Atlanta Falcons (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) at Chicago Bears (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, Week 1 NFL Soldier Field (Natural Grass), Chicago IL, Sunday, September 11, 2011, 1:00 PM Eastern, TV: Fox
By Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline
Point Spread: Atl -2.5/CHI +2.5
Over/Under Total: 41
Two teams looking to repeat as division champions meet in this week one match at Soldier Field. Atlanta went 133, their best NFL regular season record since the Super Bowl season of 1998. The Falcons secured a third straight winning season, their fourth overall divisional title, and the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs. It wasn’t meant to be as the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers defeated Atlanta 48-21 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Chicago also lost to Green Bay 21-14 in last year’s NFC Championship game, but did accomplish a lot by surprising the majority of people in the regular season. With their final regular season record at 115, the Bears improved drastically on their 2009 record of 7-9. The big question is weather “Da Bears” make the playoffs or finish under .500 after making the playoffs.
The Bears went 2-2 in the NFLX scoring 60 points and giving up 72. Always take Preseason NFL stats with a grain of salt. What I looked for is offensive line play and the Bears struggled at times with protection. No player will face more pressure than rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi. Carimi started 49 games in his four years at Wisconsin, all on the left side. Carimi now finds himself having to make not only the leap from collegiate football to the NFL, but also make that dreaded shift in positions over to the right side.
Two former Cowboys were brought in with Roy Williams and Marion Barber to help offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s pass heavy offense. Roy Williams was dependable last year after being “MIA” in his first season as a Cowboy. And, maybe Martz knows his skills the best from his days in Detroit. The Bears defense will once again be the strength of the team, but with the rule changes made to the kick-off and Special Teams the Bears are going to have to generate more on offense. Lance Briggs is demanding a trade via Twitter and he’s a good player on defense the Bears can’t afford to lose.
I love Julio Jones and moving up in the draft to snatch him was brilliant. The 6’3″, 218-pound Jones is the complete package, a rare combination of size, speed and play-making ability. Hell team with Roddy White, who led the NFL in receptions with 115, to give the Falcons a dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver. He’s exactly what the Falcons need on offense, another big play receiver who can take double teams away from White.
First, I LOVE the Over in every Falcons game this year until the Odds-makers catch on. This team is going to be a Top 5 offense this season. The defense is good but not great. Back to the offense. Last year, I mentioned the Falcons offensive line would be a very good one despite no big names and this year will be no different. They might be better than last year’s numbers. Atlanta allowed only 23 sacks last season and consistently cleared paths for Michael Turner on the ground. Few lines are tougher, smarter, or more consistent than this group. The Stop unit is built for the fast track at the Georgia Dome, relying on speed and athleticism rather than size and strength. The Falcons dont overwhelm anyone with their defensive personnel, but the unit plays well as a team and limits their mistakes. The Falcons committed the third fewest penalties on defense last season.
The Falcons defeated the Bears 22-20 in 2008 and 21-14 in 2009. Both games were played in October and the Falcons covered the spread in each game. Both teams are quite different so we can take nothing out of those two tilts. The Under is 7-0 last seven meetings and the Under is 8-2 when these two teams hook up.
Atlanta is 22-11 SU and 22-11 ATS in all games over the last three seasons. The Falcons are 19-4 SU and 16-7 ATS as a favorite over the last three seasons.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Falcons vs. Bears Over 41.
Trends are meaningless. I think both teams will have plenty of success at moving the ball and both teams should find the end zone at least three times. Go Over 41!
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