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2011 season preview: Lions Fever!

I’m not ducking you.

I realize some of you got a sneak peak this morning if you follow my colleague Mike Sando’s NFC West blog.

But I’m here now to say it loud and with all sincerity.

After several Twitter teases, I can offer you confirmation.

I’ve got Lions Fever.

I picked the Detroit Lions to make the playoffs this season as part of our ESPN.com 2011 season preview.

(Crowd goes oooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve got the Lions finishing second in the NFC North behind the Green Bay Packers. (We weren’t asked to predict final records.) I slotted the Chicago Bears third and the Minnesota Vikings fourth.

I won’t try to give you a detailed explanation. Most of you know predictions aren’t my favorite part of covering the NFL. I consider them valuable mostly as entertainment and base them almost entirely on gut feeling, pulling on past experience from overthinking NCAA Tournament brackets.

As those of you who follow this blog know, I think there is a lot to like about the Lions. They have a clear identity, and for the first time in a decade, you can visualize how they might win games. Their young quarterback has a strong command of what appears to be an explosive offense, and their defensive line is among the most disruptive in the league.

My sense of the Bears is that they have more moving parts than a reigning division champion should. But I’ll also admit that I’ve had a harder time predicting their fortunes than any other team since this blog began in 2008. I’m pretty sure I picked them to finish behind the (0-16) Lions that season. For what it's worth, ESPN.com's consensus vote had the Bears second in the division.

You’ll no doubt view this post as an attempt to sit the fence or otherwise couch my picks. Not so. I stand behind all of them and will accept any barbs that come my way. All I’m telling you is that if the NFL were reasonably predictable, it wouldn’t be half as popular as it is.

A few other NFC North-related thoughts based on our predictions page:

  • All 12 voters picked the Packers to win the division. I was one of two, along with Jeffri Chadiha, to pick the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions. I think the talent and balance of their roster gives them the best chance to do it since the mid-2000’s New England Patriots. The Patriots, by the way, were ESPN.com’s consensus Super Bowl champion with six votes.

  • I was one of four who voted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as MVP. John Clayton, NFC West blogger Mike Sando and AFC West blogger Bill Williamson did the same.

  • Two other voters joined me in picking the Lions as an NFC wildcard: NFC East blogger Dan Graziano and Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. So I’m not completely (or just singularly) crazy.

  • Graziano, Bill Williamson and myself all voted for Lions coach Jim Schwartz as coach of the year. Clayton voted for Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

  • The Vikings were ESPN.com's consensus fourth-place team. I don't think they'll have a terrible season, but this is arguably the most competitive division in the NFL.

For those interested, follow these links to the preview pages for each team:

Bears preview

Lions preview

Packers preview

Vikings preview.

OK. It's your turn. Go.