The Atlanta Falcons take the field for their first meaningful game since squandering a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI when they open the season against the host Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Falcons have most of their key players back as they look to begin their quest for a championship.
The biggest question surrounding the Bears is whether – or when – rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky will get his chance, but for the time being, Chicago will go with Mike Glennon under center. Glennon will have to deal with a defense led by fierce pass rusher Vic Beasley Jr., who led the league with 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles a year ago. Bears coach John Fox is a familiar opponent for the Falcons from his time with NFC South-rival Carolina, as he is 7-12 all-time against Atlanta. Chicago has won its last two meetings with the Falcons, including a 27-13 victory at Atlanta in the most recent clash in 2014.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -6.5. O/U: 48.5
ABOUT THE FALCONS (2016: 11-5, 1st in NFC South): Atlanta boasted the league’s top scoring offense last season, averaging 33.8 points, and there’s no reason to believe that will drop off. Reigning MVP Matt Ryan is back at the helm of the offense along with star receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. Beasley and linebacker Deion Jones are back to anchor Atlanta’s defense, which hopes to redeem itself for the second-half collapse against New England in the Super Bowl.
ABOUT THE BEARS (2016: 3-13, 4th in NFC North): Regardless of who plays quarterback, the focal point of the offense will be second-year running back Jordan Howard, who rushed for a franchise rookie-record 1,313 yards in 2016. It doesn’t help that the Bears have to replace their top two receivers from a year ago after losing Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL and Alshon Jeffery to Philadelphia. Chicago has a strong pass rush but had a tough time stopping the run last season.
1. The Bears have an NFL-record 65 wins in home openers.
2. The Falcons have lost six straight games in Chicago dating to 1983.
3. Glennon has passed for 683 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in four games against Atlanta.
PREDICTION: Falcons 34, Bears 17