NFL Week 1 Preview: Falcons at Bears
Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
Matchup: Atlanta Falcons Offense vs Chicago Bears Defense
- WR Julio Jones vs. CB Marcus Cooper Sr. – Star wide receiver Julio Jones enters the 2017 season after being limited throughout OTAs and training camp while recovering from offseason toe surgery. In 2016, Jones was PFF’s highest graded receiver earning an overall grade of 96.5 while leading the NFL in yards per route run at a clip of 3.12 YPRR. Marcus Cooper signed a three-year $16 million contract with Chicago this past offseason and is coming off a 2016 season in which he ranked 72nd out of 79 cornerbacks allowing 1.56 yards per coverage snap.
- T Jake Matthews vs. Edge Leonard Floyd – Fourth-year tackle Jake Matthews has consistently improved his pass-blocking efficiency each season since entering the NFL as the sixth-overall pick in the 2014 draft. Last season he ranked 13th among tackles in PBE with a rating of 96.2. Matthews will be in for a difficult challenge as Leonard Floyd is coming off a strong rookie season in 2016. Floyd will look to improve on his pass-rush productivity rating of 11.2, which ranked 13th out of 57 qualified 3-4 outside linebackers.
- RBs Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman vs. Danny Trevathan & Jerrell Freeman – As one of the top running back duos in the NFL, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman present mismatches that the Falcons often exploit against over-matched linebackers. However, the Bears counter with a top inside linebacker duo of their own as Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman form one of the best inside linebacker combinations in the NFL. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both earned top 20 overall grades last season among running backs while Freeman earned an elusive rating of 34.8, good for 28th out of 53 qualified running backs, and Coleman finished with a rating of 27.3, which ranked 40th. Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman also graded positively last season as Trevathan finished 25th out of 64 qualified inside linebackers in tackling efficiency at a rate 11.5. Freeman finished fifth at 29.3.
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Matchup: Chicago Bears offense vs. Atlanta Falcons defense
- RT Bobby Massie vs. DE Vic Beasley – Massie has a history of slow starts to the season. Last year, 19 of Massie’s 37 pressures allowed (51 percent) came in the first four games of the season, including three of his four sacks, and in 2015, nearly 50 percent of his pressures came in the first six games. He’ll be facing a lot of Beasley, who’s coming off of a breakout 2016 season where he rushed the passer from the left side of the defense 96.2 percent of the time, matching him up with the right tackle every week.
- WR Kendall Wright vs. CB Brian Poole – Wright won the Bears slot receiver competition this preseason, and he’ll have an underrated match up this week against Poole. The Falcons’ slot cornerback allowed only 0.80 yards per snap in coverage last season, the eighth lowest among 117 qualifying CBs. Wright averaged 1.73 yards per route run out of the slot last season, tied for 16th best out of 54 wide receivers.
- RB Jordan Howard vs LBs Deion Jones & De’Vondre Campbell – Howard was very difficult to bring down last season, finishing in the top 10 in both missed tackles forced (40) and yards after contact per rush (2.98). He’ll face a pair of Falcons linebackers that had some issues in run defense last year. Jones and Campbell missed a combined 21 tackles last season, and they both finished below the NFL average for run stop percentage among linebackers.
- TE Dion Sims vs. S Keanu Neal – The Bears are thin at wide receiver, so they may need more from Sims in the middle, who should line up against Neal quite a bit. Last season, Sims averaged just 0.87 yards per route run, the second-lowest out of 47 tight ends, despite having an average depth of target that was exactly the same as Zach Miller (7). Neal’s performance in 2016 earned him the fifth-highest coverage grade of any safety in the NFL at 87.3.