02 Jul Free NFC North Odds
Free NFC North Odds | Expand The Boxscore’s Divisional Futures Series
The NFC North is an interesting division. Not due to any team being overly great, but due to none of the teams being overly bad. If any division in the NFL is going to have an 8-8 division winner, this would be my bet to be that division. (Lines from Draft Kings Sports Book)
Check out our AFC East, NFC East, NFC South, and AFC South previews, too.
Last Season: 8-8
2020 O/U: 8
What can we say about Nick Foles? At least he is not Mitchell Trubisky.
In a QB competition which no one wants to see, incumbent Trubisky will try to fend off Nick Foles to remain the starter. This may be what Trubisky and Bears GM Ryan Pace hope for, but it is likely not best for the team.
Foles is not great, but he is better than Trubisky. Magical seasons in Philadelphia became the norm in his two stints with the Eagles. Foles would be the starter in Jacksonville today if he had not been injured last season. This means he is now fighting for a job in Chicago. If he does not win the job in preseason, expect him to take over relatively early in the season. The Bears think they are able to compete in the division this season.
Allen Robinson is constantly looked past when we speak of good NFL receivers. In a season marred by bad QB play and no run game, Robinson was able to put up a line of 98/1,147/7 while playing on 94% of the offensive snaps.
The team was counting on Anthony Miller to provide the same threat he had in college at Memphis. After having 32 TD in his final two college seasons, Miller succeeded in 2018 with seven more as a rookie. In 16 games in 2019 this number fell to only two. A number that needs to rise for the Bears to make a move in the NFC.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen disappointed in the run game. The failure of the offensive line to provide any type of protection played a big part in this failure.
Cohen was a darling in his second season of 2018. This led him to be seen as a good if not great up-and-coming back. The production of 2018 (99 carries for 444 yards and three TD) did not remain the same in 2019 (64 carries for 213 yards and zero TD). Luckily, Cohen is a pass catching back, logging 53 receptions as a rookie and 79 last season. He is clearly the third-down back for Chicago.
It is the first two downs which are concerning. The team needs to find someone to fill this role. David Montgomery did not come into form as a rookie and it sunk the entire offense.
As for the tight end position, the fact they paid $9 million to bring in Jimmy Graham should tell you what to think of it.
The defense dropped off a bit in the first season without Vic Fangio. This said, they were still a good unit, and only looks to get better. Akiem Hicks is exceptionally good at defensive end. The linebackers led by Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith are above average as well. Add in Robert Quinn and Danny Trevathan and they are downright good.
The true key will be the play of the secondary. In a division with QB’s like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, Kyle Fuller and company will need to shut down some big names. If they are up to it, the Chicago Bears could just win this thing.
Last Season: 3-12-1
2020 O/U: 6.5
The Detroit Lions come into 2020 hoping Matthew Stafford can stay healthy and they can get something out of the backfield of Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift. Neither back has a track record of health. Hopefully together they can manage 16 games. Although neither guy is a bell-cow back, both have similar traits. They can both run the ball 170 to 200 times but not much more and can be a 50-reception type of player. This means which ever one is one the field, the team is not going to have to change their offense.
Continuity will be a big key for all teams this season. This could be a big deal for Detroit. If Johnson remains healthy and Swift comes in strong as a rookie, the Lions back field could provide effective play throughout the season to help Stafford stay healthy.
Marvin Jones is routinely overlooked. He is not on the level of the elite receivers, but he is a great complement to an elite receiver. After the season Kenny Golladay had in 2019, he is starting to cement his status as the elite receiver for the Lions. Only having a half of a season with Stafford before catching passes from “others”, Golladay still managed 65 receptions. Not great but when you look further, not bad.
On those 65 catches, Golladay managed 1,190 yards for 18.3 yards per catch. He also had a league leading 11 TD. This shows the level of talent he has. A level which could increase with a full season of work with Matthew Stafford.
The defense leaves a lot to be desired. Matt Patricia has tried to rebuild New England in the Midwest. It has not gone well. Bringing in Trey Flowers and Jamie Collins to help has an air of desperation all over it. In a long line of Bill Belichick disciples who have failed, Patricia is seemingly the next in line. This is no more apparent than on the defense.
After trading starting safety Quandre Diggs to Seattle in October, Patricia completely lost the locker room. The team was just as confused by the trade as the media was and this led to tension. Tension which culminated this off-season with the trade of Darius Slay to Philadelphia. The Lions can spin it in any direction they want. The fact of the matter is Slay is still a top 10 CB and he wanted out. He got his way and the Lions are worse off for it.
With Diggs and Slay gone, the Lions will count mightily on rookie Jeffrey Okuda and free agent Desmond Trufant to cover the back end of an aging and mediocre defense.
As much as Matthew Stafford is underrated, much of this is due to the supporting case he is given to work with. Meaning not much of one. This will continue to lead to tough seasons for the franchise and by association, their fans.
Green Bay Packers
Last Season: 13-3
2020 O/U: 9
Aaron Rodgers is angry. First, the Packers management refused to add legitimate talent to the receiving corps. Then, they trade up in the first round of the NFL Draft to draft another quarterback. The last thing the NFC North needs is a motivated Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers had a down season in 2019. But even in a down season of 27 TD and two INT, he is still a better QB than 95% of the league. With this in mind along with always having a chip on his shoulder, it can be expected he will blow up again in 2020. There is a real chance we see another 40 TD year out of him.
The weapons are not great in Green Bay, save for Aaron Jones and Davante Adams. After suffering a groin injury against the Eagles, Adams was a shell of himself for much of the season. Playing in 12 games, Adams only came up three receiving yards short of 1,000. He also managed to pull in 83 receptions and five TD. This was the first time in four seasons in which he did not have at least 12 TD receptions, a number he could easily find again this season.
