NFL Football: 2006 NFC North Preview

Offense: The Bears run-first attack will once again be led by running backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. The duo shared carries last season and this season will most likely start the same way. Look for Benson to become the featured back at some point this season. The Bears didn’t use a high first-round pick on Benson just to have him share carries. The QB in this offense, whether it be Rex Grossman (most likely), Kyle Orton or Brian Griese, will again be just a caretaker thanks to a ball-control offense and a suffocating defense. Chicago has a young group of wide receivers to go with Muhsin Muhammad. Justin Gage, Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian will challenge for the #2 WR spot. Chicago averaged just 256.3 yards and 16.3 points per game last season. Don’t expect much more in 2006.

Defense: Chicago’s unquestioned strength is their defense. This unit allowed only 12.6 points per game last season – tops in the league. Only CB Jerry Azumah (retired) and S Mike Green (trade) are gone from last year’s group. CB Ricky Manning was brought in via trade (Panthers) to fill the void left by Azumah’s absence. In 2005, the Bears D ranked second in yards allowed, tied for second in INTs, sixth in total takeaways and tied for eighth in sacks. The Bears do a great job of rushing the passer, led by ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. DT Tommie Harris also returns to stuff the middle. MLB Brian Urlacher leads a talented LB corps. The secondary features Mike Brown, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher. This group had 16 INTs and returned three of those for TDs last season.

Special Teams: This unit needs an upgrade. Kicker Robbie Gould connected on only 3 of 8 FG tries from outside 40 yards. The return teams left a lot to be desired as well. Speedy Bernard Berrian showed some promise and may give this unit a boost.

Prediction: The Bears, thanks to a suffocating defense and successful แทงบอลชุด ufabet running game, should run away with this division again in 2006.

2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Offense: New head coach Brad Childress will install his version of the West Coast offense. That suits QB Brad Johnson just fine. Johnson doesn’t have a strong arm, but he does have an accurate arm for those short-to-intermediate throws. Receivers Koren Robinson, Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson should thrive in this system. Look for TE Jermaine Wiggins to have another solid season as well. The key to this offense is whether RB Chester Taylor can carry the load. Taylor did well in spot situations while with the Ravens and will have the luxury of playing behind a solid offensive line led by guard Steve Hutchinson. Taylor, who is also a solid receiving threat, will also benefit from having FB Tony Richardson opening the running lanes for him. No Culpepper and no Moss, but this offense still has plenty of potential.