Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Doug Farrar of FootballOutsiders.com, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 6 matchup between the Bears and Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch and final predictions.

Matchups to Watch: Bears Offense vs. Falcons Defense
RB Matt Forte vs. Atlanta's Front Seven:
Forte has become Chicago's offensive Everyman – he leads the Bears in rushes and receptions, and opposing defenses are going to key on him more and more. The Falcons have an iffy defense – they rank 18th in FootballOutsiders.com' Defensive DVOA against the run – and they're 25th in DVOA against pass-catching running backs.

John Abraham has been the front seven's one bright light at the line of scrimmage. The Falcons' linebackers have been forced to back up and help pass coverage. If Kyle Orton can find a way to scare the Falcons deep early on, Forte will find open lanes and do some real damage.

OTs John St. Clair and John Tait vs. DE John Abraham: St. Clair has done a pretty good job so far this year blocking the likes of Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers, but he'll face another serious challenge Sunday in Abraham – the league's leading sacker with 7.0 in five games. The Falcons move Abraham all over the line in order to create matchup problems, so Tait will have to handle him periodically, too. One of the reasons Tait was moved from left tackle over to the right side this season is because of his struggles against speed rushers in 2007, and Abraham brings an abundance of speed to the equation.

Orton has a good feel for the pocket and knows how to deliver the ball on time, but don't expect him to have all those 30-plus yard completions this week like he did against the Lions – he just won't have enough time.

Matchups to Watch: Falcons Offense vs. Bears Defense
RB Michael Turner vs. the Monsters of the Midway:
Turner has put up big numbers for the Falcons as their lead power back, but his primary production has come from easier matchups. His big games have come against the Lions, Chiefs, and a Packers defense struggling with a lot of injuries. Against the Panthers and Bucs, two defenses with stout front fours, he barely registered on the radar. The Bears are currently eighth against the run according to DVOA, and their 74.2 rushing yards per game allowed ranks fourth in the NFL.


WR Roddy White
Doug Benc/Getty Images

These two offenses are alike in that they want to shove the ball down your throat to make up for their relative lack of playmakers. The back who wins that battle between Turner and Forte will go a long way to deciding this game. Needless to say, resolving whatever's going on with Tommie Harris would be a big step in the right direction.

WR Roddy White vs. CBs Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher: Everybody in the building will know that Atlanta wants to establish the running game with Turner between the tackles, so the Bears will likely be playing eight men in the box more often than not. The Falcons can combat this by taking a few shots down the field with White, one of the most underrated deep threats around and third in the league so far in receiving yards. Tillman returned from a banged-up shoulder in Week 4 to have a whale of a game against Detroit, but Vasher was held out in Week 5 because of a bothersome wrist/thumb injury and might be a little rusty Sunday.

Even though Vasher will likely start the game after participating fully in Thursday's practice, look for a healthy dose of Corey Graham opposite Tillman because he's bigger and plays the run well.

The Falcons will win this game if ...
... the Bears don't put up a better coverage plan on White than the Packers did. Early on in their loss to Atlanta, Green Bay covered White one on one. White was able to use his speed and agility to make the defense pay with great production. Atlanta relies on a power running game above all, and the Bears should be able to roll coverage to White without becoming vulnerable up front. If White torches Chicago's corners and the linebackers have to play back, the Falcons' surprising ground game could make this a tough one.


CB Nathan Vasher
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons will lose this game if ...
... Abraham can be controlled. If the Falcons defensive end, who leads the NFL in sacks with 7.0 and doesn't always line up in the same place, can do what he pleases in the backfield, it'll be a long day for Orton and the Bears. Chicago currently ranks 29th in Adjusted Line Yards – everyone knows their offensive line isn't an asset, but taking Abraham out of the game is a must. If they have to run a tight end and a fullback up there to chip, so be it. Orton has kept things competitive when he's forced defenses to avoid teeing off on Forte. Abraham wants to remove Orton from the equation entirely.

The Bears will win this game if ...
... they get an early lead, which will allow them to run the ball with Forte and potentially force the Falcons to abandon Turner on the ground. Matt Ryan has played pretty well thus far for a rookie quarterback, especially at home in that god-awful dome, but the Midway Monsters will be more than happy to put the game on his shoulders in the second half. Kind of like Nebraska back in the Tom Osborne days, this Atlanta offense isn't designed to play from behind.

The Bears will lose this game if ...
... the defense gets sloppy with its tackling, which tends to happen in this Cover 2 from time to time. It wasn't that Minnesota's Adrian Peterson was unstoppable on his way to 224 yards at Soldier Field this past season, but the fact that the Bears didn't bother to wrap up and gang tackle allowed Purple Jesus to have his record-setting coming-out party. Arm tackles on a running back as big as Turner are not going to work, so Lance Briggs and Co. need to rally to the ball and deliver some punishment when they get there.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Doug Farrar: My initial instinct is to call this one close and give the slight edge to a Falcons team playing at home and doing much better than anyone expected this season. Orton will break off some gains against a shaky Falcons secondary, but Ryan has shown unusual poise in the pocket early on and his big plays with White might be too much for the Chicago offense to match ... Falcons 23, Bears 21.

John Crist: Atlanta did the Bears a favor by going into Lambeau Field and upsetting the Pack, paving the way for Chicago to rise to the top of the NFC North standings at 3-2. This team got a little too big for its britches after a Week-1 upset of the Colts in Indy, but it appears that a lesson has been learned and the locker room has been collectively more humble ever since. If Orton can continue to stay hot in the passing game, Chicago is simply the better ballclub ... Bears 26, Falcons 17.

To go back and read Part I, where Doug answers five questions from John, Click Here. For Part II, where John answers five questions from Doug, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com.


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