With the NFL season about to start, and following our recent AFC preview, we now focus our attention on the NFC, once again concluding with our betting picks.
It could be a closely-contested NFC race to the Super Bowl. Let’s start by breaking down each division, beginning with the NFC North, which features two of the top six teams according to the sportsbooks’ NFC odds, including the Green Bay Packers who are just +600 to win the Super Bowl itself.
Throughout this preview USAbetting.com is quoting the betting lines currently available from Bovada Sportsbook.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers (-350), Minnesota Vikings (+475), Chicago Bears (+1200), Detroit Lions (+1200)
The fight for the NFC North may have been a closer one as the Vikings were starting to assemble a strong looking roster and one that very well could have challenged for that division. However Viking hopes fell and the odds began to lengthen when the team’s starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, suffered a freak knee injury at the team’s practice on Tuesday. Bridgewater needed to be helped off of the field and it is likely he will be out the entire season.
With news of Bridgewater’s situation, the Packers road to winning the North for the ninth time in the last 15 seasons becomes that much easier and a safer bet. Not only were Green Bay the favorites before, but they now have one less tough team to face twice on their schedule. Plus, the Packers are healthy, getting top weapon Jordy Nelson back after he missed all of last season. Nelson returns to one of the most talented receiving groups in all of football and with one of the league’s top QBs for over the past five years in Aaron Rodgers (31 TD, 3,821 YDS, 60.7 CMP% last year), the Packers have nothing to worry about offensively.
Defensively it is a bit of a different story as the team will need to improve on their performance from last year, especially on the pass rush (ranked 21st and 23rd in rushing yards allowed over the past two years) to keep those hopes for another championship alive. But winning the division shouldn’t be a problem as neither the Chicago Bears, who lost Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett in the offseason nor the Detroit Lions, who ranked dead last in the league in rushing last year and who are adjusting to Calvin Johnson’s retirement, look to cause Green Bay any problems.
- Take the Packers at -350 to win the NFC North.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (-110), Arizona Cardinals (+140), Los Angeles Rams (+750), San Francisco 49ers (+2000)
This looks to be the most exciting division to watch in football this year as at +400 for the Seahawks and +550 for the Cardinals, two of the West’s teams rank second and third respectively to win the NFC. Both also rank high on overall odds to win the Super Bowl, with the Seahawks third favorite (+900) and the Cardinals sixth (+1100).
After winning it all back in 2013, Seattle stumbled a bit to regain the dominant form it had created during its improbable run to the top. Russell Wilson (pictured) looked human last year and the defense came up a little short in the playoffs (despite still being the NFL’s top scoring defense for the fourth year running). They will be looking to return to the title game after missing out last year.
Wilson is one of the top all-purpose QBs in the league. Last year it was the focus on increasing his passing that helped Seattle have the best QB-WR combination. Wilson and Doug Baldwin connected 14 times to the endzone. The biggest letdown however was Jimmy Graham, who went from starring in New Orleans to becoming nothing more than a role player in Seattle. The imposing tight end is still a talent but Seattle failed to use him properly. That is something they will need to correct if they hope to stand atop the podium come February.
As good as the Seahawks can be however, it is the Cardinals who are really the team to watch out for. Last year they won the division from Seattle with a 13-3 record, helping them improve to 34-14 under head coach Bruce Arians. Arizona returns much of that same team but there is a sense of urgency this year that has been creeping up on them and it is age. While running back David Johnson is a nice young piece who really shined last year, the team’s top two players in QB Carson Palmer (37) and WR Larry Fitzgerald (33), are both closer to the twilight of their careers than their primes.
Arizona does have a strong looking defense though, one that could go toe-to-toe with Seattle’s in their divisional battles. Both of these teams have the talent and the ability to put it together. Last year, the Cardinals did that a little better than the Seahawks but lightning likely won’t strike in a bottle again.
As for the Rams and the 49ers, there really isn’t much reason to expect those teams to do anything better than a .500 record and even that might be stretching it.
- Take the Seahawks at -110 to win the NFC West.
NFC East: New York Giants (+175), Dallas Cowboys (+240), Washington Redskins (+240), Philadelphia Eagles (+600)
Tony Romo might be out for the season with a back injury. Philadelphia has one of the most inexperienced receiving groups in history. Tom Coughlin is gone and the Redskins are still trying to prove they can be relevant. Yes, probably the most exciting thing about the East is that fans will get to see WAS CB Josh Norman vs NYG WR Odell Beckham Jr rounds two and three.
The Giants are favored to win but not my much. In fact, their margin over both the Cowboys and Redskins is the smallest of any of the NFC divisions. They probably do have the most upside though. The team is for the most part 100 percent healthy. They have one of the best receivers in football and even their running game has improved over past seasons. This is an offense that can score points. It will just come down to if the defense can do enough to combat the turnovers by forcing some of their own.
Washington could also turn some heads but it really depends on how Kirk Cousins can do in his first season as the undisputed starting quarterback. Their running game is solid and TE Jordan Reed emerged as one of the top at his positions last season. The difference between them and the Giants could come down to that Beckham/Norman match-up and those two divisional games.
Dallas will look to Dak Prescott and Philadelphia is still hoping Sam Bradford can be the guy, as their own top pick Carson Wentz is unlikely to start this year. Both teams have more questions than answers on their roster, from Dallas’ suspensions to Philly’s struggle to find an identity, to inconsistencies on offense, defense and special teams. Don’t expect either to make much noise this year.
- Take the Redskins (+240) to win the NFC East.
NFC South: Carolina Panthers (-240), Atlanta Falcons (+650), New Orleans Saints (+650) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+650)
These odds are really kind of perfect because these days in the NFC South, it’s the Panthers and then it is everybody else. Like the odds suggest, the other teams are pretty closely matched.
The Panthers return with all the key members of last year’s Super Bowl runner-up performance. In addition they are getting back a healthy Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers went 15-1 in the regular season and scored an NFL-best 500 points last year. So they look to return to the title game and perhaps, after coming so close, have more motivation than ever to do so. Their team is stacked from top to bottom and Cam Newton (35 TD, 3,857 YDS, 59.8 CMP%) is coming off a great year. He will look to build on that with a top fleet of weapons including as mentioned, Benjamin, who was highly touted prior to his injury.
There is no reason to talk about Carolina’s competition because there really isn’t any to speak of. The Falcons are coming off a tough year, Matt Ryan’s worst in the league. The Bucs are riding a five-year losing streak, of finishing last in the division. With meager cap space to make moves, the Saints really didn’t do much to improve on their squad, which has fallen far from the Super Bowl winning team they were just a few years ago.
Take the Panthers at -240 to win the NFC South.
Our Preview’s NFC Championship Betting Pick
It’s a rivalry which has recently become one of the best in the football and one that likely will play out again in the NFC Championship. Take the Packers to face the Seahawks and make Green Bay your betting pick to take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
- Green Bay are +350 with Bovada and +400 with BetOnline to win the NFC Championship, but the best odds are +430 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
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.