The Chicago Bears only won three games last season, but they’ll be hoping to get off to a better start in 2017 as they welcome the Atlanta Falcons to Soldier Field on Sunday.
The offseason has brought countless changes and new faces to the mix, and there is a sense of optimism at Halas Hall as the team has gotten a lot younger in recent months.
That optimism could be short-lived however, as they’ll have to face the defending NFC champions in their very first game of the season. The Falcons are loaded for bear with countless weapons, and they’ll undoubtedly be looking to put last season’s disappointment behind them.
So how can the Bears stun the Falcons and the NFL world on Sunday? Here are our Three Keys to Victory for the Bears.
Lack of Stars Means Variety is Key
After losing Alshon Jeffery to free agency and Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL, the Bears’ receiver corps has been left with a decided lack of star power, but if the Bears play their cards right, they could turn that to their advantage.
Mike Glennon will be looking to make a splash in his first start with the Bears, and he could leverage the fact that the Bears don’t have a primary target and make life difficult for the Falcons. Getting players like Deon Sims and Kevin White involved will be key, and if he can distribute the ball to Zach Miller and Kendall Wright as well, the Bears could cause issues in the Falcons’ secondary.
If Glennon zeroes in on one particular receiver, then the Falcons will be able to choke the Bears’ offense into submission, so variety has to be the spice of life in the passing game.
Establish Howard and Cohen Early
Even though passing will be key, getting the run game going is usually the key to success for the Bears. With Jordan Howard in the backfield, the temptation will be there to get him running a lot early, but employing a “change of pace” strategy with Tarik Cohen would be a very shrewd move for Dowell Loggains.
Having Cohen’s speed out of the backfield could pose the Falcons’ linebackers with a matchup issue, and that could be just the opening the Bears need to get Howard going in the run game.
Make Falcons One-Dimensional
Look, we get it. Matt Ryan is the reigning NFL MVP, and he has a ton of players to throw the ball to and two very capable running backs to run the ball in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
In order to get the Falcons off-balance, the Bears have to focus on taking that run game away. Freeman and Coleman are both capable of reeling off big runs, but with an improved front seven, the Bears should be able to keep them at least somewhat in check.
If they can do that, then the Falcons will have to resort to their passing game, and while players like Julio Jones definitely make that a scary proposition, it will also give players like Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd a chance to tee off on Ryan in the pocket, and that would be a welcome sight for the Bears.