Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Tue Nov 29, 2022 12:29 pm

This was an era within this division that Bud Grant's Vikings became mediocre while, basically, the rest of the division remained mediocre as well. Until Ditka's Bears assumed control, that is!

Each winning ten games as opposed to nine, I guess you can call the '79 Bucs & Bears both better than mediocre. But really not by much. Tampa Bay at least now had a semblance of an offense to go with that D, but that 5-0/last-unbeaten-team start aside, their regular season campaign was not all that impressive. The very next week they lose to the 0-5 Giants! And then get plastered at home vs New Orleans, 42-14! They bounce back, going 4-1 from there, but against all losing teams. And then the season-ending skid which maybe (maybe) a monsoon helped put to an end to in the finale, thus TB sliding in as division champs. Yes, they beat the Eagles and go to the NFCC - yes, massive accomplishment - but I always felt that Chicago (who really should have beaten Philly as well) was the stronger of the two if I had to pick. Bears did have a tougher schedule.

If strike-shortened 1982 is enough of a sample-size, I may pick the '82 Bucs as #1 in this exercise. They start 0-3, give Dallas at Dallas a good game as they also did at Min and vs Wash. And then starting with a win over Miami in Week #4, they end things on a 5-1 note and give Cowboys another good game on the road. Extremely likely, to me, that they win at least 10 games (I'll lean toward 11) had '82 gone full. #2 if you want to include ’82? How about the Pack? A strong-second they’d be IMO.

Now if '82 isn't enough a sample-size? Then I'll give it to the '78 Vikings. Better than '79 TB/Chi, and noticably better than any of the 9-7 division winners that would follow. Yes, they slid into the playoffs - and got HAMMERED in LA - but Tarkenton and plenty of that crew were still around. They still showed signs that season of what they were most of the decade. Quality-wins vs Denver, Green Bay (and then, later, a tie), at Dallas, and Vermeil's playoff-bound Eagles definitely a must-mention!
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Bryan » Tue Nov 29, 2022 2:45 pm

74_75_78_79_ wrote:If strike-shortened 1982 is enough of a sample-size, I may pick the '82 Bucs as #1 in this exercise. They start 0-3, give Dallas at Dallas a good game as they also did at Min and vs Wash. And then starting with a win over Miami in Week #4, they end things on a 5-1 note and give Cowboys another good game on the road. Extremely likely, to me, that they win at least 10 games (I'll lean toward 11) had '82 gone full


Bucs are projected to have gone 3-6 in 1982 based on their stats, mainly their -20 point differential in 9 games. I don't think they were that strong of a team.

I think the 'best' team would have to be the 79 Bucs because they actually made the NFC championship game. But that team was very one-dimensional. In terms of overall strength, the 1980 Lions and 1982 Packers were basically the only NFC central teams of that entire era to be relatively good on both offense and defense (which is kind of sad).
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Brian wolf » Tue Nov 29, 2022 6:03 pm

I would take the 1980 Vikings, who had the offense to go all the way but had too many turnovers in the divisional playoff against the Eagles. In retrospect, I think the 79 Eagles were better than the Bucs but were either worn down from the WC game against Chicago or took them lightly in the Big Sombrero but the Bucs whipped them before their inexperience showed against the Rams ...
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Citizen » Wed Nov 30, 2022 8:40 am

The pickings are slim from this era, but I would cast a vote for the 1980 Lions. They had super-rookie Billy Sims, an efficient quarterback in Gary Danielson, and a pretty good bend-but-don't-break defense. A week 10 blowout loss to Minnesota took the wind out of their sails, and they lost two games after that against mediocre St. Louis and Chicago teams because of special-teams breakdowns in the 4th quarter or overtime. If they can avoid one or two of those calamities and hang on to the division lead they held for most of the season, I think they fare OK in the playoffs.

Boy, that was one bad division between the Vikings' and Bears' title runs.
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby GameBeforeTheMoney » Wed Nov 30, 2022 11:37 am

The 83 Lions lost to the 49ers by 1 point in the playoffs at Candlestick. So, that's something. 49ers scored a TD late in the game -- the usually dependable Eddie Murray missed a last-second field goal.

The Packers also had a lot of talent in 83 -- Lofton, Jefferson, a good linebacking corps. Had a lot of close games.

