NFL Futures: NFC North

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In a little over 10 weeks, the greatest sport and the best sport to gamble on returns. People have started to break down who will be on their fantasy team, and fans have convinced themselves that this will be their year, even though their team missed the playoffs last year. This is the time when fans are the most hopeful, no injuries are happening in training camp, and your heart isn’t broken because you haven’t yet realized that your team sucks. 

Today we look at the NFC North. The division that the Green Bay Packers have ruled. The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings have had little flare-ups where they were the top dog, but it’s mostly been the Packers. In the last 15 years, the Packers have won the Division 8 times. The next closest teams are the Vikings and Bears, both winning it 4 times in that time span, and the lonely Lions haven’t won the division once in 15 years. Will this year be the year of the Packer’s domination again? Or will the Vikings right their defense, or will the Bear’s new rookie quarterback Justin Fields carry Chicago to a division title? Sorry, Detroit, I truly think you have zero chance of even coming close.

Green Bay Packers -125 To Win Division. Over Under N/A

Another season is here, and another season of Aaron Rodgers being pissed off. A couple of years ago, it was because Green Bay drafted Jordan Love in the first round. This year it’s because they haven’t given Rodgers more weapons, and coach Matt LaFleur decided to take the cowards way out and not go for the win in the NFC Conference Championship. If you forgot, the Packers were down 23-31 to Tampa Bay with 2:09 left in the game. Aaron Rodgers led the team to the red zone. They failed to convert on their first three attempts, and instead of giving the ball to Rodgers to tie the game, they decided to kick a field goal instead. Well, Rodgers never got the ball back, and Green Bay was sent home in a 26-31 loss. The drama is genuine this year as Rodgers skipped the mandatory minicamp and has demanded a trade. As of July 1st, he is still on the Packers, but who knows if we will ever see Rodgers in Lambeau Field ever again.

Last year Green Bay went 13-3 and lost in the NFC Conference Championship. They were led by a great offense, which is no surprise with Rodgers being your quarterback, but Rodgers wasn’t the only great offensive talent. WR Davante Adams and RB Aaron Jones completed the three-headed monster, which made the Packers be the 2nd best overall offense. Last year they were 1st in points, 5th yards, 9th passing yards, and 1st passing touchdowns. Their defense was the weak link and their demise as they finished as the 13th overall defense. They were 15th in points allowed, 9th yards allowed, 7th passing yards allowed, 13th rushing yards allowed, and 14th rushing touchdowns allowed.

Another offseason is almost gone where Packers fans convinced themselves that this was the year they get Rodgers more weapons, and another year has passed where fans are disappointed. Every Green Bay fan wanted them to trade for Julio Jones, but that didn’t happen, and the Titans got him instead. Their big offseason addition was QB Blake Bortles, which is, of course, sarcasm since Bortles has bounced around the league after his days in Jacksonville were over. The Packers lost RB Jamal Williams, C Corey Linsley, and DL Montravius Adams. Green Bay is known to develop through their draft, and it looks like they are doing that again since drafting OG Royce Newman, DT Tedarrell Slatin, and CB Shemar Jean-Charles.

The Packers have some hard games sprinkled in there with the Bills, Ravens, and Cheifs, but playing the Lions twice and the Bengals is a gift. Games against the Steelers, Browns, and Cardinals are all games where the Packers should be favored. Winning or losing those games will determine if they can win the NFC North.

Truthfully the Packers are the superior team in this division and will probably win this division if Rodgers plays, but at -125 odds, it’s not worth the bet. I know it’s a big what-if, but what if Aaron Rodgers is actually traded? I wouldn’t want to have money on the line and have to believe in Bortles or Love. I’m not picking Green Bay to win this division because I’m hoping for the drama that will happen if Rodgers is either traded or straight-up refuses to play. There are better odds out there where I want to put my money on a future.

Minnesota Vikings Win Division +250 Over 8.5 Wins -170 Under 8.5 Wins +145

The sportsbooks and the fans believe that the Vikings will turn this season around and get back to their winning ways. Last year they shot themselves in the foot at the beginning of the season, starting 1-5, and their defense was horrendous, allowing 192 points in those first six games. They went on to finish the year 7-9 and missed out on the Wild Card. Kirk Cousins only has this year and next to prove that he is a winner and can lead this Vikings team to a Super Bowl appearance.

Cousins like always had a meh season, it’s never horrible, but it’s never amazing with Cousins and last year was another point for that. The Vikings finished the season with the 16th overall offense. They were 11th in points per game, 4th yards, 14th pass touchdowns, 6th passing yards, 5th rushing yards, and 6th in rushing touchdowns. If Minnesota has any chance of winning this division it will be largely due to Dalvin Cook. Last year Cook had 16 rushing touchdowns, and 1557 yards. Another offensive player that will need to improve his game is Justin Jefferson. The star wide receiver finished with 1400 yards, 88 receptions, and 7 touchdowns. With Stefon Diggs gone the 2nd year wide receiver will need to lead this team in catches.

Mike Zimmer has always been known to run a great, hard nosed defense. Well that wasn’t the case last year the Vikings defense looked like a shell of their normal selves. In 2019-2020 season Minnesota finished as the 7th best overall defense. They weren’t close to that since they finished as the 23rd ranked overall defense. It was evenly distributed as the opposing teams passing and rushing game sliced them up. They finished 30th in points allowed, 27th yards allowed, 25th passing yards, 23rd passing touchdowns allowed, 27th rushing yards allowed, and 24th rushing touchdowns allowed. Will Mike Zimmer be able to turn this defense around or is this what the Vikings defense just is now?

