Our NFL season preview series takes us to the North, home of two of the fiercest divisions and rivalries in the history of the sport. We’ll start with the NFC North, where the offseason talk revolved around the Green Bay Packers and their “will they, won’t they” with Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers are joined in the NFC North by the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions. While the Bears and Vikings have enjoyed spurts of success lately, the King of the North has long been Rodgers’ Packers, who once again find themselves not just at the top of the division but as contenders for a Super Bowl.
It would be quite the swan song for Rodgers, who is all but gone after this season is over. Let’s dive into this NFL division and see what to expect from the Packers, and the rest of the North, this season.
Green Bay Packers (+1200 to Win Super Bowl; +600 to Win NFC; -160 to Win NFC North)
Considered one of the NFC’s best over the last decade, the Green Bay Packers may have reached the end of their window. At the very least, it appears to be the end of their window with future Hall of Famer, Aaron Rodgers.
In this league, it’s not often that one team replaces a Hall of Famer with another but that is exactly what the Packers did when they elevated Rodgers over a retiring Brett Favre. Two all-time greats played back-to-back of each other and yet, the Packers only have two championships to show for it, one for both the Favre and Rodgers’ eras.
Could the Rodgers’ era add one more ring to the collection though? There is no doubt the Packers are the class of the North but the NFC has become a race between four or five teams who can all make claim to a spot at the top.
In the offseason, the Packers made some moves to help solidify their spot. They brought back Randall Cobb, whose best career seasons were with Rodgers. They inked Aaron Jones to a new contract and still have Devante Adams, one of the NFL’s best receivers at the QB’s disposal. The Packers won the North by five wins last year and even if they don’t hold that margin in 2021-22, it’s hard to look at the rest of the division and see where any of the remaining teams will find two let alone five wins on Green Bay.
Minnesota Vikings (+4500 Super Bowl; +1800 NFC; +250 NFC North)
A few years ago the Minnesota Vikings were riding high. They reached the NFC Championship in 2018, coming just one win away from becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Well, history was not to be and since then, the Vikings have fallen on hard times. Not ridiculously hard times mind you, but enough that they haven’t made the playoffs since. The Vikings are a painfully average team and 2021-22 looks to be more of the same.
Granted, there is a lot of talent on this team, starting with running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Kirk Cousins is once again tasked with leading the offense but he really is the Vikings in a nutshell. Cousins is an average quarterback and even with top talent at key skill positions, Minnesota is still missing an X-Factor. That won’t be found on defense either as an aging Everson Griffen and Patrick Peterson can only do so much. This team was 25th against the pass last year and when you play in a division with Rodgers, and now Jared Goff, and rookie Justin Fields, that simply isn’t going to cut it.
Chicago Bears (+6600 Super Bowl; +2500 NFC; +500 NFC North)
Then there are the Chicago Bears. As 2021-22 begins, so too does the first Bears’ season without Mitch Trubisky at the helm since 2017, when they made one of the worst (in hindsight, but also at the time) decisions in recent memory. With Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson there for the taking, the Bears traded up to the second overall pick to take Trubisky.
Now, it wasn’t the pick per se that has this go down as a disaster because Trubisky was ranked as one of the top QBs going into the draft. It was the fact that the Bears traded up one spot in line, to take a guy the San Francisco 49ers were likely not to take, and to do so, gave up their third and fourth-round selections. So the Bears sacrificed three picks (and with them, a chance to make some progress as NFC North contenders), all for Trubisky.
As the 2021-22 begins, with the Bears 11th overall pick in Justin Fields set to try his hand as the franchise guy . . . well, sort of. The Bears have once again made an inexplicable QB decision as they are planning to start Andy Dalton at the beginning of the season. Every win counts and with Fields on the bench, the Bears are all but guaranteeing themselves another middle-of-the-road season. The Bears did squeak into the playoffs last year and do have a top receiver in Allen Robinson so hey, maybe they can survive another mediocre campaign by Dalton.
Detroit Lions (+25000 Super Bowl; +10000 NFC; +2500 NFC North)
The Detroit Lions are the worst team in the NFC and it is only thanks to the Houston Texans that they aren’t projected to be the worst team in the league. After parting with Matthew Stafford in a rare QB for QB trade, the Lions are looking to the Jared Goff era to produce the results Stafford never could. Only the problem was never Stafford and Goff, whose ticket was written out of Los Angeles because of an unhappy coach, will likely learn that the hard way.
The Lions need help and they’ve needed it ever since Calvin Johnson’s retirement left Stafford with some of the league’s worst weapons for close to a decade. Much longer than it should have been. But Detroit didn’t invest in skill positions, only defense, and now, that defense is but a shell of itself anyway, ranking last in yards and points allowed last season. The Lions are rebuilding so look for 2021-22 to be a bumpy road in Detroit.
Our Preview’s NFC North Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
Aaron Rodgers is a bad, bad man and whether he’s playing for pride, a new contract or just to show the Packers what they let walk out the door, there is no reason to doubt another MVP-quality season. As Rodgers go, the Packers go. Green Bay has the pieces in place to make a deep run. Consider another NFC North title just the first notch in that belt. So the prediction and pick of this preview for this NFL division is:
- Bet on the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North @ best odds of -150 with BetOnline. They are -160 with Bovada and -167 with Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.