BEAR OFFENSIVE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (1), PASS (32), SCORING (T-25).
BEAR DEFENSE: OVERALL (15), RUSH (28), PASS (10), SCORING (21).
FALCONS OPEN: OVERALL (27), RUSH (4), PASS (30), SCORING (12).
FALCON’S DEFENSE: OVERALL (31), RUSH (18), PASS (32), SCORING (27).
SALES DIFFERENTIAL: Bears straight; even hawks.
BEARS PLAYERS TO FOLLOW: QB Justin Fields is sixth in the NFL in rushing with 749 yards and second to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson at 7.2 per carry. Fields is on a historic run. He had 178 yards against Miami two weeks ago — the most by an NFL quarterback in a regular-season game since at least 1940 — and followed that up with 147 yards last week. At 325 yards, Fields has the highest two-game total by an NFL quarterback, surpassing Jackson’s previous mark of 268 on October 13 and 20, 2019. He also became the only QB in the Super Bowl era with multiple rushing touchdowns of more than 60 yards in the same season after climbing 61 yards against Miami last week and rushing 67 yards for a score. Fields’ 555 yards in the last five weeks is the most in a five-game span by a Super Bowl-era QB.
FALCONS PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Marcus Mariota has firm public support from coach Arthur Smith, but the team’s two-game losing streak has led to increased questions as to why rookie Desmond Ridder hasn’t appeared in a game. Smith said he hadn’t considered playing Ridder, a third-round pick from Cincinnati, in last week’s loss to Carolina. Mariota completed 19 of 30 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and led the team with 43 rushing yards. He took the blame for “playing a little bit outside of myself” and taking five sacks. The Falcons remain a game behind first-placed Tampa Bay in the weak NFC South. Smith is more likely to give Ridder a chance if Atlanta falls further behind the Buccaneers.
KEY MATCHUP: Falcons run defense against RB David Montgomery. After RB Khalil Herbert was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, Montgomery must reclaim the role of lead running back and relieve Fields. Herbert was second on the team to Fields with 643 rushing yards and an average of 6.0 yards per carry. Montgomery has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry while rushing for 434 yards.
KEY INJURIES: Herbert (hip) was injured on a kickoff late in last week’s game. … CB Jaylon Johnson is dealing with an oblique injury. … TE Cole Kmet (hamstring), OL Teven Jenkins (hip), DB Kindle Vildor (ankle) and RB David Montgomery (personal) missed practice on Wednesday. …LB Matt Adams (Wade) was activated by IR. … Falcons CB AJ Terrell (hamstring) and OL Jalen Mayfield (back) returned to practice Wednesday. Terrell missed three games and Mayfield has not played this season and should be returning from IR. … Backup S Erik Harris (foot) was restricted on Wednesday. Backup TE Feleipe Franks (Wade), also the team’s third QB, did not practice Wednesday.
SERIES NOTES: The Bears have won three of the last four in the series, including the last two in Atlanta. … The Falcons’ previous home win over the Bears was a 21-14 decision in 2009. … The Falcons won 2017 in Chicago, 23-17. … Atlanta won five straight games against Chicago from 1972-1972. 77. …The Bears won five straight games against the Falcons from 1985 to 1993.
Stats and Stuff: The Hawks are 3-2 at home and the Bears are 1-4 on the road. … The Bears are averaging 201.7 yards in the league and became the first team in the Super Bowl era to rush for at least 225 yards in five straight games after finishing with 258 yards last week. … Kmet ranks second among NFL tight ends with five touchdown catches with Baltimore’s Mark Andrews, trailing only Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (eight). All five came in the past three games. … Rookie LB Jack Sanborn had his first two sacks last week. … K Cairo Santos has made all 14 field goal attempts despite missing 3 of 20 extra points, including one last week. … Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson played for Chicago in 2019-20. … Patterson has rushed to five TDs in six games. He returned last week after missing four games following knee surgery. … RB Tyler Allgeier is fourth among the rookies with 443 rushing yards. … WR Drake London has three TD catches. London’s 38 catches for 407 yards each rank third among rookies. … TE Kyle Pitts has TD catches in two of his last three home games.
FANTASY TIP: Kmet has become a leading target for Fields – and a surprising tight-knit fantasy producer. The Bears rank last in the league in passing, making it easy to overlook Kmet’s five TD receptions in the past three weeks. Kmet has 11 catches in that span, including four for a season-high 74 yards and two TDs over the past week.
AP NFL Coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL