Monday, August 28, 2006
As you may or may not know or care, I'm a big Vikings fan. I'd pay good money to see a Vikings Super Bowl win. Which is neither here nor there, I guess. But anyway, this results in me paying special attention to the NFC North, because that's obviously the Vikings domain. Which is why I'll preview each of the 4 teams in the division, because I don't really have the stamina to cover all the teams in depth. I'll go in alphabetical order, which means the Chicago Bears are up first.
About Last Year: It was a nice run for the Bears, no denying that. Led by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, they had the best defense in the NFL. They were fast, they tackled well, got to the QB, and were pretty good in coverage. In the regular season they only gave up 202 points, which was by far the tops in the league. All of this helped them go 11-5 despite an offense that was mediocre at best. Things improved once Kyle Orton was pulled for Rex Grossman, but Grossman wasn't exactly a world beater either. All in all, a season that started without a lot of expectations ended at 11-5 with a division title, and a 29-21 2nd round playoff loss to Carolina.
What they Added: First and foremost, they added a good QB to provide insurance if Rex Grossman can't stay healthy. Brian Griese has been very productive, but with Chris Simms coming up, there was no room for him in Tampa Bay. So far, he's look very solid in the preseason, and if Grossman struggles, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see Griese get the call at QB. Everywhere else, it was about depth. Most notably, they added to the defense with CB Ricky Manning Jr. With Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman already in place, Manning adds another talented part to the defense. In the draft, they also looked to add defensive depth, with guys like Danieal Manning, Dusty Dvoracek, and Jamar Williams. Apparently, you can't have too much of a good thing.
What they Lost: Not much. Jerry Azumah is gone, but they replaced him with Ricky Manning Jr and rookie Danieal Manning. Terrence Metcalf is gone, which decreases the depth at OG, but they're not going to miss him much I don't think. All in all, surprisingly little turnover on this Bears team.
What does this all mean? Well, it means the Bears are the favorites in a weak NFC North. Certainly they look like they'll have a great defense again, with basically everybody back. The questions are still with the offense... how much slack will Rex Grossman get? Can Cedric Benson be an every down back? Can one of the young WR become a big play guy? In the end, I'm guessing about 10-6 for the Bears and another division title. All the ingredients are there to be a good football team again - great defense, solid running game - they just need some consistency from the offense.