After a two-year hiatus as division champions, the Green Bay Packers made a surprise run back atop the NFC North with a 13-3 record, including a sweep of the Minnesota Vikings. Expect things to be closer this year. With each of the four teams having a consensus pver/under win total between seven and nine wins, the NFC North is expected to be one of the tightest divisions in the NFL. Taking a look at the spreads for this division winner we may have the closest race in any division throughout the entire NFL
Minnesota is a slight (+160) favorite to win the division over Green Bay (+175). The Chicago Bears (+385) and Detroit Lions (+550) are behind them. There are a few concerning things about Minnesota that would make me lean more to Green Bay as the slight favorite.
Minnesota lost a trio of cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. Secondary play in the NFL has never been more important, and while Rhodes was a shell of his former Pro Bowl self last year it’s still a ton to lose. Outside of Mike Hughes, the Vikings will need first-round pick Jeff Gladney to step up immediately.
Up front, the Vikings also lost Everson Griffen and his elite pass rush skills along with monster defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Free agent addition Michael Pierce has opted out of the season and Ifeadi Odenigbo will have to step up as a starter.
The Packers exceeded all expectations last year by reaching the NFC Championship game and winning the NFC North at 13-3. Despite the success, the betting market is still skeptical as it was all of last season. It saw the Packers as lucky in large part due to winning so many games decided by one score or fewer and the huge turnover differential they benefited from. On a week to week basis Green Bay is always one of the best NFL picks against the spread, but following them throughout the whole season can be nerve wracking, is this a year they finally put it all together?
Green Bay did not have the cap space to make the big splashes in free agency it did two years ago, and first-round pick Jordan Love will not contribute to winning this year. The Packers failed to address a glaring hole at the wide receiver position behind Davante Adams and did nothing to improve its run defense. However, with Rodgers still there, excellent talent in the secondary and at outside linebacker and more continuity in Matt LaFluer’s second season are big things.
The Bears and Lions are both consensus underdog picks due to the shakiness of the Vikings and Packers. The Bears were a disappointment last year following their 2019 division championship as they went back down to a .500 squad. They have to look no further than their inept offense and quarterback play of Mitch Trubisky to figure out why.
Trubisky’s days as the starter could be numbered with the trade to bring in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Foles has familiarity in Matt Nagy’s system from their days in Kansas City, so he should be very ready to step in.
Chicago’s defense is likely the best unit out of any team in the NFC North. Robert Quinn was added to form a dynamic pass rushing duo with Khalil Mack. Akiem Hicks is back healthy on the line and linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Eddie Jackson and corner Kyle Fuller are all elite players.
The 2019 season went up in flames for the Detroit Lions due to the injury of Matthew Stafford. Even with the injury to their quarterback, Detroit lost seven games by seven points or fewer. The Lions were in most of the games they played. What people also probably forget is that Stafford was playing at an elite level before he got hurt, as he was on pace to throw for close to 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. With Stafford back the Lions may be able to eclipse their over under line but winning the division may be a bit of a far shot for them.
Detroit was also very active in free agency to improve its defense by bringing in safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Jamie Collins, nose tackle Danny Shelton and corner Desmond Trufant.