Bears Offense vs. Falcons Defense
Wide receiver Devin Hester was back at practice after a minor injury to his neck/shoulder area in the Lions game. He’s planning to be fully ready for Sunday night in Atlanta. Reserve running back Adrian Peterson (knee) is expected to miss a few weeks after suffering an injury on special teams against the Lions. Peterson’s injury affects all phases of special teams and leaves the Bears with only Garrett Wolfe behind Matt Forte. Kevin Jones (ankle) was lost for the year during the preseason. Peterson will miss the opportunity to play against his older brother, Mike Peterson, who starts at outside linebacker for the Falcons and is second on the team in tackles.
DT Anthony Adams
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel
Reserve safety Antoine Harris (knee) is still trying to get back on the field. Top draft pick Peria Jerry was recently put on injured reserve (knee). Thomas Johnson has been manning the nose tackle position since then. The Bears should also keep an eye out for Kroy Biermann. He is used similarly to how the Bears use Mark Anderson – at both end and tackle. He has matched John Abraham with 3.0 sacks. He actually got the start at left end against San Francisco ahead of the disappointing Jamaal Anderson. The matchups between Abraham and Orlando Pace, and then Biermann and Chris Williams, will be telling.
The Falcons defense is in the bottom third of the league in yards allowed against both the pass and run. However, they’re only surrendering 15.8 points per game (fifth overall). Sounds like a bend-but-don’t-break team. In their loss to the Patriots, it was New England’s dedication to the run (39 carries) and dominating time of possession that won the day. Look for the Bears to continue what they started two weeks ago in getting Forte back on track.
Falcons Offense vs. Bears Defense
Jerious Norwood returned last week after being limited with a concussion through the first part of the season. Norwood possesses rare, heart-breaking speed as a change-of-pace back and return specialist. He has been fitted with a special helmet for protection. Fullback Ovie Mughelli is a key element to Atlanta’s rushing attack. He injured his calf against San Francisco and will be replaced by Jason Snelling if he cannot play. The Falcons’ O-line is healthy and clearly one of the more underrated units in all of football. They won the war in the trenches last week with San Francisco.
RB Ovie Mughelli
Getty Images: Al Messerschmidt
Strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is expected to return to action after getting injured in the first game of the season. Nick Roach has done well in the middle since Hunter Hillenmeyer injured a rib a few weeks ago. Roach has likely won the position in the middle from Hillenmeyer. Hillenmeyer looks like he might need another week before he can return. Keep in mind that Brian Urlacher (wrist) is on injured reserve. All-purpose defensive lineman Israel Idonije underwent minor knee surgery during the off week and is expected to be back on the field soon. His absence would mean Anderson and rookie Jarron Gilbert will see increased reps. Idonije felt good enough to return to practice on a limited basis this week. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams has a nagging toe injury that may limit his effectiveness.
The Falcons have only allowed two sacks this year. If the Bears are going to continue blitzing heavily, they’ll need to do a much better job of playing tight coverage on the Falcons receivers, who include Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. In a close game, it could come down to a missed assignment where White breaks a tackle or gets open deep against a busted coverage. There is little margin for error when you play a team with this many weapons. Watch for Norwood on draws and screens on third down. He’s not a decoy. There have to be plenty of members of this Bears team that remember last year’s fourth quarter defensive collapse that cost them a win and a playoff berth. Is that motivation enough?
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Michael Nudo writes his Injury Analysis feature during the season every week for BearReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.