The game is approaching.
I'm sorry, I didn't give that the appropriate gravity.
The game is approaching!
Better. With the Falcons so close to stepping onto the rough-hewn turf at Soldier Field, it's impossible not to be excited. If you watched Grayson's video yesterday, you probably had a flood of memories from the 2010 season, which probably got you more psyched for the 2011 season, and now you have to take some downers. Apologies if those are expensive.
Excitement aside, this promises to be a challenge. In the interest of expounding upon why this will be a good game and what you should watch out for, I'm bringing back my four pre-game matchups worth giving an extra damn about. A couple of these things were covered earlier in the week in my Bears preview, but hey, they're still fresh!
As always, your feedback is welcomed. Hit the jump with me!
Matt Forte vs. Falcons Defense
Kind of a no-brainer. The Falcons are stronger on the edges and in general than they have been in the past, but Brian Van Gorder's defensive scheming has always left the team open to assault from pass-catching running backs.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, Forte just so happens to be a borderline elite receiver out of the backfield. It's going to take some defensive ingenuity and the watchful eyes of a linebacker or two to hold him in check. If they can take away that option, Jay Cutler will have to throw to guys like Roy Williams. Ouch.
Roddy White and Julio Jones vs. Bears Cornerbacks
Not really a fair matchup, which is exactly why the Falcons need to exploit it.
Roddy White is one of the best route runners in the business, and one of the best receivers period. Charles Tillman is a solid cornerback with good size (listed at 6'2"), but it's going to be tough for him to hang with White throughout the entire game. You have to like that matchup. Frankly, I like Roddy versus any cornerback not named Revis or Asomugha.
Then there's Julio Jones versus Tim Jennings. Again, Jennings is solid enough, but Jones has about eight inches in height on him. If Jones is even close to as good as he looked in the pre-season, that's going to be a tough disparity to overcome.
I fully expect to see Matt Ryan come out slinging.
Yes, the Bears' number one receiver is also their kick and punt returner. No, I don't fully understand it, either.
Hester is a dangerous weapon as a receiver and a returner, but frankly I'm more worried about the latter. Bosher should be able to hit the back of the end zone and keep Hester from channeling his inner Randall Cobb tomorrow, but on punts the stakes are a little higher. Those of you who have wrung your hands over Bosher's fortunes will get a chance to see whether the coaches instructed him to punt short or if his leg strength is somewhat less than desirable.
Let's hope he does not disappoint.
Falcons Offensive Line vs. Bears Pass Rush
The Bears have an ever-shifting defensive line, one that might feature Julius Peppers inside on one snap and a lycanthrope in a Richard Dent jersey the next. It's a little frightening.
Pair that with the Falcons trotting out Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynolds at center and right guard, respectively, and you get a sense of why I might be slightly worried about how this one will turn out. Ice needs time to throw, after all, and generally when you're staring up at gray Chicago skies while Henry Melton mauls you, you're already out of time.
Watch this one closely.