2016 NFC North Betting Preview

aaron-rodgers-vs-patriotsFor the first time in five years, somebody different than the Green Bay Packers won the NFC North. The Minnesota Vikings finished 11-5 to snap Green Bay’s streak of four straight titles.

As for the Packers, they still had a strong 10-6 record and made the postseason. But this was a disappointment for a team that, midseason, was a top-tier Super Bowl contender.

For the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, who finished 7-9 and 6-10 respectively, the goal will be working their way into the upper part of the division.

All in all, this looks to be a very competitive NFC North, and we’ll preview what you can expect from these teams moving forward.

NFC North Betting Odds to Win Division (from GTBets)

Chicago +1200
Detroit +1200
Green Bay -300
Minnesota +360

1. Green Bay Packers: Projected Record 12-4

The big problem for Green Bay last year was health, as top receiver Jordy Nelson missed the entire season, while the linebacking corp also dealt with injuries.

jordy-nelsonNelson is healthy again and looking to pick up where he left off in 2014, when he caught 98 passes for 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He’ll be joined by Randall Cobb, who hopes for a bounce-back year after catching 79 passes for 829 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Of course, the man who makes it all happen is Aaron Rodgers, who passed for 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Rodgers clearly missed Nelson last season and should put up bigger yardage and touchdown totals.

The running game was an issue for Green Bay since starter Eddie Lacy was inconsistent, rushing for just 758 yards and 3 TDs. The good news is that Lacy has looked great in training camp and could return to his 2014 form. If he doesn’t, James Starks is a more-than-capable backup.

The Green Bay defense should be solid, returning players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers. General manager Ted Thompson added defensive depth, using the team’s first four draft picks on defenders.

Last year the Packers took the Arizona Cardinals to overtime in a divisional playoff game. With a healthy team again, Green Bay will have their sights set on a Super Bowl run.

2. Minnesota Vikings: Projected Record 9-7

The Minnesota Vikings had a chance to repeat as division champions since they return most of last year’s squad. Unfortunately, an ACL tear for starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has thrust the team into uncertainty.

36-year-old Shaun Hill will take over the starting role. While Hill has many years of experience, he’s never passed for more than 2,686 yards in a season.

adrian-peterson-2015He won’t have an elite receiving corp to throw to either. Stefon Diggs has plenty of potential after tallying 720 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns as a rookie, but he’s not an elite player yet. Mike Wallace signed with Baltimore in the offseason, leaving Jarius Wright (442 yards) manning the other receiver spot.

This could put a lot more pressure on star running back Adrian Peterson, who led the league with 1,482 rushing yards last season. At 31 years old, one has to wonder how many more 300+ carry seasons Peterson has in him. But as it stands, he’s still on top of the game and will help make up for the passing game.

Minnesota’s defense will also be a positive after racking up 43 sacks last year. The team returns most of its top defenders like Everson Griffen, Erick Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and Terrence Newman, making this a potential top-5 defensive unit.

The defense and run game should be excellent for the Vikings. But with so much emphasis on passing in today’s game, Minnesota doesn’t seem to be a real threat to Green Bay.

3. Chicago Bears: Projected Record 8-8

The task for Chicago this season will be replacing long-time running back Matt Forte, who’s moved on to the New York Jets. Jeremy Langford will get the first crack after rushing for 537 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Jacquizz Rodgers and Ka’Deem Carey will also get carries in what figures to be a committee approach.

jay-cutler-bearsThe Bears don’t need to figure out their passing game since Jay Cutler returns at quarterback again after throwing for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions last year. These numbers won’t win Cutler the MVP award, but he at least improved his TD:INT ratio.

The 11-year veteran will receive a boost since Kevin White finally gets to play after missing all of last season with a stress fracture in his shin. The second-year receiver was drafted seventh overall in 2015 and will start opposite wideout Alshon Jeffrey, who tallied 807 receiving yards in just 9 games.

The Bears defense was mediocre last season, but that could change since 6 of their 9 draft picks were used on defenders. The team also returns a strong linebacking corp that includes Christian Jones, Lamar Houston, and Sam Acho.

On paper, the Bears don’t look like a division champion. But we could definitely see some improvement from this team thanks to the return of White, and all the defensive players they drafted.

4. Detroit Lions: Projected Record 5-11

No NFC North team suffered as great an offseason loss as the Detroit Lions did when Calvin Johnson retired. In his ninth year, the perennial All-Pro caught 88 passes for 1,214 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Golden Tate will fill the No. 1 receiver role after tallying 813 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. New addition Marvin Jones and TE Eric Ebron will also factor into the passing game.

matt-staffordNobody will miss Johnson more than Matthew Stafford, who passed for 4,262 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions last season. It’ll be interesting to see how Stafford performs in his first season without Johnson.

