Are the Bears ready to get an upset in Atlanta? Preview of the Bears versus Falcons

Can the Chicago Bears buck their losing trend with a big road win in Atlanta this weekend? Our preview for Week 11 is live

Currently, the Bears (3-7) are the worse team by record in the NFC while the Falcons (4-6) look to try to stay in contention for the NFC South and a playoff spot. Here is a position by position breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons:

Quarterback: At this point in his career, Marcus Mariota is considered a journeyman quarterback. The Falcons is the  third team that he has played for in the NFL and he was signed this offseason to bridge the era from the Matt Ryan era who was traded to the Colts in the offseason to the next franchise quarterback that general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith decide to help lead this franchise back to contention for a championship.

Mariota has been rather unimpressive as the starter this year, having the third fewest pass attempts for a quarterback who has started more than eight games this season. Mariota averages 174.7 passing yards per game which is the second fewest in the league (Editor’s Note: Justin Fields has the least amount of passing yards for someone who has started eight or more games at 146.9 yards).

The Falcons are asking Mariota simply not to lose the game and execute head coach Arthur Smith run-heavy offense. Arthur Smith has had to answer questions from the media this week about possibly benching Mariotta in favor of rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder who was drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bears do not have deal with a quarterback this week who is going to challenge their secondary with his ability to pass the ball consistently.

Running Back: The Falcons have the fifth best rushing attack this season and they use four different running backs to get the job done. The most talented running back on the team is former Bear Cordarrelle Patterson. Last year, Patterson had 1,166 all-purpose yards and was a dynamic playmaker for the Falcons. This season, Patterson has been hampered with a knee injury and missed five games but has returned to action in the Falcons last two games.

The Falcons leading rusher this season has been Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier has had some strong games this season to help pace the Falcons in the running. The Bears will have to deal with this stable of running backs the Falcons have on Sunday and shutting down the running game will be key in the Bears winning the game.

Offensive Line: The offensive line has been good at run blocking but horrible in pass protection. The Falcons have allowed the sixth most sacks this season and allowed five sacks and nine quarterback hits in their last game versus the Panthers. The best lineman this season for the Falcons has been right guard Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom was the highest rated offensive lineman in the game versus the Panthers according to Pro Football Focus and for the season has a grade of 87.4.

The Falcons have three offensive linemen who have played significant time this season but have landed on injured reserve. The Bears defensive line should be able to disrupt and pressure Marcus Mariota with this injured offensive line.

Wide Receivers: This position group has been hampered by three things: the horrible play of Marcus Mariota, the run-heavy offense of head coach Arthur Smith and the yearlong suspension and then the trade of wide receiver Calvin Ridley to Jacksonville at the trade deadline.

In 2020, Ridley had 1,374 yards receiving with nine touchdowns and was expected to continue that production in 2021. However, in 2021 he played only 5 games due to a non-football related illness and then was suspended for this season after being caught gambling on NFL games.

To help with the absence of Ridley, the Falcons drafted wide receiver Drake London with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. London leads the team in receiving yards, receptions, targets and receiving touchdowns. However, he has not more than 40 yards receiving in a game since week 6 vs the Niners.

The team has 83 receptions by their wide receivers this season which is the eight worst in the league. This group of wide receivers is not explosive due to the reasons mentioned above and should be a group that this Bears secondary can keep in check.

Tight End: #FreeKylePitts is a hashtag that football fans and fantasy football owners of tight end Kyle Pitts have been displaying all over social media. Pitts was taken ahead of Justin Fields, Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons in the 2021 NFL Draft. Chase and Parsons would be named offensive rookie of the year and defensive rookie of the year respectively during the 2021 season.

Pitts was thought to be the new great tight end in the league however that has not happened. Some of the reason for a lack of production has been the same reasons that the wide receivers have been ineffective for the Falcons. Pitts has a total of 313 yards receiving this season which ranks 14th among tight ends.

The Bears did give up a touchdown to tight end Brock Wright during the Lions game but the Bears had done very well versus tight ends. The Falcons passing game is not dynamic enough to take advantage of this Bears defense.

Defensive Line: The entire conversation about this unit starts and ends with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Jarrett leads the team in sacks, quarterback hits and tackles for loss. Jarrett is having his normal stellar season with disrupting offenses with tackles for loss; currently he is third in the NFL among defensive tackles with tackles for loss. No other defensive lineman has any sacks this season has any sacks for the Falcons. 

The Falcons rank last in pass-rush win rate from their edge defenders this season and so the Bears offensive line will need to be aware of the interior pressure that Jarrett will provide on Sunday.

Linebackers: The leader of this group is linebacker Rashaan Evans. Evans is 4th in the league in tackles this season and has had six games this season of more than ten tackles. Evans was signed this offseason as a free agent from the Titans is the veteran of this group. The Falcons have four rookie linebackers that have gotten snaps this season and are looking to get some production from these rookies.

The rookie linebacker that has been the most productive for the Falcons has been Arnold Ebiketie. Ebiketie was drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft and is second on the team with nine quarterback hits and third on the team in sacks. Teams have found success running on this team all season and the Panthers just had 232 rushing yards during their game in Week 10. Justin Fields and David Montgomery should be able to run versus this unit who has had trouble stopping the run.

Secondary: The Falcons are dead last in completions allowed and passing yards given up this season. The Falcons have given up at least 250 passing yards in six out of their ten games this year. This unit, has only produced 5 interceptions as well.

The secondary have had some injuries that have caused some of the backups to play probably more than defensive coordinator Dean Pees would like them to. The strength of this secondary has been the safeties particularly strong safety Richie Grant who has played in all ten games this season.

Grant who was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft and is in his first year as a starter has brought some physicality and playmaking to this secondary. He leads the team in passes defended and is third in tackles on the team. The second-year safety will be used to limit the Bears explosive plays in the passing game.

Kicking: Kicker Younghoe Koo is the kicker for the Falcons and has made 16 out of 20 field goals which is ninth in the league. The Falcons did give up a blocked extra point to the Panthers during their last game.

Punter Bradley Pinion is averaging 46.8 yards per punt which is 21st in the league. The Falcons averaged 19.1 yards per punt return so the Bears special teams will need to be aware of punt returner Avery Williams and his dynamic ability to help create favorable field position for the team.

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