Week 3 of the 2020 NFL season features a matchup between two teams heading in different directions. The Chicago Bears (2-0) are looking to remain undefeated as they head south this Sunday to take on an Atlanta Falcons (0-2) team that's very hungry for a win.
The Bears held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Giants to win their home opener last week, while the Falcons came up short in a one-point loss at Dallas. The Bears may be unbeaten, but they are not without their flaws. The Falcons, however, continue to light up the box scores on offense but their defense has put them in a tough spot.
The Bears need to play at a high level for a full four quarters if they want to keep their record clean. That's because the Falcons are looking to capitalize on the Bears' mistakes to get their first win of the year. Let's break this down.
Chicago at Atlanta
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Trubisky vs. Ryan
Both quarterbacks have posted respectable numbers so far. Mitchell Trubisky is completing 59.4 percent of his passes (92.7 passer rating) for 432 yards, and five touchdowns. He's averaging over six yards per attempt and has shown more patience in the pocket than usual. Consistency, however, has been his issue. Two weeks ago in Detroit, Trubisky struggled to get into a rhythm in the first three quarters. But in the fourth quarter, Trubisky completed 8-of-10 passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns.
Two of those touchdowns came in the final three minutes when the Bears erased a 17-point deficit to defeat the Lions. Against New York last week, Trubisky came out firing in the first half as he led the Bears on three scoring drives. But in the second half, he threw two interceptions, which almost proved costly, and he took a sack on the Bears' final possession which forced Cairo Santos to attempt a 50-yard field goal that he missed. Trubisky must continuously make plays for a full 60 minutes.
Ryan is his usual self as indicated on the stat sheet. He is completing 67.8 percent of his throws for 723 yards and six scores He's averaging eight yards per attempt and has a very strong 109.6 passer rating. The issues that Ryan has had have been small but glaring. He threw a rare, late-game interception on the final possession of the opener against the Seahawks. He's also taken three sacks already this year; in fact, Ryan has taken over 40 sacks in each of the last two seasons.
The Bears are very well-versed in getting to the quarterback when their defense is fully healthy. The Falcons will need to keep Ryan upright against this fierce-when-healthy defense.
2. A tale of two different offenses
The Bears' inconsistency in the passing game is well documented. In addition to the two picks he's thrown, Trubisky has also taken five sacks and fumbled once, and his decision-making is once again being questioned. The one thing they have been able to do right, however, is run the ball. They've already gained 284 yards on the ground (4.7 ypc), with David Montgomery leading the way (146 rushing yards, 5.0 ypc). The Bears average 22.0 points and 333.5 yards per game, which rank 16th and 21st, respectively.
The Falcons rank fifth in scoring offense (32.0 ppg), fourth in total offense (443.0 ypg), and second in passing offense (350.5 ypg), but they're the fifth-worst rushing offense (92.5 ypg). Todd Gurley hasn't fully gotten going yet (117 rushing yards, TD, 3.3 ypc), so they'll need a much bigger effort from him, as wide receiver Julio Jones, offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary, and tight end Luke Stocker are all listed as either questionable or doubtful in this week's injury report. Both teams will be looking to take advantage of less-than-stellar defenses.
3. Issues on defense
This side of the ball has been an Achilles heel for both teams. The Bears have been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with their 3-4 defensive alignment. They've held their opponents to just six first-half points, but they've given up 34 in the second half. The Bears only have five sacks thus far, with Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack accounting for just one each. Quinn didn't play in Detroit because of a bad ankle, and he only posted one tackle (which was a TFL) against New York.
Mack has been dealing with a sore knee since the season started, which could explain why his numbers are also low (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL). One positive is that the Bears already have three takeaways (2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery), but they'll need to be more aggressive and more effective against this fast-paced Falcons offense.
The Falcons have already given up 78 points, with 54 of those points coming in the second half. Atlanta has the league's worst scoring defense right and the second-worst total defense as well (476.5 ypg). Heading into this week, the Falcons have eight defensive players listed as questionable on the injury report, including defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and cornerback Kendall Sheffield. But they have a prime opportunity in front of them this week, as they take on a Bears team that still hasn't found it's offensive identity. Perhaps the Falcons can catch a break on Sunday.
The Bears are 5-3 in their last eight games against the Falcons, including 3-2 in their last five trips to Atlanta, and they're outscoring the Falcons 169-110 during this stretch. The Bears have won three of their last five road games, while the Falcons have lost four of their last six home games. Chicago's defense gets it together and finds enough luck on offense to hold off Atlanta in a very close game.
Prediction: Bears 24, Falcons 23
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.