The running game will be a full-blown committee, with Ameer Abdullah, Joique Bell, and Theo Riddick all expected to man the position. They need to get something going on the ground to take pressure off of Stafford.

The defense has some strong pieces, including DE Ezekiel Ansah, who recorded 14.5 sacks last year, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who had 107 tackles. Unfortunately, there are too many questions at other positions for this to be an elite defense.

With an unheralded running committee, no Calvin Johnson, and a middling defense, we don’t see Detroit being competitive with the rest of the teams in this division.

2015 NFC North Betting Preview – Packers tabbed as Favorites

aaron-rodgers-vs-patriotsThe NFC North has been marked by Green Bay domination in recent years. The Packers have won the division four straight years, while earning a playoff berth in six consecutive seasons. So is there any reason to think that recent history will change this year? Let’s try to answer this question by previewing the 2015 NFC North.

4th in Division: Chicago Bears; 5-11 W/L Projection

Strengths: Chicago’s hopes rest with running back Matt Forte this year, who’s coming of a season where he topped 1,800 total years from scrimmage. Forte may be closing in on 30, but with an 8-year career that’s never seen him rush for less than 929 yards in a season, there’s little reason to bet against him in 2015. Alshon Jeffrey will also provide a huge boost to the offense, as he appears destined for stardom coming off an 85-catch, 1,113-yard season. If QB Jay Cutler is going to have a comeback, Jeffrey will play a large role in this.

matt-forteWeaknesses: Speaking of Cutler, everybody likes to blame him for the Bears’ disappointing 2014 season. However, it was the defense that truly let Chicago down last year. The same problem will persist this time around for first-year head coach John Fox, who, along with new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, will have a tough task ahead of them. Chicago ranked 30th in total defense last year and allowed the second-most points. They didn’t address their defensive needs very well in the draft, so there’s little reason to expect a turnaround.

3rd in Division: Detroit Lions; 8-8 W/L Projection

Strengths: The Lions were somewhat of a surprise last year, finishing 11-5 and losing a very competitive first-round playoff game to the Cowboys. If they’re to replicate last year’s success, or even improve, it will definitely begin with the receiving corp. Calvin Johnson, who’s coming off five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, again leads this group. But Golden Tate will be an incredible compliment, if not the top pass catcher, after tallying 1,331 yards last season. If tight end Eric Ebron can flash his true potential, then he can take pressure off the latter two.

ndamukong-suh-soccerWeaknesses: Everything that’s wrong with Detroit begins with the loss of Ndamukong Suh, who is an irreplaceable talent. He’s amazing against the run and pass and was crucial to the Lions’ defensive success. They also lost Nick Fairley, another D-lineman who helped out quite a bit. In all, Detroit lost players who contributed to a third of their 42 sacks last year, meaning the pass rush will be lighter this time around.

2nd in Division: Minnesota Vikings; 10-6 W/L Projection

adrian-peterson-rushing-recordStrengths: Adrian Peterson is now 30 years old, but he should turn back time after a season in which he only played one game due to suspension. Expect yet another season of at least 1,200-1,300 yards for Peterson, especially since Minnesota even ranked 14th in rushing offense (112.8 YPG) without him. QB Teddy Bridgewater is another year older and looking more than capable of playing up to his potential. This young defense is also shaping up to be one of the best in the NFC, making a postaseson berth very likely.

Weaknesses: While having Peterson back will definitely help take pressure off the passing game, the O-line might still have trouble protecting Bridgewater. Right tackle Phil Loadholt is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon while left tackle Matt Kahil has not been very good at his position so far. Given this, can Minnesota protect Bridgewater on the edges?

1st in Division: Green Bay Packers; 12-2 W/L Projection

eddie-lacy-rookie-of-the-yearStrengths: Aaron Rodgers has not had a double-digit interception season in four years, and he’s coming off a 2014 where he tossed 38 touchdowns against 5 picks. So it’s an understatement that he’ll be the key to Green Bay’s attack. Expect a huge season from Randall Cobb too, who, in Jordy Nelson’s absence (ACL) should experience a big boost in his 1,287 receiving yards from last year. Throw in running back Eddie Lacy and this is once again a very potent offense.

Weaknesses: The loss of Nelson definitely hurts since he had over 1,500 receiving yards last season. But that’s nothing compared to their weak linebacking corp, who, even with 5-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, is highly inexperienced. This is a bad year for Green Bay to be a 3-4 defense, so their offense will be relied on heavily to shore up a below-average overall defense. Even still, the Super Bowl is a definite possibility for this group.