Chicago Bears vs Atlanta Falcons – Week 17 Game Preview: Overview, Keys to Game, Insights

The Bears (6-9) were able to hold on to a late lead against a bad Arizona Cardinals team on Christmas Eve for their sixth win of the season. After several explosive plays in the first half, Chicago’s offense did almost nothing in the last two periods and the defense had to stave off another fourth quarter comeback attempt.

The Bears wrap up their home schedule Sunday afternoon against the still playoff hopeful Falcons (7-8). Arthur Smith’s team has an excellent defense that is allowing only 19.2 points a game in 2023. They are particularly strong against the pass with opponents averaging just 197.5 yards through the air a week. Jessie Bates leads the team with six interceptions and the towering veteran defensive tackle Calais Campbell has 5.5 sacks at age 37.

Atlanta’s offense, on the other hand, has been a complete disaster rotating between quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke. Ridder was the starter when the season began and has been benched twice after 12 total turnovers and only 10 touchdowns. This inconsistency is encapsulated in the scoring average of 19.1 points a game, ninth worst in the NFL.

The one bright spot for the Falcons offensive attack is the combination of Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson at running back, who have combined for 1519 total rushing yards. Robinson, a top-10 pick in the 2023 draft, is just about 100 yards short of 1000 for the season.

Heinicke is now ensconced in the starters role and kept Atlanta’s playoff hopes alive with a win in Indianapolis last week. This is a team that has a habit of playing incredibly close low-scoring games that come down to the wire much like the Bears do.

Chicago is in spoiler mode at the moment and also facing an imminent decision on what to do with a likely second-consecutive first-overall pick in the draft. This week featured an awkward press conference where head coach Matt Eberflus said QB Justin Fields would be back in 2024 despite his own return being a very open question at the moment.

The Bears could make themselves feel better by knocking Atlanta out of the playoffs this Sunday. Perhaps they could even knock the Packers out the week after, it would be a fun way to end the season.

Where to Watch/Listen

  • Sunday, December 31 at 12:00pm CT on CBS, WBBM Radio (English), and WRTO Radio (Spanish).

Keys to Victory

Here are my keys to Sunday’s game. If these things happen, the Bears should have a shot to win.

  1. Win the turnover battle. The Falcons turn the ball over a lot, especially in the red zone, so the Bears have a good chance to continue their recent success in forcing turnovers.
  2. Keep Atlanta’s run game in check. Chicago needs to force Heinicke into obvious passing situations which have been a struggle for both Atlanta quarterbacks all season. Having the best run defense in the NFL should help with creating those scenarios.
  3. Try to play a complete game. Bears fans don’t need any reminders that this team struggles to play two consecutive halves of good football. It would be nice to see a full 60 minutes with no letdowns.

Don’t Tell Me the Odds

For the second consecutive week the Bears are favored at home this time by three points. Vegas expects a defensive battle with a very low over/under at 37.5.

It’s Football Weather

It’s going to be a cold one at Soldier Field Sunday with a high temperature of 34 and a chance of snow flurries.

My Prediction

These are two evenly matched teams and this will be a very close game. I think the Bears defense will make a big play and score a touchdown that will be the difference in a 17-13 Chicago victory.

Official Bears Preview

Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer recap the Bears 27-16 win over the Cardinals on Sunday at Soldier Field and preview the matchup with the Falcons on the Bears, etc. podcast.

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