Divisional Issues

The Bears finished at the bottom of the NFC North in 2004, but in the quick fix state of the NFL that could easily be reversed next season.

The trade of Randy Moss could change the face of the division.

"I think our division as a whole was weakened when he left," Lovie Smith said. "He's a great player, he meant a lot to the Vikings. It should help us and the rest of the teams in our division."

The Bears have had their ups and downs against Moss. In 14 games against the Bears, Moss had 86 receptions for 1,155 yards 10 touchdowns.

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera joked that he would give Moss a going away part. In his only season game planning for Moss, Rivera had mixed reviews.

In their trip to the Metrodome, Moss caught 7 balls for 119 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Bears were without Charles Tillman, Mike Brown and Jerry Azumah.

In the second matchup of the year, the Bears held Moss to four receptions for 31 yards thanks in part to the return of Tillman and cheating a safety to his side of the field.

"It helps you when a great player like that does change teams and conferences," Rivera said. "Now we're thinking if we can get that guy up in Green Bay to retire we'd feel real good about things."

While Brett Favre appears set to return for his 15th season in the league, the Packers look to be on a downturn. In one day, Green Bay lost starting guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle.

The Packers have had one of the best offensive lines in football for years and taking away forty percent of the unit will not only impact Favre's ability to pass, but his 205 consecutive start streak could come to an end.

Smith still places beating Green Bay as a priority, in his first season as the head coach he took the Bears into Lambeau and soundly beat the Packers.

"To win the division it normally goes through Green bay; nothing has changed," Smith said. "Of course the Vikings have been on top, but I think it's a balanced division."

The Lions were the only team in the division in to sweep the Bears. In the national perspective, Detroit is the team on the rise with young offensive weapons RB Kevin Jones and WR Roy Williams.

However, the Lions face a similar problem to that of the Bears. The quarterback position is an unknown. Joey Harrington has not proven to be the player Detroit thought they were getting with the third pick in the 2002 draft.

Both Chicago and Detroit are looking at Kurt Warner, yet his most likely destination is Arizona.

The Lions defense has a few impact players, including DT Shaun Rogers and CB Dre Bly. Overall the unit lacks depth.

The Bears had the best defense in the division statistically in '04 and the unit should only get better with time together. The starting unit is expected back, as are the top backups.

The Vikings are trying to upgrade their defense and signed DT Pat Williams to a three-year $13 million deal on Wednesday. He'll start along side Pro Bowler Kevin Williams. Mix in the addition of LB Napoleon Harris, who was acquired in the Moss deal, and Minnesota's 21st rated rush defense should improve.

The team is likely to use at least one of their two first round picks on adding talent in the secondary. Last year the Vikings pass defense finished tied for 27th in the league.

Green Bay is also likely to look for help in the secondary through the draft. The Packers have also lost unrestricted safety Bhawoh Jue to the San Diego Chargers.

Considering their salary cap situation, the Packers won't be players in free agency. There is a chance Darren Sharper will have to be released. Meanwhile, restricted free agent defensive end Aaron Kampman is being courted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.


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