Feel confident about Atlanta putting up yards and points
I give Chicago’s defense credit for having the horses to field a great pass rush, and their secondary is not as bad as the early results would suggest. Nonetheless, the Falcons are a strong bet to pass all over the Bears, with Matt Ryan likely on track to have a third straight strong week.
Through two weeks, Ryan is averaging 360 yards and 3 touchdowns per week, and he’s taken just 3 sacks behind a resurgent offensive line. There have been bad throws in the mix here—Ryan’s at the stage of his career where some of his gambles won’t work out and his arm isn’t up for every single deep shot—but generally speaking he’s been excellent. Calvin Ridley becoming an elite receiver, Russell Gage looking terrific, and Hayden Hurst providing lethal speed at the tight end position have all helped a great deal, but Ryan’s still a high-end quarterback and the investments in the line have finally, finally paid off.
Chicago’s not quite a good enough defense to put the brakes on that. It’ll be interesting to see whether they can get legitimate pressure on Ryan where Seattle and Dallas largely failed, but they’re 29th in passing yards allowed right now, and this offense is relishing its opportunities to pass with Dirk Koetter at the helm.
The only hiccups this week concern injury. Julio was clearly not 100% last week and may not be this week, and neither Christian Blake nor Olamide Zaccheaus has done much to this point to make me think they’ll have a big impact if they’re forced into significant action. Matt Gono held up exceptionally well a week ago against Dallas, but he’ll have another tough challenge this week against the Bears, and if there’s no Julio and no McGary, this offense may slow a little bit. The lack of a quality ground game—and even Gurley’s involvement in the passing game—also remains something to watch.
Worry that Mitch Trubisky is going to be NFC Offensive Player of the Week
Trubisky is not the caliber of quarterback that Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott is. In fact, he’s nowhere closing to being that good, which is one of the major reasons it’s easier to believe the Falcons will win this game.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that Trubisky, like the two quarterbacks who came before him, will end up having a killer week against the Falcons.
Trubisky is sitting on a superficially solid start to the season, with 432 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see he’s attacking downfield with more confidence than he has before in his career, putting up 9.3 intended air yards per pass (he had 8.0 last year) and 7.4 completed air yards per pass (he was at 5.3 last year), per Pro Football Reference. He’s throwing with less accuracy than a year ago, too, but isn’t dealing with the spate of drops he saw a year ago (28 in 15 games vs. just 1 in 2 games thus far). He’s faring better in play action and under pressure than you’d expect given what he’s done in his career to this point, and while it’s a small sample size, he’s averaging almost 13 yards on 3 scrambles when he’s forced to run away from pressure. This is a long-winded way of saying that while Trubisky is not even close to a great quarterback or even a very good one, he appears to be making strides.
The Atlanta defense, meanwhile, has been abysmal. When teams really commit to an up-tempo passing attack, they’ve been hard-pressed to get pressure and their secondary is getting torched. The Bears are well-positioned to take advantage of this team’s biggest weaknesses, as they have some very capable receivers in Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, solid pass-catching tight ends in Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet, and two backs who are factors in the passing game in Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery. If the Falcons struggle to pressure Trubisky, who is pretty decent at escaping it in the first place, he has the weapons to torch them. Even mild improvement from the Trubisky of old will put him in a position to brutalize the Falcons, which is why for at least one more week, the quarterback and passing game are my biggest concern.