By Bryan Dietzler
The Chicago Bears, fresh off one of the worst seasons in their long history, will play host to the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday at Soldier Field. The last time we saw the Falcons, they were on the losing end of the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history. This season, Atlanta will be on a mission to prove that they are better than they were in that game as they try to redeem themselves by getting back to the Super Bowl.
The Bears hope that they will be much more competitive this season and continue to help build towards the future. Granted, this is a tough opponent to start the season with, and the odds aren’t in Chicago’s favor, but anything is possible. You can’t count the Bears out but this one is going to be difficult.
Chicago went 3-13 last season while the Falcons ended up with an 11-5 record and a “forgettable” trip to the Super Bowl.
Chicago’s offense is led by quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon takes over after several years of futility and inconsistency at the quarterback position. But perhaps he brings more question marks than answers. In addition to questions about his ability, Glennon has no one to throw the ball too. He will rely on a group of receivers who are inconsistent and are career underachievers. We don’t know what to expect from them in this game.
Bears receivers will face an Atlanta secondary that is average but not spectacular. They have one above average guy in safety Ricardo Allen. Cornerback Desmond Trufant isn’t that bad either. The Bears need to be wary of them. Unfortunately for the Bears, right now they have no clear number one wide receiver, so the Falcons will have an easy time defending against Chicago’s passing game.
Hopefully, somebody will step up for the Bears in this game. Could it be Kevin White? Maybe Kendall Wright will come up big for Chicago? If no one does step up, the Bears’ passing game will fall flat.
Chicago lived and died with their running game last year and it appears as if they will have to do that again in 2017. Jordan Howard is back, well-rested and ready to go. The Bears have Tarik Cohen to help add another dimension to the offense. Expect him to see some action in this game.
The Falcons allowed 104.5 yards per game on the ground last year but look to be much better against the run in 2017. If the Bears can get some yards on the ground and keep the ball out of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ hands, they will be able to keep it close. Keeping it close is what the Bears must do to win.
The tight end position is a promising one for the Bears. Zach Miller and Dion Sims give Glennon some options to throw the ball to and could be two of Glennon’s top targets. Atlanta’s linebackers and safeties are capable in coverage but can be beaten. Can Miller and company help keep the ball moving down the field through the air? Perhaps they can at least give Glennon an outlet to throw the ball to in a hurry (by being the hot receiver).
By the time the game begins, we should know if Kyle Long will be starting at guard or not. My thought is that he might sit this game out and come back in week two. This means that Cody Whitehair will fill at Long’s spot while Hroniss Grasu takes over at center. Be just a little wary of Grasu. He doesn’t have a lot of experience (remember he missed all of 2016). When he did play, Grasu had some issues with larger defenders. Falcons defensive tackle Dontari Poe may give him some problems.
Once again, the biggest issue for Chicago will be their passing game. If they can’t get that going, Atlanta will take Chicago’s rushing attack away and make them one dimensional. Right now, it would appear as if Chicago’s passing attack isn’t going to help them win too many games. At least early on. However, if they can keep Howard and the running game going, they can at least make it competitive.
The Bears offense is going to have its hands full in this game. But this game will be an important one. We will get a good feel for how things are going to go in future games after watching them play against Atlanta. You can expect them to struggle in the passing game but they can do well running the ball.
Next up, we will look at how the Bears’ defense matches up with Atlanta’s offense.
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