It’s. Finally. Here.
NFL Sundays that feature games of consequence have arrived and not a moment too soon.
The Week 1 jitters aren’t limited to the players on the field (or the ones trying to make their way back on it), broadcasters in the booth (or on the sideline), and fans in the stands (or watching at home). I’ll admit to being a little nervous about our maiden voyage here at TYL. Kicking things off in January seems like yesterday. Yet, so much has happened since that you could argue January 2017 feels like it happened ages ago.
Alas, we are here. The Chicago Bears are nearly ready to take the Soldier Field turf and start what hopes to be a surprisingly successful – and hopefully enjoyable – 2017 season. We’re here for you, Bears fans. Let’s go on a journey.
“Never Tell Me The Odds”
The Chicago Bears are 7-point home underdogs (with the over/under set at 48) to start the season against the defending
Super Bowl NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, according to Bovada.lv. In 2016, the Bears were 7-9 against the spread and 6-6-0 as an underdog. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering how well Atlanta played last year, how poorly the Bears have performed in John Fox’s two years with the team, and where the oddsmakers think the Bears’ playoff odds are compared to that of the Falcons.
Yo! Here are your Bears futures via Bovada on the first Sunday of the regular season …
Super Bowl 200/1
NFC North 20/1 pic.twitter.com/FmFF054kKn
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 10, 2017
The Bears hold a 14-12 all-time edge against the Falcons, outscoring their opponents 498-447 in those 26 games. Atlanta and Chicago haven’t met since Oct. 12, 2014, which happened to be a 27-13 Bears win. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards and Matt Forte rushed for two touchdowns in the win. Neither is on the 2017 Bears.
Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew
Location: Soldier Field
Noon, FOX-TV (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)
Referee: Jeff Triplette
Expected Starters and Lineups
Bears Offense Expected Starters:
- QB Mike Glennon
- RB Jordan Howard
- FB Michael Burton
- WR Kendall Wright
- WR Kevin White
- TE Dion Sims
- LT Charles Leno Jr.
- LG Tom Compton/Cody Whitehair
- C Cody Whitehair/Hroniss Grasu
- RG Josh Sitton
- RT Bobby Massie
Bears Defense Expected Starters:
- DE Akiem Hicks
- NT Eddie Goldman
- DE Mitch Unrein
- OLB Willie Young
- ILB Jerrell Freeman
- ILB Danny Trevathan
- OLB Leonardy Floyd
- CB Marcus Cooper
- CB Kyle Fuller
- FS Eddie Jackson
- SS Quintin Demps
- Connor Barth (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Deonte Thompson (kick returner), Bryce Callahan (punt returner)
Falcons Offense Expected Starters:
- QB Matt Ryan
- RB Devonta Freeman
- FB Derrick Coleman
- WR Julio Jones
- WR Mohamed Sanu
- TE Austin Hooper
- LT Jake Matthews
- LG Andy Levitre
- C Alex Mack
- RG Wes Schweitzer
- RT Ryan Schraeder
Falcons Defense Expected Starters:
- DE Brooks Reed
- DT Dontari Poe
- DT Grady Jarrett
- DE Courtney Upshaw
- OLB Vic Beasley
- MLB Deion Jones
- OLB De’Vondre Campbell
- CB Robert Alford
- CB Desmond Trufant
- S Ricardo Allen
- S Keanu Neal
- Matt Bryant (kicker), Matt Bosher (punter, holder), Josh Harris (long snapper), Andre Roberts (kick return, punt return)
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Bears – Offense
Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards as a rookie, has his eyes on taking home the rushing crown, and should get ample opportunities to reach his goals. He is the focal point of the Bears offense that has a thinning group of receivers, a mixed bag of talent at tight end, and a quarterback making his first start since 2014.
The Falcons defense allowed 4.5 yards per carry last season, which was tied for the seventh-highest average allowed in 2016. When we last saw Atlanta’s defense in a meaningful game, it was giving up a Super Bowl ending rushing touchdown to James White.
Chicago Bears – Defense
Pernell McPhee is reportedly in the best shape of his life and (most importantly) active for the Week 1 matchup. It looks like the Bears will ease McPhee into the lineup as a part-time player, so hopefully he can make the most of his opportunities by going hard in what could be limited action.
Safety Eddie Jackson will likely be tested early and often by the Falcons offense. He could be targeted by Matt Ryan in the passing game, or the team could run Devonta Freeman in his direction and test out his tackling skills as he makes his NFL debut.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd should be a motivated man playing in front of the many University of Georgia fans who made the trek to the greater Chicagoland area to watch football this weekend.
Atlanta Falcons – Offense
Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP last year and was a stud in the playoffs. Lost while his teammates blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl was Ryan throwing for 284 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Ryan finished the 2016 season second in passing yards (4,944), while leading the league with the highest yards per attempt average (9.3) and top quarterback rating (117.1).
Julio Jones has his sights set on what would be the first 2,000-yard receiving season in NFL history. He surpassed the 1,800-yard mark in 2015 and finished second in the league with 1,409 receiving yards last year. He is a load to stop and the Bears will try to contain him without the help of an injured Prince Amukamara.
Atlanta Falcons – Defense
Vic Beasley struggled as a rookie in 2015, but broke out in a big way in his second season. Beasley, who went one selection after the Bears chose Kevin White with the seventh overall pick, racked up a league-leading 15.5 sacks and forced six fumbles to pace Atlanta’s defense. The Clemson product was rewarded for his efforts with a first-team All-Pro nomination and his first ever Pro Bowl appearance.
For the Bears to win, their rushing offense will have to be at the top of its game because their best shot at pulling off an upset might be to limit the opportunities the Falcons have to score. Run the ball, control the clock and tempo, and applying pressure to the quarterback are the biggest factors in play for a Bears team looking to provide a pleasant surprise to start the season.