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2018

NFC North

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Odds to Win

For the first time in a long time, the Packers aren’t a hands-down favorite to win the NFC North. They’ve won five of the last seven, but the Vikings have won two of the last three. Still, it’s expected to be a battle between those teams at the top with the Lions and Bears just hoping to be in the conversation.

Odds to win NFC North 

Courtesy of 5Dimes (mid August)

Minnesota Vikings +135

Green Bay Packers +140

Detroit Lions +700

Chicago Bears +875

It’s hard not to like the Minnesota Vikings (over/under 10) this year. As long as everyone stays healthy, they should have one of the most talented rosters in the league. They upgraded at quarterback with Kirk Cousins, while also getting back Dalvin Cook, who tore his ACL in Week 4 last season. Throw in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph in the receiving game and this offense could be considered elite. The line was a huge improvement last year and added guard Tom Compton this offseason. A bigger reason to back them is the defense that ranked No. 2 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last year, allowing just 15.8 points per game. That side of the ball is pretty much the same and they added tackle Sheldon Richardson to the mix. They may fall back to earth in some categories, but the talent is still there to be dominant.

The one team that’s just about even with Vikings is the Green Bay Packers (over/under 10). They finished with seven wins last year solely because of an injury to Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers stayed healthy, the division standings could’ve looked a lot different. As long as Rodgers stays healthy for 16 games this team will be in the hunt. Jordy Nelson is gone, but Rodgers is continually successful no matter who he has and the addition of Jimmy Graham should help in the red zone along with Davante Adams. The running game is also more dynamic than usual with a trio of guys to give the ball to in Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. As long as the defense stays mediocre, that could be enough and the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson on the line should help with new coordinator Mike Pettine.

The Detroit Lions (over/under 7.5) are seemingly in this spot every year and never have enough to win the division. That’ll probably be the case again in their first season under Bill Belichick disciple, Matt Patricia. Matthew Stafford is still there and he’ll keep the team relevant with numerous playmakers to turn to. The receiving core is hard to beat with Golden Tate underneath to go with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay out wide. The Lions added bruiser LeGarrette Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson in the backfield and they’ll have too many options on that front. Rookie center Frank Ragnow can also boost the line. The problem is on the defensive side as Patricia has his work cut out for him. There’s talent with Ziggy Ansah, Jarrad Davis and Darius Slay, but this unit has often been hard to rely on. They need one or two more playmakers to help the group perform more consistently.

The Chicago Bears (over/under 6.5) are becoming more relevant by the day and are no longer expected to be a walkover with new head coach Matt Nagy. He brings over an offense in the mold of Andy Reid that's based around second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears also have more talent than recent seasons with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton catching passes, as well as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen out of the backfield. Getting the offensive line above average will be important for that group to have success. The defense should still be the strong suit of the team with a fairly loaded squad that was slightly above average last season. Outside linebacker Sam Acho was added to the mix to go with a young core that features Leonard Floyd and Eddie Jackson. The Bears may not be there yet, but they are getting close.

The Lions and Bears aren’t far off, but it’d be quite the gamble to take either one of them over the top two teams in this division. The Vikings are the better overall team, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. It’s usually better to go with the future Hall of Famer at quarterback, but it’ll be hard to go against the all-around talent of the Vikings. 

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