NFL division futures: NFC North edition

As we wait for training camp to begin in the NFL, we’re taking a look around the league the next two weeks to see how divisional odds shake out, along with the futures bets we like the most.

[Previous editions:
NFC East]

Today’s focus turns to the NFC North, a division that the Packers have had a hold on for the past 11 seasons. Since 2011, Green Bay has won the division eight times, with two NFC North titles going to the Vikings and one to the Bears.

Aaron Rodgers got his new contract but lost his favorite weapon. Is it enough for someone to overtake the Packers in 2022?

To Win the NFC North Betting Odds

  1. Green Bay Packers (-170 DK)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (+300 FD)
  3. Detroit Lions (+1000 DK)
  4. Chicago Bears (+1400 DK)

The Packers cruised to a 13-4 record in 2021, winning the NFC North by five games and securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. They squandered it, as they so often do, losing in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers. Rodgers took home MVP honors for the second season in a row.

Minnesota was in the mix for much of the year, but its 8-9 record secured a spot right in the middle of the NFL. The Vikings have some great young pieces, namely receiver Justin Jefferson, but there are limits on this roster, namely Kirk Cousins.

Detroit wasn’t expected to do much of anything last year and delivered on those expectations, finishing 3-13-1 and earning the second overall pick in the draft. The Lions do seem to believe in head coach Dan Campbell’s philosophy and have some enticing pieces in the trenches. Still, with Jared Goff the quarterback, the Lions feel a few years away from being competitive in this division and conference.

The Bears’ 2021 season was all about seeing what they had in Justin Fields. Fields had his share of nice plays and the usual mistakes you’d expect a rookie passer to have. The issue Chicago has is what it’s done — or, better stated, not done — to surround Fields with help.

Chicago Bears: What to expect

The Bears are the long shot to win the division, and for good reason. Darnell Mooney is a fine receiver, but it’s hard to get your young quarterback to progress when he’s surrounded by such limited playmakers. The Bears invested a lot when they traded up to draft Fields last season, and this is no way to treat a premium investment.

The defense doesn’t offer much to get excited about either. Beyond Robert Quinn, there isn’t an easily identifiable difference-maker on that side of the football. To cap it all off, you have one of the worst offensive lines in football.

This year projects to be a rough one for Chicago. Your money is best spent elsewhere. Do not touch a Bears future unless you’re picking their wins under.

Detroit Lions: What to expect

I actually do like a lot of what the Lions are doing. They have some quality receivers, a good offensive line and some nice defensive pieces.

The issue is of course at quarterback. Goff is an average at best QB in this league, and it’s hard to see him bringing this type of the team to the playoffs. The Lions remain in the market for a quarterback, and it will be interesting to see if a more competitive team actually ends up stunting this franchise’s growth by not getting a top pick.

I expect six to eight wins from Detroit this season, but betting on the Lions to win this division feels foolish.

Minnesota Vikings: What to expect

Now we’ve made it to a team that could offer us some value in the NFC North. Minnesota went 4-2 in the division last season, beating the Packers once.

Minnesota retained much of that team and seems to be in a good place to get closer to 10 wins this season. Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson offer as solid a trio as you’ll get on an NFL offense, and the defense has quality pieces throughout.

At +300, the Vikings offer us some value to win the division. A bet on Minnesota winning the division may become more of a fade of the Packers than an endorsement on the Vikings, but the fact remains that this team has quality throughout. The offensive line is solid if not unspectacular, and Cousins can do enough to win games.

Is Cousins an elite quarterback? Of course not, but he’s in a good situation to succeed.

Green Bay Packers: What to expect

Rodgers no longer has Davante Adams to throw to, which makes projecting this Green Bay offense a bit of a mystery. The starting wide receivers are looking like Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and rookie Christian Watson. 

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon form a menacing RB combination, and this defense has elite players, namely Jaire Alexander and Rashan Gary. 

I do think the Packers are a sure-fire playoff team, but -170 brings us no value on a future bet we wouldn’t see cashed until January.

Still, as long as Rodgers stays healthy, Green Bay is set to be one of the NFC’s top seeds again. The important thing to remember with futures is how weak the NFC is relatively to the AFC. After the Rams, Bucs and Packers, the conference is wide open.

Best Bet to Win the NFC North

For this division, the word “best” is here is a matter of speaking. Green Bay is the team to bet, but I’m not backing the Packers at these odds. You would need to wager quite a bit to secure even a unit back on the Packers, and that’s not a strategy I look to deploy on futures.

It’s for that reason my preferred spot to look is Minnesota to win the NFC North. This is a talented team that has shown an ability to take down Rodgers and Co. before. The Vikings offer the most competition in this division and should be able to handle business against the Bears and Lions.

I’m rocking with the Vikings at +300. I’d recommend a limited wager on this one, perhaps just .25u. It’s the best value I see in a division that has been dominated by Green Bay for too long.

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