They tried to tighten up their defense in the offseason adding CB Patrick Peterson, S Xavier Woods, and DT Dalvin Tomlinson. They also added more defense in the draft, drafting LB Chazz Surratt, and on the offensive side of the ball drafting OT Christian Darrisaw. With every offseason teams lose players. TE Kyle Rudolph, LT Riley Reiff, and S Anthony Harris are no longer on the team.

Like Green Bay, playing Detroit twice and the Bengals once are three gifts for the Vikings. Carolina should be an easy win other than those three games, but the rest of the schedule is against good teams. Cook and Jefferson will need to ignite the offense to keep up with Kyler Murray in Arizona and Lamar Jackson in Baltimore.

I’m shocked that the under has plus odds because, looking at the schedule, I see 7, maybe 8 wins. Maybe it was a fluke on why the Viking’s defense was bad; maybe Kirk Cousins can finally prove that he is a winner. Of course, there’s a game that will shake up differently than everybody thinks, but I don’t trust this Vikings defense, and I don’t trust Cook’s health or Cousins being a winner. So I’ll be better their under and will not be taking them to win the division.

Chicago Bears +320 Win Division Over 7.5 Wins -110 Under 7.5 Wins -110

What are Da Bears going to do with 17 games? You can no longer pencil them in for 8-8, well, unless a weird tie happens and they finish 8-8-1. The last two years, the Bears have finished 8-8; last year, they sneaked into the Wild Card. They got destroyed by the Saints 9-21, and it was clear that things would be shaken up. Many fans believed that coach Matt Nagy or general manager Ryan Pace would be fired; instead, they doubled down and traded up to draft QB Justin Fields. Matt Nagy has come out and said that QB Andy Dalton who the Bears added before drafting Fields, will be the “starter.” I put that in quotations because the second the Red Rocket looks bad, Chicago will pull him and put in Justin Fields. Will Fields be a superstar right away, or will the Bears actually keep playing Andy Dalton?

Khalil Mack once again led the Bears and finished last year with the 6th best overall defense. They were 12th in points allowed, 11th yards allowed, 12th passing yards allowed, 16th passing touchdowns allowed, and 2nd rushing touchdowns allowed. It couldn’t have been more opposite for Chicago on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears finished with the 30th overall offense. They finished 22nd in points, 26th yards, 22nd passing yards, 18th passing touchdowns, and 27th rushing touchdowns.

Hopefully, the Bears’ offense will look different with QB Mitchell Trubisky gone. However, Nagy still refused to run the ball and have a dynamic running offense even with their quarterback and passing struggles. In free agency, they also added RB Damien Williams and were able to resign Allen Robinson. The Bears defense lost CB Kyle Fuller, who finished with a 64.0 CB grade from PFF. In 2018 when the Bears defense looked unstoppable, he had an 81.4 CB grade. On defense, they added Jeremiah Attaochu in free agency. The Bears tried to tighten up their offensive line while drafting OT Teven Jenkins and OT Larry Borom.

Is it going to be after week five if the Bears lose to the Raiders when Justin Fields gets the nod to become the starter? Or will it be after week two when they lose an easy game against the Bengals? Making predictions might be useless if this team is completely different with Justin Fields starting. Or Fields might not be all his hyped up to be. Regardless, the Bears defense will keep them in games and all they need is an average offense and they could find themselves in the hunt for the division. The great defense, the hope of Fields becoming a superstar, +320 odds, and the hope that Aaron Rodgers is traded is why I’m betting on DA Bears to win the NFC North. I’m also betting on their over in wins if they can get to 8 wins in a 16 game season with Trubisky leading them why can’t they hit 8 wins in a 17 game season, and more competent quarterbacks.

Detroit Lions Win Division +2100 Over 5 Wins +100 Under 5 Wins -120

Poor Detroit hasn’t won the NFC North since 1991, and it looks their woes will continue for a while. Detroit has the 3rd highest odds to win their division; only Houston +2700 and Cincinnati +2300 have greater odds. The man who has been knocked and beaten year after year is finally gone since the Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and picks. The city of Detroit is all in on this rebuild and is no longer trying to win and rebuild simultaneously. It will be years until there’s a chance for the Lions to win this division, but let’s look at what they did last year and this offseason.

Stafford wasn’t the only one to leave Detroit. WR Kenny Golladay also left. Dan Campbell is the new head coach for the Lions and will have a lot of work. The Lions allowed 32.4 points which were the most of any team in the NFL. Their defense was ranked 26th overall; they were 32nd in yards allowed, 30th passing yards allowed, 32nd passing touchdowns allowed, and 30th rushing touchdowns. Their offense wasn’t exactly much better. They had the 27th overall offense; they finished 21st in points, 20th yards, 10th passing yards, 13th passing touchdowns, and 30th rushing yards. The loss of Stafford and Golladay is going to change those passing stats drastically.

They tried to add better defenders in the draft while drafting DT Levi Onwuzurike and DT Alim McNeil. They also tried to better their offensive line by drafting OT Penei Sewell.

Looking at this schedule, maybe they can squeak out wins against the Bengals, Broncos, and Falcons. That’s a big maybe, though unless they pull off some crazy upsets, this team might only win two games. So I’m betting their under, and I’m defiantly not betting on them to win the division.

Written by David Lawrence

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