Pro Bowl Bound

Even though the votes have been tallied, several Bears have a chance to prove why they should be headed to Hawaii in front of a national TV audience against the Falcons.

Despite having the 28th ranked offense in the league, the Bears are guaranteed of having at least one member of the unit to go to Hawaii. Aside from the fact that Olin Kreutz makes his off-season home in his native state, he's one of the best centers in the game. He's gone to four consecutive Pro Bowls and there's no reason to think a fifth isn't in order.

RB Thomas Jones put up Pro Bowl numbers early in the season, but his production has trailed off. He's averaging 72.7 yards over the last five games. Even though he's fifth in the NFC in rushing with 1,077 yards, there are several backs having monster years.

Tiki Barber claimed the NFL rushing lead with 220 yards against the Chiefs in the Giants 27-17 victory on Saturday. He has 1,577 yards with Shaun Alexander, who has 1,496 yards and 23 touchdowns, left to play.

The Bears will face the third leading rusher in the conference. Warrick Dunn is having a career year with 1,247 yards and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Clinton Portis is also ahead of Jones with 1,184 yards and eight touchdowns.

Jones has accounted for 36.5 percent of the offense, which is third in the NFL behind Barber and Buffalo RB Willis McGahee.

Honorable mention: John Tait provided stability at left tackle, which was a turnstile for the team last year when the offense surrendered a league high 66 sacks.

Defensively there are players at each level of the unit that deserve to be recognized.

LE Adewale Ogunleye has proven why the Bears felt his was the missing piece to the defensive line. He leads the team with 9.0 sacks, which is tied for third in the NFC. He's also pacing the d-line with 71 tackles.

After not going to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his five-year career, Brian Urlacher is back and is a lock to go the game for the fifth time. He has 147 tackles, 6.0 sacks and is the leader on the league's best defense.

There's a chance that Lance Briggs will join Urlacher in Hawaii. Briggs was a Pro Bowl alternate in his second season and that's often a precursor for young players to get the honor. He has a slight edge over Urlacher for the team lead in tackles with 151 stops. He also has three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two sacks and an interception.

Nathan Vasher is second in the NFC with 7 interceptions and tops among cornerbacks. He has the big plays that get league wide recognition, such as his 108-yard return of a missed field goal for a touchdown.

The defense didn't look like the same unit against the Steelers without Mike Brown. Obviously the poor performance can't be put solely on playing without the strong safety, but his leadership is undeniable. The same can be said of playmaking ability. He's fourth on the team in tackles (89) and third in interceptions (3). He's never been to the Pro Bowl and it's time he receives the recognition he deserves.

Honorable Mention: CB Charles Tillman has four interceptions, three of which could have gone for touchdowns. He did pick off Jeff Garcia and return the ball 22 yards for a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Lions, but two of his other interceptions were returned to the 3 and 7 respectively. The problem is he's been beat deep on several occasions and that will hurt his chances.


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