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THE NFC CENTRAL
William F. Reed
December 25, 1995
Holiday memo to NFC Central fans: Santa Claus is coming to town, and he's not a happy camper. He is weary of all those faxes from owners asking for new stadiums or leases. He is tired of everybody whining about ineffective defenses. He is sad that the erstwhile Black-and-Blue division has become a high-tech video game that you can't win without scoring a zillion points.
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December 25, 1995

The Nfc Central

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Detroit Lions

THE STOCKING'S STUFFED: Potentially, the Lions have the best offense in the league. Barry Sanders remains his usual spectacular self, and nobody has finer wide-outs than Herman Moore, Brett Perriman and Johnnie Morton. Scott Mitchell has eliminated his inconsistency and looks as if he'll be a productive NFL quarterback for years to come. Tackle Lomas Brown and center Kevin Glover were named to the Pro Bowl, although both will become free agents in the off-season. "Offensively, we have the right ingredients," says Chuck Schmidt, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

WISH LIST: Defensively, the Lions need help just about everywhere, especially in the line and at cornerback. "We may need to make some personnel changes," says Schmidt. "We haven't run-defended all that well." More production from defensive end Luther Elliss, the Lions' top 1995 draft pick, would also be nice. He's 0 for the season in sacks.

DECK THE HALLS: The Lions are so unhappy with their Silverdome lease that they've floated the idea of building a stadium in downtown Detroit. "We're attempting to work out something with the Silverdome," Schmidt says. "Absent that, we'll consider other alternatives. We need to do something. We get no revenue from any stadium sources."

THE ORNAMENT AT THE TOP: Coach Wayne Fontes remains under the playoffs-or-else mandate that owner William Clay Ford issued after the Lions fell to 3-6.

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION: Shore up the defense and, if Fontes goes, bring in a coach who can help the offense maximize its vast potential. Can anybody imagine what Florida's Steve Spurrier would do with this bunch?

Minnesota Vikings

THE STOCKING'S STUFFED: Warren Moon, who has had a far better season than any 39-year-old quarterback has a right to expect, will return for another year. Wideout Cris Carter belongs in the Jerry Rice-Michael Irvin category. The offensive line is a nice mix of young ( tackle Korey Stringer) and old ( guard Randall McDaniel). On defense strong safety Orlando Thomas, who leads the NFL with eight interceptions, should be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

WISH LIST: The Vikings may have to replace defensive coordinator Tony Dungy, who'll get a long look from every NFL team in the market for a head coach. Whoever's in charge will need to get more consistency from a defense that has been overpowering only at times. "We'll be looking for more depth on defense, especially cover help in the secondary," says Jeff Diamond, vice president for administration and team operations. The Vikings also hope that running back Robert Smith, who in eight games has rushed for 599 yards, can stay healthy for a full season.

DECK THE HALLS: The Vikings are awaiting the findings of a state task force that's exploring the value of sports franchises and their facility needs. "We're in the bottom quarter of the league, revenuewise, and heading south," says Diamond. "We need to generate more revenue streams, because we have very unfavorable lease terms and concessions agreements. That hurts when we're competing with the big signing bonuses."

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