The Chicago Bears head on the road to face the 4-2 Bengals at Paul Brown stadium this weekend. Five games into the season and things should be taking on a sense of urgency in the Windy City. A loss to the Bengals and a Vikings win and the chances of the Bears winning the NFC North title essentially go out the window.
Beyond the NFC North race the Bears playoff hopes like hinge on this key stretch of six games. Five of the next six opponents all figure to be battling for playoff spots, the Bears face the Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles over the next six games. Of those teams only the Browns are a team that is essentially out of the playoff race. So the Bears have to take care of business against teams they will likely be fighting a wild card playoff spot for.
The Bears have to overcome a rash of injuries on defense with the loss of starting linebackers Pisa Tiniosamoa and Brian Urlacher both now for the season. The return of Hunter Hillenmeyer to practice this week helps take the pressure of the injuries, from a depth perspective, the challenge now will be stopping Cedric Benson the league's third leading rusher.
Benson has gashed through some of the best rush defense's of late, providing balance to Pro Bowl level QB Carson Palmer and Chad OchoCinco and the Bengals' passing attack. The Bears' run defense's faces it's toughest challenge to date this season and it will be up to Jamar Williams, Nick Roach and Lance Briggs to get the job done. Football is a game of emotion and Benson will likely have plenty of emotion bubbling through his veins this weekend.
The Bears on the other hand should need no more motivation than needing to win this game to stay in the race for the NFC North. If the Vikings knock off the Steelers and the Bears lose the Bears will be three games back of the Vikings and may have to win out or pray that the Vikings hit some sort of near record flop of losses.
Facing the Bengals is not going to be easy since they have already proven they can play good teams and beat them. The Bengals are 4-2 and need to keep pace with the Steelers who they are even with atop the AFC North standings. The Bengals benefit from the opposite results this weekend, that is Bengals fans will be rooting for the Vikings to help them out against one of their chief rivals for a shot at the AFC North division title.
On the flip side the Bears have been able to stop the run pretty well the past two seasons and shouldn't have trouble stopping Benson because he doesn't represent the type of back that usually gives the Bears troubles. If the Bears do force the Bengals into third and long situations then the newly acquired Gaines Adams (who makes his debut Sunday) needs to help make a near immediate impact.
Adams is here primarily to help the Bears' third down defense. As stated by Jerry Angelo whey they scout a player like Adams they do so with third down in mind first and foremost. Given that the Bears rank 24th in the league in third down defense percentage, Adams needs to live up to his trade value.
To show that the Bears are ready for prime time they need this win on the road to prove they are a playoff worthy team. Beating a solid Bengals team will ease the tension a little bit, but facing five teams in the next six games who will likely be battling for the wild card will really go along way to defining the success of the 2009 Chicago Bears.
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