Breaking down Bears 2020 Opponents: Atlanta Falcons
|Monday, July 27, 2020, 10:42 AM- -|
Outside of the NFC North, the Bears will be facing off against two other divisions in full this season as we hope to see football in 2020. One of those two divisions is the NFC South, which we will begin to break down this week. For the most part, this division has been one-sided as of late with the Saints running away with it. Expect much of the same this season from the Saints, but the rest of the division has a chance to be very competitive.
One team I am curious to see play this season is Atlanta as they continue to be one of the most frustrating teams since making it to the Superbowl a few seasons ago. On paper, Atlanta has a deep and talented roster, but for some reason has struggled to put things together lately. They have one of the best QBs over the past decade in Matt Ryan, but even he is more of a stats patter than a big game-winner.
With Ryan comes an elite passing game and if Julio Jones, whom to me is the best receiver in football right now, is healthy, then Atlanta will have a topflight passing attack for the foreseeable future. Along with Jones, you will have Calvin Ridley, who continues to come into his own and now second-year player Russell Gage will be looking at making a huge impact. The Falcons were dealt a massive blow in the passing game when Austin Hooper left for Cleveland, but bringing in Hayden Hurst is not a bad option as he could be in line for a breakout season.
One of the biggest changes you will notice on offense is the running game in which Davonte Freeman is no longer the bell cow. Instead, Atlanta will be turning to FA pickup Todd Gurley to lead the way as he comes to Atlanta on a one-year deal. Gurley has been dealing with some knee injuries the past few seasons, but if he can find a way to stay healthy, the Atlanta offense will be better than what we have seen recently.
The single-handed biggest reason for the Falcons' lack of success recently falls on the hands of the defense, which has not only underachieved but has battled countless injuries. That is very surprising when you look at their head coach Dan Quinn and figure out what happened. Quinn was the defensive coordinator during the Legion of Boom tenure in Seattle, so defense is his specialty. To see the Falcons struggle so much is puzzling, and that has led to Quinn being on the hot seat this season.
For the Falcons to have any chance this season, guys like Dante Fowler Jr. and Grady Jarrett will have to control the trenches both in stopping the run and getting pressure on the QB. Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun will add some nice linebacker help to that defense, which, for the most part, was strong up front and in the front seven when it came to playing the run as the season went on.
As usual, the Falcons defensive struggles came down to their secondary, which was often gashed early, which opened things up for the opposing run games. Kendall Sheffield and A.J. Terrell will be the CB's to open the season, but Atlanta will most likely be using a rare three safety set to help in pass coverage. On the back end, you will find leader Keanu Neal making the plays as Ricardo Allen, and Damontae Kazee joins him as this unit aims to get back to respectability.
Make no mistake about it; the Falcons will have no trouble scoring points again this season. If the defense can improve even a little bit, you're looking at a postseason team that will surprise some people and does more damage than what we initially thought.
Prediction: The Bears end the month of September on the road with Atlanta as that will start a series of three NFC South teams in a four-game stretch. Getting Atlanta early in the season may be better than seeing them late as the Falcons are one of those teams that will only get better as the season goes on. However, playing at Atlanta is never an easy task, especially when coming into their new venue.
The Falcons record may not be all that great, but one thing is for sure, and that is they know how to compete at home. This will not be an easy game for the Bears as they will have to try and win at a difficult place to play. If fans were in attendance, I would give Atlanta the nudge, but as things sit right now and expecting there to be no fans in play, Chicago does have a more complete roster, and they should be able to get things done on the road.