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No, it’s not “fair”. Look, the world is going to be different for the Green Bay Packers in the post-Aaron Rodgers era. They have the worst odds to win the NFC North for the 1st time since 2006, per SportsOddsHistory.com.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur has a 71.2% career winning rate (47-19). LaFleur won 13 games in each of his 1st three seasons and three-peated as NFC North champions from 2019-21.
Furthermore, I’m higher on Green Bay’s supporting cast than Rodgers was last year. Rodgers deserves more of the blame than mainstream media gives him for the Packers missing the playoffs in 2022.
In 2022, Rodgers was 27th in QBR and 20th in adjusted yards per pass attempt and completion rate and expected points added per play (EPA/play) blended with completion percentage over expectation.
Green Bay’s offensive line was 5th in ESPN’s pass-blocking win rate last season. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked WR Christian Watson as the 24th-best receiver in the NFL, out of 113 graded WRs.
Moreover, the Packers’ backfield is one of the best in football. PFF graded Packers RBs Aaron Jones 6th and A.J. Dillon 10th out of 60 NFL running backs last season.
This was a mutual divorce. Frankly, Rodgers’ behavior over the last two seasons has been chicken-bleep. He whined about not having more influence in football personnel and threatening to retire to become the next Jeopardy host.
The Packers granted Rodgers his trade request and shipped him off to a cursed New York Jets team. That said, the AFC East is much tougher than the NFC North and Rodgers won’t be a top-five QB in his new conference.
Let’s discuss Green Bay’s divisional foes …
NFC North Division Odds
- Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Chicago Bears (+350)
Green Bay should NOT have longer odds than Chicago to win the NFC North. I get going from Rodgers, who’s a year removed from winning back-to-back NFL MVPs, to 3rd-year QB Jordan Love is a huge downgrade.
Rodgers is a Super Bowl champion and will go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Packer. Love lost his only NFL start back in 2021 and Green Bay’s WR corp projects to be a bottom-10 unit.
But, the same can be said about Chicago’s pass catchers and Bears QB Justin Fields was 28th in on-target percentage in 2022. Fields had the 3rd-highest pressure rate last season.
The numbers indicate Fields was pressured due to slow decision-making more so than Chicago’s offensive line. Per ESPN, the Bears had the 2nd-best pass-blocking win rate in 2022 behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
Plus, the Bears were 3-14 last year and not an “offseason away” from being a playoff team. Chicago had the 2nd-worst net EPA/play and net yards per play last season.
Minnesota Vikings (+350)
They should be the odds-on favorite to win the NFC North. The Vikings were 13-4 in 2022, Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins is probably the best in the division, and WR Justin Jefferson won the 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Everyone knows Minnesota was worse than its record last year. That was confirmed when the NY Giants upset the Vikings 31-24 in the 2023 NFC Wild Card game. They won 11 one-score games in 2022 and have a 1st-place schedule in 2023.
Minnesota was 21st in net EPA/play (-0.025) last season and 25th in net yards per play (-0.5) despite having the 5th-best injury luck, per Football Outsiders.
Giants QB Dan Jones torched the Vikings, exposing their biggest weakness: Defense. Jones threw for 301 yards vs. Minnesota with a 2/0 TD/INT rate and rushed for 78 yards.
The Vikings did address their defense this offseason by signing pass rusher Marcus Davenport and CB Byron Murphy. But, Minnesota’s secondary is still subpar even with the addition of Murphy.
And how in God’s name are the defending NFC North champion Vikings priced the same as the 3-win Bears to win the division? If I didn’t like the Lions’ trend line and their offseason moves, I’d bet “Packers/Vikings Division Duel Forecast” at +750.
Detroit Lions (+110)
Most NFL talking heads thought Lions QB Jared Goff was a bridge to another franchise QB entering last season. Now Goff is the starter for a cursed Detroit organization that’s the favorite to win the NFC North?
I made money betting on the frisky Lions last season but this is a little too much, too soon. Granted, the NFC North is one of the weaker divisions in the NFL and Detroit looked like a top-five NFC team at the end of 2022.
Yet Football Outsides graded the Lions 28th in defensive efficiency in 2022, they were 31st in defensive EPA/play and got smacked 37-23 in a must-win Week 16 tilt at the Carolina Panthers.
Detroit isn’t exactly on the doorstep of greatness like the betting market seems to think it is. If Goff falls back to an average starting NFL QB or the Lions get cluster-injuries then Detroit could have one its standard 10-loss seasons.
What should the true NFC North Odds be?
To be clear, I’m a “handicapper” but not an “originator”. Meaning, the following odds and probabilities aren’t based on an NFL stat model. However, I’d argue I eyeball odds better than any computer.
- Minnesota Vikings: +175 (36.4% implied win probability).
- Detroit Lions: +225 (30.8% implied win probability).
- Green Bay Packers: +300 (25.0% implied win probability).
- Chicago Bears: +750 (11.8% implied win probability).
Green Bay was 8-9 last season and the 13-win Vikings should lose a couple of the coin-flip games they won last season. The best preseason odds for the Packers are “Yes to make the playoffs” at +220 on DraftKings.
Two 9-win teams made the 2023 NFC playoffs and three teams from the NFC East alone. All three NFC East teams play a tougher schedule this season and they could ruin each others’ chances at making the playoffs.
Regardless, I’m going to wait until the end of offseason training camps and preseason before making this bet. I need better odds than 10-to-1 before placing an NFL future wager before September 1st.
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