cardinals let him test out his hamstring with limited practices for two days, he was then not allowed to practice at all Friday. A team with so many weapons doesn't need to risk aggravating an injury that can linger on into late season or the playoffs, especially when they're only playing the 4-7 Bears.

TE Cole Kmet

A groin injury bothered him earlier in the week, although he has been pulled off the injury report. With Arizona likely to go heavily with blitzing or faking blitzes, the Bears can't have the confidence in their attack to go to scat protection using just their five linemen. They'll need help and expect the tight ends to get more than their normal share of pass blocking instead of going into patterns.

Andy Dalton

Anyone who picked him up after Justin Fields' injury should forget about this. He lost to the Cardinals 38-10 last year when he had all those weapons in Dallas, and now is trying to handle this with a broken Bears offense.

Matt Prater

Don't expect a big day kicking from Prater, who has struggled with five misses this year. Soldier Field's lousy turf, the wind, the cold and possibly rain could all work against kickers on Sunday and Prater has always been an overrated kicker because he was kicking either indoors or with thin air in Denver.

Defense

The Cardinals defense is a solid play any week, but especially going against a team averaging 16 points, using a backup quarterback and with Robinson and Goodwin out. The Bears will be fortunate to hit 16 points.

In IDP leagues, Roquan Smith has been a popular Bears play but can't be counted on this week due to his hamstring injury. Stick with Robert Quinn on the Bears side again. Better left tackles than D.J. Humphries have struggled against Quinn this year, as he is on a tear.

On the other side, look for big plays from Arizona's pass rushing linebacker Markus Golden, who often lines up on the side of the field wide where tackle Larry Borom is blocking and has a team-high 10 sacks. Chandler Jones is their big name and could line up on that side at times but normally would be coming off the edge where Jason Peters blocks, and Peters has been effective. Also, anticipate plays in the passing game from Budda Baker. The Cardinals safety has a knack for wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage and in back. He has two interceptions and a fumble recovery this year and should be in conversation for the Pro Bowl.

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