The NFC North was another one of those divisions that saw a five-game gap between first and second place. But it's really hard to blame second place when they made the playoffs at 10-6.
Green Bay was the annual "will they go 16-0" team. The answer was no, but they came pretty close. Besides a strange 19-14 loss to Kansas City in Week 15, the Packers cruised through the regular season and were heavy postseason favorites following their 15-1 campaign.
Apparently, though, relieving the pressure of pursuing a perfect season did not help as the Giants booted them from the playoffs with a dominating 37-20 performance.
Honestly, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong for the Packers on that day, did. They had gone through the season (nearly) without incident, and it all just came crashing down in one bad outing.
The Lions surprised many as they climbed their way back into relevancy. It is amazing when you think about their ascent from their 0-16 2008 season, to 2-14 in '09, 6-10 in '10, all the way to 10-6 in 2011.
Clearly Matthew Stafford is a keeper at the quarterback position (throwing for over 5,000 yards), and that defense they have been building in the draft finally started to come together. Calvin Johnson was far and away the best receiver in football, hauling in 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 TDs.
The Lions fell short on wild-card weekend to a blazing hot Saints team, but for that franchise, the playoff appearance was a huge victory.
The Bears were a solid team through Week 11 last year. They stood at 7-3 and looked to be in contention for the wild card (which Detroit eventually ended up with). But they lost both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte for the season in a game against San Diego.
Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber filled in, and you wouldn't be surprised to know that the Bears promptly dropped five games in a row and dropped like a stone out of the playoff hunt. I have no doubts that a healthy Bears team would have been a major player in the 2011 postseason.
And Minnesota. The Donovan McNabb experiment lasted only six games before the Vikings realized they were about five years and 30 pounds too late.
Then, they undertook the Christian Ponder experiment (which sounds like something a youth church group would be involved in), which was interesting, to say the least.
Ponder looks great at times and downright atrocious at others. He was even benched in the last two weeks to make way for Joe Webb, who was hands-down the most exciting of the three options.
Mega superstar Adrian Peterson was sidelined after a torn ACL, but they were 2-7 with him in the lineup anyway. Clearly, there is a lot to be fixed in Minnesota.