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NFL Betting Preview: NFC North

9 August 2019

Three different teams have won the NFC North in the past three years, ending years of dominance by Green Bay. The Packers had won 9 out of the last 15 division titles before back-to-back triumphs by the Vikings and the Bears. Left out was Detroit, but with only 3 division championships in the 49-year history of NFC North, once again, nobody is expecting the Lions to be a contender this season.

By Steve Tomasin

Chicago Bears

Last Season (12-4)

Da Bearsss….had an amazing season under rookie head coach Matt Nagy. Implementing an Andy Reid style offense and having an elite defense helped this team easily claim last year’s NFC North title. Can they do it again?

Offense

Mercifully taking over for an incompetent John Fox-run offense, Matt Nagy helped 2nd year QB Mitchell Trubisky develop into one of the better young QBs in the league. With a host of weapons including RB Tarik Cohen, who can take it to the house via run or pass, Trubisky is primed to take another step into becoming a more consistently dangerous QB. If that happens, WRs Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller should be very happy. Gone is RB Jordan Howard, who should be replaced by 3rd round draft pick David Montgomery out of Iowa State.

Final Thoughts: The stars are aligning for the Bears to become one of the highest scoring offenses.

Defense

The Bears pulled off a mid-season blockbuster trade to acquire edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Raiders at a hefty price. But boy did it pay off. Alongside a young core, Mack helped lead the defense to top honors in rushing defense and allowed the least points. They were tough against the pass as well. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix joins the team to replace S Adrian Amos who signed with Green Bay.

Final Thoughts: Beyond the safety position, this defense looks essentially the same, and should continue to be one of the staunchest in the league.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

For an early projection, I don’t hate putting some units on both the Bears over season win total or Super Bowl odds. They have the formula in place to take care of business.



Minnesota Vikings

Last Season (8-7-1)

SKOL! After making Kirk Cousins the highest paid QB in the league (at the time), the Vikings had lofty expectations after miraculously making it to the NFC championship in 2017. They fell short of expectations and are looking to rebound.

Offense

RB Dalvin Cook was again often injured, which was not in the plans of coach Mike Zimmer. Backup RB Latavius Murray is gone to New Orleans and there isn’t much talent or experience behind Cook this year. So, the Vikings are gambling on Cook's ability to stay healthy. Despite paying Cousins all that money, the Vikings were and are a running team. They have the ability to pass when needed. Superstar WR duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are among the best in the league alongside veteran TE Kyle Rudolph and 2nd round rookie phenom TE Irv Smith Jr out of Alabama.

Final Thoughts: This offense is well balanced and should become more consistent by avoiding injuries and with another year of experience together.

Defense

The Vikings defense continues to be one of the strongest in the league, consistently been among the top 10 in fewest points allowed in the past few seasons. This unit was a huge reason the Vikings even won as many games as they did last year. Behind all pros DE Danielle Hunter and LB Eric Kendricks, the Vikings’ defense meshes well together and is strong at every position.

Final Thoughts: With a nice mix of proven veterans and young talent waiting in the wings, the Vikings have built one of the best defenses now and for the future.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

There is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding the offense and whether Cousins can be the QB the Vikings want and need him to be. Which is why I’d stay away from season totals. However, they do have a Super Bowl caliber defense.



Green Bay Packers

Last Season (6-9-1)

A surprisingly disappointing season led to the Packers moving on from Super Bowl winning coach Mike McCarthy. Enter Sean McVay disciple Matt LaFleur to take the reins, and the Packers are looking to get healthy and get back to the playoffs.

Offense

QB Aaron Rodgers played banged up all year after some brutal games and hits from division foe Chicago Bears, which led to his lowest TD total as a full-season starter. That won’t happen again. Breakout star WR Davante Adams is joined by a plethora of youthful and talented WRs who will look to battle for targets from the league’s best QB. A RBBC (running back by committee) approach seems to be where the Packers are headed again this year, despite Aaron Jones’ 5.5 ypc last year. There are concerns about Jones’ ability to stay healthy so that could determine how the running game is split up.

Final Thoughts: Anytime Aaron Rodgers is your QB, your offense has an opportunity to win. I’d expect a triumphant return to being one of the best offenses in the league.

Defense

Green Bay was solid against the pass (12th), but need to improve upon their 22nd ranked run defense. Lesser known LB Blake Martinez is a tackling machine and gets some pass rushing help around him with 1st round pick Rashan Gary from Michigan, and newly acquired Za’Darius Smith from Baltimore. Enhancing the secondary, the Packers signed away S Adrian Amos from the Bears, and spent their other 1st round pick on standout Maryland S Darnell Savage. Both of those players should help bolster the run defense.

Final Thoughts: The Packers defense is key to the team’s success. They are youthful and a bit inexperienced, but should be able to perform better than last year.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

The Bears and Packers share the same odds to win the Super Bowl, so Vegas expects the Pack to improve upon last year’s underperformance. I happen to agree.



Detroit Lions

Last Season (8-7-1)

The Lions returned to doing Lions things last year. First year head coach Matt Patricia did not fare too well sporting a mediocre season on both offense and defense. Many expect the Lions to improve on both sides of the ball this year.

Offense

QB Matt Stafford had an efficient year, but was light in the TD department. The Lions addressed part of that problem in free agency and the draft. Targeting their TEs among the least in the league, the Lions look to change that after acquiring free agent TE Jesse James from Pittsburgh and using the 8th overall pick on Iowa TE TJ Hockenson, who many experts project to be a top tier player at the position for both his blocking and receiving skills. It remains to be seen if Patricia can utilize either players’ talents correctly. The WR corps is a bit thin, returning veteran WR Marvin Jones Jr and “babytron” WR Kenny Golladay who had his 1st 1,000-yard season. Slot WR Golden Tate is gone and the Lions are hoping Danny Amendola can fill the role. The running game suffered as talented RB Kerryon Johnson was battling for carries with now departed LeGarrette Blount (2.7 ypc).

Final Thoughts: A lot of guys on the offense don’t inspire a ton of confidence. Getting the running game going early in games behind Johnson would be the ideal strategy.

Defense

Finishing in the top 10 fewest yards allowed rushing and passing, the Lions have a competent defense on paper. Trading for DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison mid-year from the Giants was a great move and he anchors a talented D line. The secondary is getting older but still can get the job done. Linebackers are where the Lions are probably weakest. They spent a questionable early 2nd round pick on LB Jahlani Tavai from Hawaii.

Final Thoughts: Between the 20’s the Lions are among the best defenses in the league. They just need to have players step up in the red zone and avoid big play scores.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

I wouldn’t give the Lions much attention this year.

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