Folks, we are back! The pre-season is over and it is time to play some meaningful football again! Man, it feels really good to be writing again.
Anyhow, the Atlanta Falcons are getting set to head to Chicago to take on the Bears on Sunday afternoon. Now, if this were this were the first week of last season, I would have some real reservations about the Falcons defense just because of how many unknowns there were. However, this is not last season, it’s this season (deep analysis, I know), and I feel much better about this Atlanta defense going into 2017. They need to get off to a good start against Chicago, though.
Let’s get moving.
In the trenches
Last season, the Bears were in the top 25% of league in total number of sacks allowed at 28. They did a good job in the running game as well, as they averaged 4.6 yards per rushing attempt last year—a mark good enough for 6th in the entire league. Each position along the line of scrimmage looks the same for Chicago other than at center, where Hroniss Grassu is taking over for the 2017 season.
This group will be a good test for Grady Jarrett, Dontari Poe, and the rest of Atlanta’s defensive line. It should be a battle they can win, but I’m not sure if they will be able to win it throughout the entire game. Look for the interior guys to have a solid day against Grassu, and for Vic Beasley and the rest of the Falcons edge rushers to win just enough to get Mike Glennon on the ground a time or two—even though we all know sacks don’t really matter, right? (Shout out to Smitty)
Verdict: Push (leaning towards the Falcons)
If the Falcons defensive line can win their matchups or at least keep the running game in check, the skill spots will be the place where Atlanta really owns the game. This Chicago team is not the group with Alshon Jefferey or Brandon Marshall, rather this Bears team touts a receiving corps that includes Deonte Thompson, Kendall Wright, and Kevin White. Not exactly the most intimidating group of receivers, by any means.
It would seem that Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are both poised for good days against a less talented group, as well as Brian Poole and the Falcons’ safety duo of Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. None of these matchups looks like one the Falcons will lose unless they play a really poor game—Kevin White has potential but it is important to remember who is throwing him the ball.
As long as the Atlanta front seven can keep the running game in check and limit the success of Jordan Howard, the Bears will have some trouble really moving up and down the field on the Falcons. Deion Jones and the rest of the Falcons linebackers will be key in stopping the run, as usual, but if they are up to the task, expect the Bears to struggle to move the ball.
This game is one that the Falcons should be able to take control of on the defensive end whether the offense is clicking or not. The biggest threat is Chicago’s run game but that could also be considered the only real threat since the guy throwing the ball doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of his opponents.
As long as the defensive line holds up—I expect them to do more than just hold up—and the linebackers stick to their run fits, the secondary should be able to win their matchups and force some mistakes from Glennon. This is a good first test for the Falcons defense, and it is one they should pass if they play the way they should.