I was concerned about 2010 fatigue this week when I asked for some help in compiling our All-NFC North team. It's been almost six weeks since the end of the regular season, and I figured many of you had moved on to offseason mode.
More than 800 responses later -- via the comments, Twitter and the mailbag -- I am glad to admit my concerns were unwarranted. There was great interest in putting this team together, and you can see the results in the chart to your right. Below, I've offered explanations and context for the final decisions.
From the top, many of you were surprised that I didn't make Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson a "lock." Wrote kprugger2010: "I will consume my first born child ... if you don't immediately make Adrian Peterson the undisputed/unanimous/worship-worthy RB on this list."
I realize Peterson led the division with 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing one game. But I thought Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte had an exceptional second half of the season, and I wanted to see where that conversation went. In the last six weeks of the season, during which the Bears locked up their NFC North title, Forte had the third-most yards from scrimmage (718) in the NFL.
In arguing Forte's case, drhodes77 wrote: "Forte for RB. No other real RB's in the league that did anything consistently. And by league I mean NFCN. Peterson had another standard year for him but in terms of being all important to his team, his team [stunk]."
In the end, I cheated a little and converted the TE/FB category to "RB." I thought both Peterson and Forte were among the top players in the division. Both were deserving of inclusion.
Offensive line was a struggle for me and many of you as well. The only position I felt certain about was right guard, which the Green Bay Packers' Josh Sitton manned consistently all season. The other four? Let's just say this wasn't the best year for NFC North offensive lines.
Although Packers left tackle Chad Clifton was named to the Pro Bowl, I went with the Detroit Lions' Jeff Backus. @JohnWayne506th pointed me in the direction of these STATS Inc. analyses for Clifton and Backus. By STATS' measure, Backus gave up half as many sacks as Clifton over the course of the season. Sack responsibility is open to interpretation, but others have shared in this opinion as well.
While Hutchinson's play slipped in 2010, I don't think any of us could argue that the Lions' Rob Sims, the Packers' Daryn Colledge or the Bears' Chris Williams was better. At center, it was pretty much a toss-up between Wells, the Lions' Dominic Raiola and the Bears' Olin Kreutz. I went with Wells because several Packers coaches and players said at the Super Bowl that he had his best-ever NFL season in 2010.
Right tackle was particularly challenging. I chose Bulaga because he had an uneventful year after making the conversion from left tackle. For offensive linemen, "uneventful" often equals "successful." I'll admit that isn't the most scientific explanation, and the Lions' Gosder Cherilus had a case here. But as hendrix197731 noted, the Lions' offensive line was ranked No. 32 in the NFL by Football Outsiders, whose methods I trust. In a close decision, that ranking pushed me in the other direction.
Moving over to defense, I picked the Vikings' Jared Allen over the Packers' Cullen Jenkins and the Lions' Kyle Vanden Bosch. Allen had more sacks (11) and was the only one among that trio who played in all 16 games.
Levy50613 pushed to have Bears linebacker Lance Briggs removed and replaced by the Vikings' Chad Greenway, a move I considered. Wrote Levy50613: "He had 20 more solo tackles than Briggs had total tackles! 144 total tackles for Greenway. About 20 DB's had more tackles than Briggs (89)."
Ultimately, I wasn't going to downgrade Briggs based on tackles, an unofficial statistic. Greenway had a really good season, but I'm good with Briggs on this list.
There was some discussion about making the Vikings' Antoine Winfield the second cornerback, but I agreed with LamboLeak's observation of the Super Bowl: "We saw what happened when [Woodson] went out of the game Sunday: 21-3 turned into a game." Woodson had a quieter season in 2010 than he did in 2009, but that doesn't mean his play slipped beyond that of All-NFC North status.
As for safety, I flipped several times between the Bears' Chris Harris and the Lions' Louis Delmas to pair with the Packers' Nick Collins. I think we can agree that Harris -- like Forte -- was exceptional during the Bears' division title push. Harris had all five of his interceptions after the Bears' Week 8 bye.
Finally, special teams provided an opportunity to let flow my Vikings bias. (SARCASM ALERT.) Place-kicker Ryan Longwell missed only one field goal all season and punter Chris Kluwe led the division in net average (38.9) and punts downed inside the 20-yard line (32). I realize that Kluwe punted 12 more times than the candidate many of you pushed for, the Packers' Tim Masthay, but I didn't consider that difference large enough to make up for their respective production disparity.
Again, thanks to everyone for participating. Hopefully, the NFL's looming labor strife won't disrupt our plans to do it all over again next year.