It was a fun division to watch growing up during those years. Might not have been the best teams in the league but a lot of close games and you had a lot of excellent players to watch. Payton and Sims were great running backs of course, but guys like Matt Suhey and Gerry Ellis, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, they were really good players. The Tommy Kramer Vikings made some magic. The Lions had the Silver Rush. Alan Page was on the Bears. Chuck Foreman's last seasons. I think Tarkenton played in 78. The Chester Marcol play against the Bears. Again, might not have been the greatest teams but some memorable players and games and it sure got me hooked on the NFL.
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Todd Pence » Wed Nov 30, 2022 2:56 pm

Brian wolf wrote:I would take the 1980 Vikings, who had the offense to go all the way but had too many turnovers in the divisional playoff against the Eagles.



The Vikings had only lost the incredible number of three fumbles during the regular season, one of the lowest ever totals for a 16GS. Unfortunately, they matched that total in that one postseason game.
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Todd Pence » Wed Nov 30, 2022 3:14 pm

Citizen wrote:The pickings are slim from this era, but I would cast a vote for the 1980 Lions.


The Lions were sort of snakebit during the early years of the 1980's. In addition to the meltdown of the 1980 team; the next couple of years they missed opportunities too. In '81 they had a team poised to win the division and beat the Super Bowl champ 49ers and the Cowboys. After Gary Danielsen was lost for the year for the second time in three years, they came up with a diamond in the rough in Eric Hipple. They were 7-0 at home when they faced the Buccaneers in the Silverdome for a winner-take-all game. Although the Lions outplayed the Bucs, the Bucs made the big plays and took the crown.

In 1982, the Lions missed out on a higher playoff seed in the strike tourney when they lost on Thanksgiving when Lawrence Taylor returned an interception 95 yards to steal the game for the Giants. They wound up with the eighth seed and were trounced out by the top-seeded Redskins. They finally broke through and took the Central title in '83, although in truth they did less to win the title than the other teams did to lose it. And then they narrowly missed upsetting the 49ers and getting a rematch with the 'Skins. But that was the end of the run, such as it was. In 1984, an aging roster, the lost of Billy Sims (the heart and soul of the offense) with a career-ending injury, and the emergence of the Bears as the division's dominant team sent the Lions into the abyss for most of the rest of the decade.

I just realized that in this six-year stretch, the '79 Bucs were the division's only champ to have double-digit wins.
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Brian wolf » Wed Nov 30, 2022 3:45 pm

Not only were the Lions snakebit like you said Todd but their blowout win over the Bears in 1981 on MNF, forced the Bears to change an already tough defense into adapting the 46 scheme which would help vault the team into a powerhouse once they acquired a decent QB. Losing Al Baker hurt the Lions tremendously ...
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Re: Best NFC Central team, '78-thru-'83?

Postby Bryan » Wed Nov 30, 2022 5:21 pm

GameBeforeTheMoney wrote:It was a fun division to watch growing up during those years. Might not have been the best teams in the league but a lot of close games and you had a lot of excellent players to watch. Payton and Sims were great running backs of course, but guys like Matt Suhey and Gerry Ellis, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, they were really good players. The Tommy Kramer Vikings made some magic. The Lions had the Silver Rush. Alan Page was on the Bears. Chuck Foreman's last seasons. I think Tarkenton played in 78. The Chester Marcol play against the Bears. Again, might not have been the greatest teams but some memorable players and games and it sure got me hooked on the NFL.


One thing that stood out to me was how inconsistent all the QBs were, which made the overall results every year very hard to predict. Lynn Dickey, Tommy Kramer, Eric Hipple, Vince Evans, Doug Williams...all of them could suddenly catch fire and have a great game, and then follow it up with three straight terrible games. Vince Evans had a game against the Packers in 1980 where he hit every deep pass and had a perfect QB rating in a 61-7 win...the Bears had lost to the Packers 12-6 earlier in the season. The following week, Vince Evans throws 0 TDs and 4 INTs while posting a 20.8 rating in a loss to the lowly Bengals.

All of those QBs had fairly long careers, yet the only time Dickey and Kramer won postseason games was in the 1982 tournament (IIRC). I don't think Hipple or Evans ever won playoff games. It was funny that in the 1987 NFC Championship game you almost had Williams facing off against Kramer...but Williams was on the Redskins and Kramer had been replaced by Wade Wilson for the Vikes.
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