Bears vs. Falcons: 5 things to watch (and a prediction) for Week 11 matchup

The Chicago Bears (3-7) will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons (4-6) in a game that highlights the uniqueness of the NFL. The Bears, with three wins, are last in the NFC North, while Atlanta is fighting for a first-place spot in the NFC South.

Despite the record-setting play of star quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears have lost three of the last four due to awful defensive play, allowing more than 30 points per game to opponents.

However, this week, Chicago has an excellent chance to win and pick up their fourth win of the season. Atlanta has one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Falcons don’t generate pressure on the quarterback and give up the most passing yards per game.

Here are five things to watch in their Week 11 matchup — and a final prediction.

Will the Bears be aggressive in the fourth quarter?

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Chicago has failed to close out games in the fourth quarter. The team is near its worst at the end of games — scoring the fewest points of any team in the fourth quarter.

Justin Fields has a 64.6 passer rating in the fourth quarter, which is the worst in the NFL, and only averages 4.8 yards per attempt. The offense seems too conservative in the fourth quarter when combining the Bears’ low-scoring output with these stats.

In addition to the shortened passes, the rushing attack declines, too. Chicago’s offense has its second-lowest yards per carry in the final quarter with 5.7 per rush (Bears average 6.1 yards per rush in the third quarter). The combination of poor passing and rushing kills fourth-quarter drives and losing the team games. In the final quarter, the Bears pick up roughly one less yard per play.

Against Atlanta, in a close game, the Bears need to continue to push the ball downfield and remain aggressive in the run game. Winning teams stay consistent or improve in the fourth quarter, and losing teams worsen.

Can the Bears stop Atlanta's rushing attack?

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The Falcons have the fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 160.4 yards per game and the Bears have the 28th-ranked run defense this season, allowing 142.0 yards per game. Atlanta, like Chicago, is a run-first offense and has been successful with Cordarrelle Patterson (402 yards) and his replacement. At the same time, he was injured, rookie-fifth rounder Tyler Allgeier (443 yards), and like the Bears, quarterback Marcus Mariota has run for more than 300 yards this season.

While the Bears have turned in better performances against the run the last two weeks against Miami and Detroit, those teams have struggled to run the football. Against Dallas, a much better running team, the Bears gave up 200 yards on the ground. Has the run defense improved, or have the recent opponents been bad at running the ball?

Does the Bears defense have an answer for TE Kyle Pitts?

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After selecting Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft, Falcons fans have questioned his workload this season. But his targets have doubled over the last three games from four to eight per game. This increase in volume is significant because teams have tried to use their tight end to beat the Bears’ pass defense.

This year, tight ends receive about 25% of the targets in a game. However, in four games this season (Texans, Giants, Patriots, Cowboys), the Bears have seen tight end target share increase to 37%, likely due to Chicago’s weak linebacking unit.

With Pitts’ volume trending up and opposing teams’ tendency to use tight ends to beat the Bears, it could be a great day for the second-year tight end from Florida.

Familiar faces on Atlanta's sideline and in their front office

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For fans, Sunday’s game will feel like the meme of Leonardo DiCaprio sitting in a chair, beer in hand and pointing at the television. Since being fired from the Bears, former general manager Ryan Pace has rebuilt the Falcons with Chicago’s castoffs in a senior personnel executive role.

In the front office, Atlanta added another former Bears general manager, Phil Emery. Emery is a scout for the Falcons and likely helped bring the former Bears in Atlanta to Chicago, too.

Seven players on the Falcons are former Bears players (eight if you count Eddie Goldman, who retired this season), and five will be active in Sunday’s game. On defense, the Bears will see three former starters: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB/WR), Germain Ifedi (OL), and Damiere Byrd (WR).

Patterson has recently returned from the IR and has 441 total yards and five touchdowns this season. Byrd is the third wide receiver for the Falcons and has 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Those are the key players that fans will see often, but you might also see former linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and defense lineman Abdullah Anderson.

Homecoming game for Justin Fields

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Fields grew up in Kennesaw, Ga., as a Falcons fan and originally attended the University of Georgia. Sunday will be a homecoming game for Fields, who expects his parents and several relatives to attend.

It will be an exciting day as the second-year quarterback returns home two weeks after breaking his former idol, Michael Vick’s rushing record after rushing for 178 yards against the Dolphins.

Over the past month, Fields has electrified the offense and re-energized the fan base. In the last four games, he has thrown for 620 yards with eight touchdowns and a 103.5 passer rating and has rushed for 467 yards and five touchdowns while averaging more than nine yards per rush.

Against a horrible Falcons defense, Fields will have an opportunity for his best game of the season and a potential 300-yard passing day.

Final Prediction: Falcons 24, Bears 23

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Except for their 14-point win over the 49ers, Atlanta has won their games by a differential of 3.5 points. Sunday will be another close game, but the Bears will lose – to add insult to injury, they might have the lead at some point.

Football games last 60 minutes, and the Bears are a 45-minute football team. So, naturally, they need to prove they can win the game’s final quarter before predicting any more wins.

Story originally appeared on Bears Wire