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NFC North Preview
Odds and Analysis
The Green Bay Packers enjoyed a great regular season last year, posting a 15-1 record in defense of their Super Bowl XLV title. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers put up monster numbers on a weekly basis en route to being named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. The Packers were looking like they were going to march all the way to Super Bowl XLVI until the New York Giants walked into Lambeau Field and stole their thunder for the second time in five years with a 37-20 blowout win on their way to the big game. Yet they enter the upcoming season as heavy favorites to repeat as NFC North champions at -250 in addition to being 10/3 to win the conference championship and 6/1 to win Super Bowl XLVII.
The Chicago Bears could be Green Bay's biggest challenger inside the division as they head into this season with high hopes after acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins. Marshall has been reunited with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler after the two previously played together with the Denver Broncos for a little more than two seasons, as they developed great chemistry and quickly became one of the league's best QB/WR tandems. Chicago finished last season with a disappointing 8-8 record after Cutler broke his thumb and was forced to sit out the last six games after leading them to an impressive 7-3 start. The Bears also signed former Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush in the offseason as insurance while starter Matt Forte works through contract issues. They are +350 to win the division, 9/1 to win the NFC Championship and 16/1 to win the Super Bowl.
In previous seasons, the words Detroit Lions and playoffs being used together in the same sentence was laughable. The Lions offense is no longer a joke with injury-prone QB Matthew Stafford throwing for more than 5,000 yards in his first full season as they finally silenced the their critics last year in going 10-6 during the regular season and clinching a Wild Card playoff berth. Many of Stafford's passes were thrown toward All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has quickly become one of the best players in the league. However, Detroit's problems include balancing the offense with a respectable running game, playing better defense and staying out of trouble. Because all of these areas remain serious concerns, some NFL experts think this team could take a step back this year. The Lions are +500 to win the division, 11/1 to win the NFC title and 20/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The Minnesota Vikings come into this season still very much in the growing and rebuilding stage. The team's franchise RB Adrian Peterson is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL, which he suffered in week 16 against the Redskins after a direct hit to his knee. The Vikings need him to come back fully healthy and ready to carry a huge load of their offense to help take some pressure off second-year QB Christian Ponder if they hope to even come near a .500 record after posting a 3-13 mark last season. Minnesota obviously has a lot of work to do and is +2500 win the NFC North, 70/1 to win the NFC Championship and a massive longshot to win the Super Bowl at 150/1.
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