After Adams, the receiving group is rather wanting. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have been severe disappointments since being taken in the 2018 draft class. Allen Lazard came on strong late in 2019 but 35 catches for 477 yards and three TD is not going to cut it as a number two receiver on a team who needs to pass. Do not worry though, the Packers signed Devin Funchess.
Aaron Jones led the league in TD last season. This means the likelihood of TD regression in 2020. Add the clutter brought to the back field by the drafting of A.J. Dillon and this makes it even more difficult to see Jones reaching 20 TD again. He will not lose all of his value certainly. A lot of the production to Dillon, if any, will come out of Jamal Williams’ share. None of the backs will get overworked and remain fresher throughout the season. In a physical division like the NFC North, this will be important.
The offense is good enough to win. The key will be what Mike Pettine can do with the defense in 2020.
Kenny Clark can be a star. Preston and Za’Darius Smith made immediate impacts last season. The Packers will need 2019 rookie Rashon Gary to step it up this season in hopes of getting more of a consistent, layered pass rush.
Jaire Alexander is a budding star at the CB position, and the team likes Darnell Savage Jr. and Adrian Amos at the safety positions. If CB Kevin King can pick up his play, the secondary can be good enough to limit teams.
There are a lot of warts on this team. There is also a lot to like with the triplets of Rodgers, Jones and Adams. A repeat of 13 wins is highly unlikely, but covering nine is expected.
Last Season: 10-6
2020 O/U: 9
After breaking the hearts of Saints fans yet again, the Vikings look to win the NFC North in 2020.
If Dalvin Cook can get his contract situation settled, Minnesota will have the best running back in the division. It just so happens the Vikings are a team which likes to run. Not only do they like to run, they also like to throw to the RB position. This also works as Cook is a true three-down back along with the best in the league. If he can finally remain healthy for an entire season, we may be looking at the next, 1,000/1,000 guy after Christian McCaffrey last season.
The receiving group took a major hit with the departure of Stefon Diggs. A “diva” on the sideline, he was and still is an elite route runner. This will be missed as it will now fall directly onto the duo of Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson to continue putting up numbers.
Adam Thielen likes the slot. With Diggs in the fold, this is where he played a majority of the time. But Jefferson is a pure slot receiver. In his final season at LSU over 90% of his production came from the position. This means Thielen will likely be the man who moves outside for the season. After missing six games and a portion of others, it will be imperative Thielen returns to his 2018 form, a season in which he started the season with eight straight 100-yard games and finished with 113 receptions for 1,376 yards and nine TD to pace the Vikings.
As for the tight end position, Kyle Rudolph is constantly under appreciated. He is not flashy or dominant like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but is still a productive player. With Irv Smith Jr. in the fold for year two, he and Rudolph will produce to a level satisfactory to keep the Vikings competitive. Although 39 receptions for 376 yards in 2019 is not great for Rudolph, his real advantage is inside the red zone. At 6’6 and 265 pounds, he used his frame to make contested catches.
In an offense with the run game of both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, Rudolph is a perfect compliment. He also will help protect the rookie Jefferson on shorter routes as opposing defenses will have more than one threat to deal with in this area of the field. If the team also gets a second-year surge from Irv Smith Jr, Kirk Cousins could have a field day.
As much hate as Kirk Cousins gets, he is a solid QB and is the right guy for the situation Minnesota finds itself. He is a top 10 QB when it comes to career accuracy percentage. With the short to intermediate pass game being the focal point of this offense, this number will not diminish.
The defense lost key contributors the off-season. Trae Waynes was a key loss for the team. Losing him to Cincinnati does nothing but hurt the secondary. On the other hand, Xavier Rhodes went from a top five CB to a bottom tier guy in one season. The decline was steep. This led the team to release him and try to re-build with some younger guys. Draft picks include Jeff Gladney to replace Rhodes and Cameron Dantzler to back up Mike Hughes. Dantzler is interesting. He is an elite talent but fell in the draft due to maturity concerns. If he plays to his ability and not his perceived maturity level, Minnesota got a steal.
The safety position is set with Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. They could be the best safety duo in the league. They may need to play this way if Minnesota has any chance to win the division. Going against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, they will be tested. Good thing they will also play either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles to get a break.
This is a true three-team race. Sorry Detroit.
The Packers are not nearly as good as their 13-3 record from last season. In the same sense, the Bears are better than their 8-8 record. This means between those two teams and Minnesota; this division will come down to the final week(s) of the season.
With the physicality of the division, none of the teams will go undefeated against each other. This makes it even more interesting.
Green Bay owns the Bears, Minnesota always play the Packers tight, and the Bears and Vikings is a crap shoot. The key may turn out to be which of these teams can sweep the Lions, a team which Green Bay also owns in recent years.
With all of the turmoil set to surround this division – The QB carousel in Chicago, the Dalvin Cook drama in Minnesota, the lack of offensive weapons in Green Bay – the smart play is to go with the best QB. This is by far Aaron Rodgers. This means, with major apprehension, I will take the Packers to win it. I am tempted to take the Bears at +600 if they figure out the QB position.
Bet: Packers +170
Dominick is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area. Playing fantasy football for more than 20 years and writing for more than five, he has a vast knowledge of both the NFL and fantasy football. Despite his being blind, Dominick is a consistent ranker amongst FantasyPros experts, and always strives to be better than last season. Follow him on Twitter @EnvisionFF and read his weekly Best Bets articles during the season.