For the second straight year, the Green Bay Packers enter the NFL season as the odds-on betting choice to win the NFC North on futures boards at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet. Here, we dive into NFC North odds from around the sports betting marketplace.
Only the Tampa Bay Bucs and Buffalo Bills are heavier division favorites than the Packers are on in the NFC North.
Last season, the Packers romped to the division crown at preseason odds of -165, finishing five games ahead of second-place Minnesota. This year, Green Bay’s odds are as short as -190 at DraftKings.
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But going back five seasons, the Packers were listed at -225 to win the North, according to sportsoddshistory.com, and were beaten out by then-coach Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. Could that happen again?
Sure, but it won’t be under Zimmer, since there’s a new man in charge in Minnesota.
Odds to win NFC North
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Here’s a look at how the division race figures to play out with teams listed in order of predicted finish. Last year’s regular-season records are listed in parentheses along with division odds followed by odds to win the NFL championship.
NFC North Picks & Predictions
Minnesota Vikings Odds and Outlook
2021 record: 8-9
Division odds: +300 at FanDuel
Super Bowl odds: +4000 at DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM
Kevin O’Connell is the new man in charge after operating as offensive coordinator under Sean McVay during the Los Angeles Rams’ run to the Super Bowl last season.
It’s not so much that the Vikings’ improvements alone warrant them being considered the division’s new kingpin, but that the Packers probably won’t be nearly as good this season without standout WR Davante Adams and with OLT David Bakhtiari (knee surgery) likely to miss significant time again this year.
Anyway, O’Connell will have plenty of star power to work with in QB Kirk Cousins; third-year WR Justin Jefferson, who was second in the league with 1,616 receiving yards last year; dependable veteran Adam Thielen (10 TD catches), and RB Dalvin Cook, who was the league’s fifth-leading rusher with 1,159 yards (4.7/carry) in 2021 despite missing four games with a torn labrum.
The unit also boasts a couple of stout offensive tackles to protect Cousins and lead the way for Cook.
As for the oft-maligned Cousins, over the past four seasons, he is one of only three QBs to be ranked in the top 10 on the passer rating chart each year, joining KC’s Patrick Mahomes and current Denver QB Russell Wilson. In 2021, Cousins ranked fourth.
Defensively, the Vikings bolstered weak aspects of their game — the secondary and pass rush — to go with a strong linebacking crew. Plus DE Danielle Hunter is back after missing the final 10 games of 2021 with a torn pec. In 2019 and 2020, he had 14.5 sacks each year.
Fun fact: O’Connell will be attempting to become the second rookie head coach in history to take over a team with a losing record and win a league title. The only guy to do it was Adam Walsh with the 1945 Cleveland Rams. And unlike O’Connell, the year before he was Harvard’s line coach.
Green Bay Packer Odds and Outlook
2021 record: 13-4
Division odds: -165 at PointsBet
Super Bowl 57 odds: +1200 at FanDuel, PointsBet, BetMGM
MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 38, is back for Green Bay, which earned the top seed in the NFC last year before its dismal showing in a 13-10 wild-card loss to San Francisco.
Who’s not back is Adams, the league’s second-best pass catcher last year with 123 receptions. He signed with Vegas. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, another favorite target of Rodgers, is also missing. He’s playing with former MVP Mahomes in Kansas City.
Plus, Rodgers’ blind-side protector, Bakhtiari, had an offseason setback, and who knows when/if he’ll be back.
Although Rodgers is coming off a sensational statistical season, with 37 TD passes, four interceptions, and a league-best 111.9 passer rating, he benefited from playing eight games against teams ranked in the bottom eight in defensive passer rating, including twice against 32nd-ranked Chicago (“I still own you!“). He faced a top-10 unit only two times, including his miserable opener against the Saints. This season, seven teams that ranked in the top 10 in 2021 are on GB’s schedule.
The team’s running game, led by bulldozing Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, is formidable and will be asked to help out more often in the air game.
Also, Green Bay’s ninth-ranked defense, which has a quality linebacking corps, might need to be a few notches better this season to make up for the likelihood of a less-productive offense.
The Packers’ first-place schedule is particularly difficult, too, with games against fellow defending division champs Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and the Rams.
Fun fact: In addition to those aforementioned foes, Green Bay will be taking on two other defending division champs coming off byes — Buffalo and Dallas.
NFL schedule: Who caught the breaks?
Detroit Lions Odds and Outlook
2021 record: 3-13-1
NFC North odds: +1000 at DraftKings
Super Bowl 57 odds: +15000 at DraftKings
The Lions, who have finished last the past four seasons, have a highly favorable schedule, thanks in large part to being one of four teams that don’t face an opponent coming off extended rest. In addition, their last-place slate has them as the only team in the division with the privilege of taking on the NY Giants, Jacksonville, and Seattle, teams that have season win totals of seven or below.
Although Detroit has plenty of holes to fill before becoming a threat to make noise in the playoffs, its offensive line is applauded for being one of the best in the league, which contributed to the running game’s norm of 4.4 a carry, the best for the team since 2004. And that production was without a pair of standouts for most of the season — OLT Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow. Both are back.
Now, if lead RB D’Andre Swift can remain healthy for a full season, he’s set up to have the first 1,000-yard rushing season for the team since 2013 (Reggie Bush), the longest drought in the league.
QB Jared Goff has been widely harpooned after being acquired from the Rams, but he had a strong end of the season, winning three of his final four starts with nine TD passes and only two INTs. Much of that improvement was the result in a late-season change of play-callers. But the Lions didn’t do him any favors by letting most of last year’s receiving corps depart in the offseason.
The defense got an enormous boost with the addition of ex-Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson with the second pick in the draft.
But can the Lions overachieve again like they did last year with an 11-6 ATS mark, third best in the league?
Fun fact: The Lions have been an underdog their past 24 games, the longest current streak in the league. In the early lines posted for this season, Detroit isn’t favored until it plays host to Seattle in Week 4.
Chicago Bears Odds and Outlook
2021 record: 6-11
NFC North odds: +1400 at DraftKings
Super Bowl 57 odds: +15000 at DraftKings
The Bears are in full-blown rebuild mode under rookie coach Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis’ defensive coordinator the past five seasons.
Chicago is going all-in with second-year QB Justin Fields, whose inability to unload the ball quickly led to him being a sack magnet behind an offensive line that had few strong points. In one game last year vs. Cleveland, he went down nine times in 42 snaps, as the Bears produced 47 yards of total offense, the worst output by any team in 2021.
Plus, he has no experienced receivers to work with. But he does have Tulane’s Darnell Mooney, a third-year WR who had 1,055 yards last year.
The running back situation isn’t bad, with tackle-busting David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, but when the team is behind most of the time, what’s the use?
Defensively, their top player, Khalil Mack, was traded to the LA Chargers in the offseason, and three regulars along the line are gone as the team switches from a 3-4 for a 4-3 alignment.
And their worst-ranked pass defense surely is counting on linebacker Robert Quinn to keep the heat on QBs. His 18.5 sacks last year ranked second in the league.
In summary, Chicago’s season win total of 6.5 games (DraftKings) appears to be a reach.
Fun fact: The Bears, who started their rookie QB 10 times last season, were one of two teams (Giants) that didn’t get to play against a rookie starting QB in 2021.
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The Packers have the shortest odds to claim their fourth-straight division title. In fact, just two teams are larger favorites to win their respective divisions.
The Vikings have won this NFC North 20 times, the most in the division’s history. The Packers have 18 NFC North titles, the Bears 11, and the Lions 3.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are favored in NFC odds and to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Of the teams in the NFC North, the Packers are priced with the shortest odds.