HomeFootball DirtFalcons face Bears with slim playoff hopes

Falcons face Bears with slim playoff hopes

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ATLANTA (7-8) at CHICAGO (6-9)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS

BETTING LINE: Bears by 2½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Falcons 5-10, Bears 7-7-1.

SERIES RECORD: Bears lead 15-14.

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Bears 27-24 on Nov. 20, 2022, in Atlanta.

LAST WEEK: Falcons beat Colts 29-10; Bears beat Arizona 27-16.

FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (16), RUSH (8), PASS (22), SCORING (24).

FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (9), RUSH (15), PASS (8), SCORING (6).

BEARS OFFENSE: OVERALL (20), RUSH (2), PASS (28), SCORING (T-21).

BEARS DEFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (1), PASS (25), SCORING (T-21).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Falcons minus-5; Bears minus-2.

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Bijan Robinson needs 87 yards to break William Andrews’ team rookie record of 1,332 scrimmage yards in 1979. Robinson leads Atlanta with 873 rushing yards and has seven touchdowns, including four rushing. He often lines up as a wide receiver and set a career high with seven receptions last week. His 48 catches are a team record for a rookie running back. His 1,246 scrimmage yards includes 373 as a receiver. Robinson leads all rookies in rushing yards.

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Justin Fields. The No. 11 overall draft pick in 2021, Fields enters the final two games of the season with his future as murky as ever. He ranks 21st in passer rating and 28th in completion percentage in his third season. Though he threw for a touchdown and ran for a score against Arizona, Fields is coming off a less-than-inspiring performance, passing-wise. He was 15 of 27 for 170 yards with an interception in the end zone, after throwing for 166 yards the previous week.

KEY MATCHUP: Bears WR DJ Moore vs. CB A.J. Terrell. Moore has been a thorn in the Falcons’ side with 718 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games, though he was just 3-7 against them in his five seasons with Carolina. The only team he has more yards against in his career is Tampa Bay, with 870 in 11 games.

KEY INJURIES: Falcons QB Taylor Heinicke (ankle) showed up on the injury report and LT Jake Matthews (knee) practiced on Wednesday. … LB Arnold Ebiketie (knee) and LB Lorenzo Carter (neck) also practiced. … Bears TE Cole Kmet (knee) missed the second half last week after catching four passes for a career-high 107 yards in the first half alone, including a 53-yard reception. He did not practice on Wednesday. … Bears LG Teven Jenkins (concussion) returned to practice this week after missing the game against Arizona. … WR Darnell Mooney entered the concussion protocol after reporting symptoms on Monday.

SERIES NOTES: The Falcons have won two of the past three meetings, including a 23-17 victory at Soldier Field in 2017. The Bears won 30-26 at Atlanta in 2020.

STATS AND STUFF: The Atlanta Falcons come into their game against the Chicago Bears knowing they have little room for error if they’re going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They also need help to get there with two weeks remaining in the season. … The Falcons have 36 sacks after finishing with only 21 in 2022, the second-worst total in the league. Atlanta’s six sacks in last week’s win over the Colts was its highest total in five years. Rookie DE Zach Harrison had two sacks. … Heinicke will make his second straight start after completing 23 of 33 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown with no turnovers against Indianapolis. … The Falcons finished 7-10 in each of coach Arthur Smith’s first two seasons and have not won as many as eight games since finishing 10-6 in 2017, their most recent playoff season. … WR Drake London’s 133 receptions in his first two seasons leave him tied with Julio Jones (2011-12) for the Falcons’ high mark through a player’s first two years. … The Bears have doubled their win total from last season — their first under GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus — when they finished a league-worst 3-14. … Chicago is 4-3 at home with four straight wins after losing 10 in a row at Soldier Field. … Chicago ranks second in the NFL with 18 interceptions and has 23 takeaways. … The Bears had 250 yards rushing against Arizona after managing 88 the previous week against Cleveland. … RB Khalil Herbert carried 20 times last week for a season-high 112 yards and a touchdown. He had missed five games because of an ankle injury and then struggled over the next four with 75 yards on 31 attempts before breaking through against the Cardinals. … DE Montez Sweat is tied for ninth with a career-high 12 1/2 sacks — six since a trade from Washington. He leads the Bears and Commanders. It’s the first time in league history that a player leads two teams in sacks in one season.

FANTASY TIP: Robinson could be a difficult matchup for a defense that has had trouble with pass-catching running backs. Arizona’s James Conner had five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown last week, and Robinson is a more productive receiver. Conner has 22 catches for 106 yards for the season, by comparison.

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