Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Brian McIntyre of Falcon Insider, head Behind Enemy Lines for a breakdown of Sunday evening's Week 6 matchup between the Bears and Falcons at Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Let's finish this three-part series with matchups to watch and final predictions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. FALCONS DEFENSE
Running Game vs. Front Seven:
Atlanta chose defensive tackle Peria Jerry with the 24th-overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft to help improve the league's 25th-ranked run defense in 2008. Jerry was lost for the season in Week 2, but even before his injury, the Falcons run defense was struggling to hold opponents to less than five yards per carry. Last week, coach Mike Smith shuffled the front four, which now features 270-pound defensive end Kroy Biermann playing defensive tackle, so the Bears could have some success running between the tackles on Sunday.

TE Greg Olsen vs. LB Stephen Nicholas and SS Erik Coleman: Because Olsen immediately became best friends with Jay Cutler after the Pro Bowl passer arrived from Denver, it was assumed that the former Miami Hurricane was on the fast track to becoming an elite tight end in this league. Instead, Olsen has caught only 10 passes for 94 yards in four games, although he has proven to be an effective target near the goal line with two touchdowns. He is a lot faster than Nicholas and a lot bigger than Coleman, so perhaps this is the week Olsen breaks out with six or seven grabs.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: FALCONS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
OTs Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo vs. DEs Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown:
Ogunleye (4.5) and Brown (2.5) have accounted for half of the Bears' 14 quarterback sacks, but they'll be matched up with Baker and Clabo, who bookend an offensive line that has yielded just two sacks on the season and none since the season-opening win over the Miami Dolphins. The Bears may need to bring extra guys to put pressure on Ryan, which will create one-on-one matchups he has shown the ability to exploit.

WR Roddy White vs. CBs Zack Bowman and Charles Tillman: Bowman has a ton of talent and may be a great cornerback one of these days, but he was humbled by Detroit's Calvin Johnson last time out to the tune of five catches for 119 yards in the first half alone. The coaching staff made a change in the locker room and decided to have Tillman mirror Johnson the rest of the way, and the former Georgia Tech star only managed three receptions for 14 yards in the second half. Since White exploded for 210 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns last week at San Francisco, it will be interesting to see if Tillman gets shadow responsibilities once again.


WR Roddy White
Getty Images: Ezra Shaw

THE FALCONS WIN IF ...
... they win the turnover battle, throw healthy doses of Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood at the Bears, prevent Johnny Knox from breaking any big gains in the return game and keep Cutler off the field.

THE FALCONS LOSE IF ...
... they can't stop Matt Forte, the defense continues to struggle on third downs and Cutler has time to pick apart their secondary. Cutler is the only starting quarterback to beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome during the Smith era, so if they can't stop him on Sunday, they're in trouble.

THE BEARS WIN IF ...
... they defend Turner as well as they did in last season's matchup. I know that seems a little bit bizarre since Chicago ultimately came out on the losing end 22-20, but it took a miracle final 11 seconds that included a botched squib kick, a blown coverage on a deep corner route and a 48-yard field goal as time expired for Atlanta to emerge victorious. Should the Midway Monsters hold Turner to 54 yards on 25 carries again, they'll take their chances.

THE BEARS LOSE IF ...
... their defensive backs play as badly as they did in last season's matchup. Chicago's secondary was bitten by the injury bug hard both before and during that Falcons game in 2008, as evidenced by the fact that a rookie QB making his sixth career start completed 22 of 30 passes for 301 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions – he also wasn't sacked. I understand that Ryan is the real deal and already one of the better passers in this league, but the Bears have no chance if White gets behind the safeties and Tony Gonzalez controls the middle of the field.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Brian McIntyre:
Conditions are perfect for an Atlanta letdown Sunday. They're coming off a convincing road win over a division leader and facing a team coming off their bye. However, the Falcons are quite aware of how dangerous teams coming off a bye week are. They were coming off their bye last week against San Francisco, and the Bears are the first of four straight opponents they'll face who are coming off a bye. So they'll be very wary of how dangerous the Bears are. Despite the presence of two of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL, I think both teams will try to establish their ground games. I never thought I'd say this about a Falcons-Bears matchup, but I believe the Falcons are the more physical football team. And for that reason, I think they'll get the win. FALCONS 23, BEARS 17.

John Crist: This is a monster game between 3-1 teams, as the winner with own a head-to-head victory over an NFC opponent and, therefore, a leg up when it comes to wild-card berths and home field advantage come playoff time. Chicago has started slowly in all four games this season before playing much better in the second half, but now they're facing an Atlanta team that can bury on opponent quickly if given the opportunity. This has the makings of a back-and-forth contest, but I like Ryan and Co. to prevail in the Georgia Dome. FALCONS 27, BEARS 24.

To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answered five questions from Brian, Click Here. To read Part II, where Brian answered five questions from John, Click Here.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Brian McIntyre is the NFL writer for FalconInsider.com.


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