NFL: NFC North Preview, Predictions & Betting Picks

Aaron RodgersRecently, the NFC North has been dominated by the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have five of the division’s last six titles, and they went 10-6 in the year they didn’t win the division.

Green Bay, with a dynamic offense led by superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are unsurprisingly the hot favorites to win the division again with the American-facing offshore sports betting sites.

Can the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions or Chicago Bears make a surprise run at the division crown and how do their odds look? Let’s break down each team and then decide our picks, predictions and which teams deserve your bets the most.

Green Bay Packers (2016 record: 10-6, No. 1 in NFC North, Lost in NFC Championship Game)

Having arguably the best quarterback in the NFL covers a multitude of flaws. The Packers aren’t a terrible team outside of Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, but it’s not great. The running game will be led by converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who had a 5.9 yards per carry average last season with limited volume. Can he continue to produce efficiently in a bigger role?

The defense ranked No. 22 in yards allowed and No. 21 in points allowed last season. It is losing Julius Peppers, Sam Shields and Micah Hyde, but the rest of the unit should be much healthier than it was last season. Expect the defense to be about the same.

Rodgers and the pass-catchers are undoubtedly the Packers’ biggest strength. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Marcellus Bennett will make it easy for No. 12 to put up monster numbers.

Remember, this was Rodgers’ production over the last seven games of 2016: 2,018 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, no interceptions, a 69.7 completion percentage and a 120.0 passer rating.

Green Bay should be a strong favorite to win the division — they’re also not a bad pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Minnesota Vikings (2016 record: 8-8, No. 3 in NFC North)

The Vikings easily have the top defense in this division. Stars like defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, nose tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith will anchor the unit. All five of those players have yet to hit their 30th birthday, so the chances of falling off are low.

Quarterback Sam Bradford fitted quite well in Pat Shurmur’s offense last season — but is some regression coming? He was excellent in the first half of the season before coming back to earth a bit in the latter half. He should enjoy an improvement from last year’s dreadful running game, though, with Latavius Murray and rookie Dalvin Cook joining the fold.

This is an above-average team, but it would take some luck to get past the Packers.

  • Record Prediction: 9-7
  • Best Odds: +360 at 5Dimes.

Detroit Lions (2016 record: 9-7, No. 2 in NFC North, Lost in NFC Wild Card Round)

The Lions are a decent team. Are they a nine-win squad? Probably not, and their point differential from last season (minus-12) suggests they needed some luck to get there a year ago. Injuries have affected what were already expected to be below-average offensive and defensive lines, and all of the team’s tight ends have also struggled with health in the preseason.

Detroit will have to rely on strong quarterback play from Matthew Stafford and a good secondary to win games for it. The running game has been bad for a long time now, and a lot hinges on the health of projected No. 1 back Ameer Abdullah.

I’m just not seeing any one area where the Lions are (or could be) elite. That’s a concern when discussing their chances at a division crown.

  • Record Prediction: 7-9
  • Best Odds: +600 at Bovada.

Chicago Bears (2016 record: 3-13, No. 4 in NFC North)

If rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky is even close to as valuable as the package Chicago gave up to get him (the No. 3, 67 and 111 picks in April’s draft, as well as their third-round pick in 2018), the Bears are set for the future.

It remains to be seen whether Trubisky or veteran Mike Glennon is the Week 1 starter, but the Bears probably won’t be getting good quarterback play regardless. There aren’t many stud pass-catchers to help either guy out.

Chicago’s strength lies in running the ball on offense – halfback Jordan Howard had an awesome rookie year, totaling 1,313 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry. Can the squad generate a respectable enough passing attack to take away some of Howard’s burden?

The defense doesn’t have a whole bunch going for it besides a nice corps of linebackers. Expect mediocre to below-average showings against both the run and the pass.

The Bears are a team focused on rebuilding, and they’ll probably be focused on developing youth in 2017. Expect them to be out of the running for the division crown early.

  • Record Prediction: 3-13
  • Best Odds: +2750 at 5Dimes.

Our NFC North Preview’s Betting Predictions & Picks Verdict

The Vikings are the team whose odds I like the most. Their moneyline implies that they have just above a 20 percent chance of winning the division, which seems low. If the Packers don’t quite come together on defense or they suffer some key injuries, the Vikings should be right there to contend. In fact, they’re a capable running game away from being a really nice all-around squad.

  • So I will ignore my ‘record prediction’, which takes the Packers to win this division, and instead have a small value wager on the Minnesota Vikings @ +360 with 5Dimes to win the NFC North.