Isn't it fitting that the Black and Blue Division is ruled by the most efficient sacking team in the history of the National Football League?
The Chicago Bears (10-6) won their first division title since 1963, but, in the NFC Central, winning has become a curse. No Central Division champion has repeated since Minnesota in 1977-78.
But this year, no division team seems to stand a chance against one of the great defenses in the game. Were it not for a secondary comprised of four natural safeties, two of whom (Mike Richardson and Leslie Frazier) play cornerback, this would be a defense with no weak spots.
As it is, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, et al. led the league in total defense and rushing defense, broke the sack record with 72 and were second in the NFL against the pass. Now, if only rookie lineman William (the Refrigerator) Perry were svelte.
The Bears came within one game of the Super Bowl with an offense consisting of Walter Payton, but they would like a healthy quarterback, preferably Jim McMahon, for 1985.
The Green Bay Packers (8-8) won seven of their final eight games by scoring an average of 32 points. The way to improve more, thought Coach Forrest Gregg, was to beef up the offensive line.
He went for USC tackle Ken Ruettgers in the first round and San Diego State guard Rich Moran in the third. They should give Lynn Dickey and newly acquired Scott Brunner more time to find James Lofton (62 catches, 1,361 yards).
A young defense made leaps in '84, from last in the league in total defense in 1983 to 16th. Another giant step will come if the Pack gets more sacks, but change and youth on the line make that tough.
Change also is the rule for Tampa Bay (6-10). The Buccaneers' only coach, John McKay, retired and six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Lee Roy Selmon will miss the season because of back problems.
The Buccaneers' usually anemic offense was transfused by James Wilder's 1,544 yards on a league-record 407 carries, plus another 685 on 85 receptions. If Wilder can handle the weight, Coach Leeman Bennett probably will put it on his shoulders.
There are plenty of questions for the Detroit Lions (4-11-1). Who will start at quarterback, Eric Hipple or 12-year veteran Joe Ferguson, traded by Buffalo? Can Billy Sims come back after missing half of last season with a knee injury? Will fullback James Jones (532 yards rushing, 77 receptions for 662 yards) carry the load, now that veteran Dexter Bussey has retired?
The best part of the Minnesota Vikings (3-13) comes with age: returning Coach Bud Grant and kicker Jan Stenerud, 41, who made the Pro Bowl after making 20 of 23 field goal attempts.