Bears Fever has overtaken Lions Fever

As you might have noticed, NFL Live is running a feature called "5 In, 5 Out." It's built around the fact that for 16 consecutive years, five teams have missed the playoffs after making it the previous year. The project set out to name the five 2011 playoff teams who will miss the 2012 playoffs, along with the five teams that will take their place.

Last week, the Chicago Bears were revealed as one of the five new playoff teams in 2012. In the video, posted in my absence by ESPN.com blog editors, analyst Herm Edwards noted the Bears have made the appropriate moves to enhance their passing game around a healthy Jay Cutler. I set forth that argument, along with some other points, in a recent Blogger Blitz video.

Thursday evening, the Detroit Lions were revealed to be one of five 2011 playoff teams that will miss the postseason in 2012. I imagine this debate will continue throughout the summer and fall here on the blog, so for now I'll publish the primary talking points from ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Damien Woody as a foundation for our discussions.

  1. The Lions have had a poor reaction to success this offseason, noted Schlereth, with six arrests. "Can you play with more discipline this season?" Schlereth asked.

  2. Woody noted the Lions' defense ranked in the bottom third of the NFL last season despite its strength along the defensive line. "And there are still major questions in the secondary," Woody said.

  3. Woody is concerned that the Lions' top two running backs, Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, are returning from injuries.

  4. The Bears' newfound strength has made it tougher to secure a wild-card, presuming the Green Bay Packers win the division, according to Woody. He added: "I give the edge to the Bears."

  5. Schlereth is concerned that the Lions "at times" struggled to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford last season.

If nothing else, what we've done the past month or so is set up the parameters for what public discussion of this division will soon look like. The Packers remain the title favorites, while the Bears have leapfrogged the Lions in the estimation of many. I have officially taken no position, a space that provides me maximum opportunity to stir the masses as training camp approaches.