The Green Bay Packers didn't even win their division last season, but they still managed to become the Super Bowl champs.
Although the Chicago Bears claimed the NFC North title in 2010, the rival Packers proved to be the better team as they stole wins in two of the teams' three meetings.
The Bears may have a had a better record by a single game; however, the Pack never lost by more than four points in all six of their losses as they battled countless injuries to key players.
One could argue that Green Bay should have won the NFC North crown last season, but they have an even better chance in 2011 because of five key reasons.
The Packers had an average schedule last year and pulled through with a 10-6 record after playing six games against eventual playoff teams.
In 2011, they'll enter play tied for 13th among the NFL's toughest schedules and face off against five playoff teams from 2010. The Pack's upcoming opponents also had a combined record of 130-126 last season.
Green Bay's schedule is anything but easy, however. It will certainly give them an excellent shot at the top spot up North.
Chicago had a good season last year, and I won't take that away from them, but they probably won some games they shouldn't have, and their 11-5 record didn't really reveal how well they actually played.
The Bears will be fortunate to reach that mark again in 2011 as their offense continued a downward slide at the end of last season. It's tough to see Roy Williams becoming the wide receiver that Chicago craves, and Jay Cutler has yet to prove he can lead the team.
Their defense, which carried the team all season, is aging, and linebacker Lance Briggs is busy requesting a trade. They are weak in the secondary and if they plan to contain the Packers, they will have to be better.
Adrian Peterson is the only consistent piece in the puzzle of the Vikes' shaky system, and the NFC North title is not within their reach.
The Detriot Lions have been steadily improving since their winless season, and are gradually sneaking up on the rest of the teams in the NFC North.
Their defensive line appears dominant with the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and the offense continues to add weapons as well.
It remains to be seen if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, and rookie running back Mikel LeShoure is already lost for the year.
While the Lions may be on the rise, they aren't quite ready to make too much noise in the NFC North.
16 players on the injured reserve, plus several stars missing at least a game doesn't usually equal Super Bowl success.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers pulled it off and just missed re-taking the NFC North title, but now as the reinforcements return, nothing should stand in their way.
The addition of Jermichael Finley will literally bring in a completely new element to an already-explosive offense, and Ryan Grant will revive a dismal running game from a year ago.
The Packers have escaped through the preseason unscathed with the exception of Frank Zombo, Mike Neal and a few bumps and bruises here and there. On paper, the team looks better than the 2010 version from top to bottom.
The battle for the Black and Blue Division will begin on Thursday, and the Pack will have no excuses if they fail to supplant Chicago in 2011.