|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle); WR Mark Bradley (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (IR-hamstring).||LB Jordan Beck (IR-foot); CB Chris Cash (IR-arm); DE Erik Flowers (IR-back); LB Edgerton Hartwell (IR-Achilles); WR Kerry Johnson (IR-knee); CB Kevin Mathis (IR-knee); WR Dez White (IR-knee).|
|Doubtful||S Mike Brown (calf); S Chris Harris (knee); FB Bryan Johnson (back); RB Cedric Benson (knee).||None.|
|Questionable||LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb); S Todd Johnson (hip); OG Terrence Metcalf (shoulder).||DT Antwan Lake (shoulder); CB Allen Rossum (knee); DE Brady Smith (toe).|
|Probable||RB Adrian Peterson (ill); DT Ian Scott (ankle).||None.|
Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton is set to make his 14th start. Rex Grossman's injury has healed to the point that he has been elevated to second string. Bernard Berrian (thumb) has healed enough to provide a spark to the offense as a vertical threat the last two weeks. Berrian is the front-runner to take over as the primary punt returner since Bobby Wade was released earlier this week. Right guard Terrence Metcalf (shoulder) missed last week's contest, allowing Roberto Garza to start. Garza filled in well for Ruben Brown when he missed time earlier in the year. Garza will line up against his former teammates, and a very difficult challenge. He'll have his hands full against defensive tackle Rod Coleman (8.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles). Rookie Cedric Benson's knee injury is starting to come along. He could be ready to return before the end of the regular season. In the meantime, Adrian Peterson has served as a surprisingly good compliment to Thomas Jones. Peterson missed practice on Thursday due to an illness. Fullback Bryan Johnson will be replaced by Jason McKie if Johnson cannot make enough progress to start. McKie isn't as strong of a blocker as Johnson but is an excellent pass receiver.
The season-ending injury to middle linebacker Edgerton Hartwell forced Keith Brooking back to the middle and has allowed rookie Michael Boley a chance to contribute as the strong side linebacker. Defensive end Brady Smith (3 sacks) has a toe injury that could limit his ability to play Sunday night. The Falcons do not have good depth behind Smith, who would be working against John Tait. Tait is an excellent run blocker.
The Bears deviated from their normal game plan by abandoning the run against Pittsburgh. It would be wise for them to return to what they do best, especially since opponents are averaging 118 rushing yards per game against the Falcons' defense. Expect the Falcons to load up the middle while jamming the Bears' wide receivers off the line, disrupting the timing of the Bears' fragile passing offense.
Safeties Mike Brown (calf) and Chris Harris (knee) missed last week's game. Mike Green and Todd Johnson would be their replacements. Both have a good number of starts under their belts to minimize the dropoff. Johnson suffered a hip pointer last week, which means the unproven Brandon McGowan is expected to see action at strong safety. He was a pleasant surprise, leading the team in tackles against Pittsburgh. Green, on the other hand, has been in the coaches' doghouse since Secondary Coach Perry Fewell took over. Green was a consistent role player in previous seasons. His decline in play has coincided with the coaches' lack of confidence in him. Strong side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer has been playing with a cast on his injured hand. He suffered a setback last week. Leon Joe is likely to start if Hillenmeyer cannot play. To add depth to the linebacking corps, Jeremy Cain was activated from the practice squad. Cain has been in the Bears' system for a few years and should be ready for any assignment that comes his way. Tight end Alge Crumpler is Atlanta's leading receiver. He will have a very favorable matchup against the middle of the Bears' defense. Defensive tackle Ian Scott (ankle) has shown progress and has been upgraded from questionable to probable. The Bears are very deep at his position, where Tank Johnson or Alfonso Boone should be able to fill in capably as needed.
Quarterback Michael Vick is nursing a rib injury which limited his ability to finish last week's game. Vick is an electrifying runner. His injury may serve as a way to keep him from leaving the pocket. Backup Matt Schaub has played well in limited opportunities. Vick was removed from the injury report on Thursday. Right tackle Todd Weiner isn't listed on the injury report, but is recovering from a recent arm injury. Adewale Ogunleye will be working against Weiner.
The Bears have had some success limiting Michael Vick. However, Vick is only a part of the Atlanta offense, which leads the league in rushing yards. Expect the Falcons to follow Pittsburgh's lead by continually pounding the Bears' defense on the ground. The Bears will need to show better gap discipline to stop the run and not get beaten by cutbacks from the shifty Warrick Dunn. If they succeed there, they'll have the challenge of putting pressure on Vick while not losing him when he takes off.