In fantasy, there is reality at last.
The insistence of Bears coach Matt Nagy on starting Andy Dalton in the season opener took a beating in a fantasy football article by Pro Football Focus' Ian Hartitz.
While the point of the article is aimed at fantasy football potential for Justin Fields, along the way it dispenses plenty of information best used as an argument against playing Dalton beyond Week 1.
There's no point in debating whether Nagy needs to start Dalton in the opener because he has already decided to do this, but if the Bears really looked at objective fact they would be using a quick hook on the Red Rifle.
For fantasy purposes, Hartitz concludes it's OK to pursue Fields even if the Bears are trying to hold him out of games.
"He's my QB18 ahead of guys like Trevor Lawrence, Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins but behind (Trey) Lance, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Baker Mayfield," Hartitz wrote. "I'm all for chasing Fields' upside at a reasonable cost; just don't get too carried away."
The provision being the Bears offensive line last year was ranked low by PFF and try to remember they dumped tackle Charles Leno Jr. to and plan to use Teven Jenkins, who is going to need a while to adjust to the pro game.
Those stats are all fine for the fantasy owner but for the pure Bears fan there are trends with Dalton's play pointed out here on BearDigest since his signing.
Poor yards per pass (6.5), a mediocre passer rating (87.3) and a series of PFF's invented metrics like big-time throw rate (ranked 36th) and turnover-worthy passes (ranked 12th) all point toward this.
Hartitz's stats from last year supported one statement made here before when the Bears gave up on Trubisky and signed Dalton—they might have been better off keeping their former starter around instead of bringing in the former Bengals starter and Cowboys backup.
"Former QB1 Mitchell Trubisky actually posted better marks than Dalton in big-time throw rate, yards per attempt and QB rating last season; largely the only certainty The Red Rocket brings to the table is a reduced turnover-worthy play rate," Hartitz said. However, Hartitz brought up another reality and that's the way the Bears schedule breaks. If Nagy doesn't quickly ditch Dalton after the opener and use Fields against Cincinnati in the home opener, Bears fans can expect a huge dose of Dalton until at least midseason: "...look out, because Weeks 2-5 consist of soft enough defenses that it could feasibly take until after the Bears’ Week 10 bye for Fields to need to be under center."
The soft schedule would allow Dalton to hang in as starter. Check out what comes after Week 5 and you'll see why it's possible Dalton would start until beyond the midpoint.
For some reason Hartitz includes Cleveland's defense in the soft spot, which isn't really the case. But after this there are the Lions and Raiders. Then, in Week 6 begins a stretch of difficult defenses to face: Green Bay, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
My contention in a weekend article about best dates to start Fields is Week 4 against Detroit because the Bears will be coming off a loss to the Browns, will be 1-2 at best and Nagy will be searching for something against a weak Lions team prior to going on the difficult stretch of the schedule. Ideally, Week 2 is better because it's against Cincinnati at home and gets Dalton off the field.
But Hartitz's point is well taken. Those games against Detroit, Cincinnati and Las Vegas can make Dalton look better than he is and encourage Nagy to stick with his plan.
Then, where are the Bears when Fields is called on to immediately play against the toughest competition.
It's difficult to protect players in the NFL because every team has something dangerous on offense and defense.
Giving Fields a fighting chance, though, would be the best way to do it and starting him prior to Week 3 or during Week 4 would be the best way to go based on PFF's analysis and any other form of statistical endeavor.