The (6-9) Chicago Bears host the (7-8) Atlanta Falcons at noon (CT) on Sunday, and we spoke with Kevin Knight, editor and writer for our sister site, The Falcoholic, who covers all things Falcons for SB Nation, to get more insight on his team.
WCG - How content are the Falcons with their current QB room?
Kevin Knight - I would say not content at all. There was a lot of hope surrounding Desmond Ridder early in the year, and that has all but evaporated (along with the loss of faith in head coach Arthur Smith). Ridder has been a turnover machine and simply hasn’t improved over the course of the season. As a third-round pick, he’s was always going to have zero margin for error—although many would argue Smith’s unorthodox passing scheme hasn’t helped him much. Taylor Heinicke is a small upgrade, but we all know what he is: a quality backup who can get you to .500, but not much more. Suffice it to say, the Falcons will be one of the biggest players in the 2024 quarterback market—whether that’s in free agency or the draft.
WCG - Several dot-connecting media members and fans are speculating that if Justin Fields is traded, Atlanta would be the most logical trade partner. What are your thoughts on Fields, and would you like him quarterbacking your team?
KK - I was a big fan of Fields coming out of the draft and firmly believed the Falcons should have taken him at 4. I’m not upset with the Kyle Pitts pick, at least in principle. I’m upset with how it has turned out, because Smith hasn’t shown an ability to get Pitts involved enough to justify such a selection—particularly ahead of a franchise QB. Fields obviously has his flaws, but those could also be attributed to a poor supporting cast (before this season, at least) and a very lackluster coaching staff. I think Fields would slot in very well to this style of offense thanks to his rushing ability and deep ball accuracy. The issue is Chicago’s asking price and the fact that Atlanta would need to turn around and pay him next year if it worked out. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but I would certainly be intrigued by the idea—particularly if the asking price was a Day 2 pick.
WCG - Former Bears GM Ryan Pace seems to have brought in quite a few former Bears. How big is his influence in Atlanta’s front office, and are you good with him as the director of player personnel?
KK - I think he has a decently-sized role, but it’s Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith calling the shots. Still, Atlanta has clearly placed an emphasis on their pro personnel department, and it’s paid dividends this year. Practically every major veteran addition has been a big hit for Atlanta: Jessie Bates is one of the NFL’s best safeties, David Onyemata has been terrific, Kaden Elliss has provided a lot of stability to the LB group, Jeff Okudah has been a solid CB2...the list goes on. Fontenot and Pace have really done a fantastic job on the defensive side. The offense has continued to struggle, but again, I wonder how much of that is on the QB/Arthur Smith as opposed to the pro personnel department.
WCG - The Falcons’ defense is top ten in points against and yards allowed, so who are some Atlanta defenders Bears fans should keep an eye on?
KK - I mentioned all the big names in the above paragraph about big free agent additions, but former UDFA linebacker Nate Landman has been a revelation. Forced into the starting lineup after an injury to 2022 second-rounder Troy Andersen, Landman has emerged as one of the NFL’s premier run defenders and has really solidified his coverage. LaCale London (a former Bear) has emerged as a key contributor on the interior, as well. On the edge, which is the weakest group this season, rookie Zach Harrison has three sacks in the last two games and has started to really catch fire.
WCG - Are there any particular Falcon player prop bets you see on DraftKings Sportsbook that you might recommend to Bears fans? Also, who are you picking to win on Sunday, and what’s your score prediction?
KK - Typically, the Bijan Robinson receiving over and the Younghoe Koo over 1.5 FGs are pretty safe bets, but you never know with this team. The win over the Colts was Atlanta’s best game of the season, but the Bears are a particularly tough matchup, and this team plays like garbage on the road. I think the Bears come away with the victory, let’s say 25-23.
Thanks to Kevin for helping us out and filling us in on the Falcons.
And as always, if you want to place a little wager on the game, DraftKings Sportsbook has you covered.