2018 NFC North Divisional Futures Predictions
The NFC North is perhaps the division that is most up in the air this coming season. With Aaron Rodgers healthy and the Vikings investing long-term in Kirk Cousins, it’s likely this teams will do battle this season with one or the other landing on top. Still, divisional games are tough, and this division been quite competitive in the past few seasons.
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Betting Odds to Win the National Football Conference – NFC North
- Minnesota Vikings +125
- Green Bay Packers +150
- Detroit Lions +600
- Chicago Bears +800
Minnesota Vikings +125
Minnesota is the cream of the crop in the division after almost getting themselves to the Super Bowl last year but losing out to the eventual champion, the Philadelphia Eagles. The coaching staff remains mostly the same, with the most significant change coming at quarterback. Case Keenum left as a free agent to Denver while the Vikings got the prize of free agency at quarterback in ex-Redskin, Kirk Cousins. Their tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen remains intact, with Diggs signing a long-term deal. Running back Jerrick McKinnon bolted in free agency, but Latavius Murray is still with the team, and sophomore Dalvin Cook has returned from a torn ACL.
The Vikings defense was the best unit in the NFC last season. And, debatably the best in the entire league. If they avoid injuries, they will be right back where they were last season, allowing the fewest points and yards in the league. Minnesota won’t likely improve on their 13-3 mark of last year, but things would indeed have to go haywire for them to miss the postseason.
Green Bay Packers +150
The Packers finished last year with a 7-9, which is admirable, considering they lost Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 to a broken collarbone. Rodgers returned late in the season with a playoff chance still on the table, but after Green Bay was out postseason contention, he headed back to the bench. He’s now healthy, and the Packers are looking to win the division and compete for a title.
Longtime Packer, Jordy Nelson, was released in the offseason, vaulting Davante Adams into the number one receiver role. Green Bay also signed ex-Seahawk, Jimmy Graham. Randall Cobb will slide into the second receiver slot once again. However, there have been rumors about him being available and speculation he may get cut. The offense has never been a problem for the Packers, though. The defense delivered another underwhelming season in 2017. Cornerback was a significant need, and they spent their top two picks on cornerbacks. If the pass rush improves, this unit will be excellent.
Detroit Lions +600
The Lions are coming off a 9-7 2017 season. That always seems to be the area where they operate. They’re not terrible, but they are never consistent contenders each season. Detroit moved on from Jim Caldwell last season to hire former Patriots’ defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia. Patricia did not change from offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, which certainly seems like the right move based on his results. Detroit’s offensive line had many injuries last season. They also had 32nd ranked running game, but still managed to score the 7th most points in the previous year.
Stafford has a strong core of receiving options, with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and sophomore, Kenny Golladay. The Lions defense will come down to Patricia’s scheme. Expect it to be like what we saw in New England. However, this defense is low on talent. Injuries played a role last, and they still do have a solid cornerback in Darius Slay, but this scheme needs to improve this squad immediately because there wasn’t a lot of personnel changes in the offseason.
Chicago Bears +800
The Bears went 5-11 last season and let go, John Fox, who, in my opinion, was easily the worst coach in the NFL. They went in the opposite direction and hired ex-Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy. Nagy brings a high-flying offense and a coach that is far more aggressive than John Fox’s 1980s football style. It is a massive upgrade to Mitchell Trubisky and the entire offense. Chicago signed ex-Jaguar, Allen Robinson in the offseason to give them an extra aerial threat, along with tight end, Trey Burton from the Super Bowl-winning Eagles. Jordan Howard is expected to get more work as the lead back this season, as well.
All and all, this unit will see improvement under Nagy but are far from a top offense in the league. Nagy kept Vic Fangio as head of the defense and given his results, which makes a ton of sense. The Bears ranked 10th in total defense despite having no Pro Bowl talent. If their linebackers can improve, they could easily be a top-five defense. Both cornerbacks from last season, Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are signed long term.
2018 NFC North Divisional Pick – Green Bay Packers +150
With everyone in Minnesota to win this division and perhaps, the Super Bowl – I am not buying into the hype. Their offensive line is not championship caliber, and Cousins is still a quarterback who has never won a postseason game and has a sub .500 overall record. And, he’s still turnover prone. It’s hard to say much wrong about the Vikings defense, but their schedule is much harder this year, and every team is susceptible to injuries. I am just not buying them as contenders and think they have a lot more issues than meets the eye.
The Packers, with Rodgers, at +150, are a bit more appetizing. If they can get the even average play out of their defense, then the highest paid player in the league has a good chance to deliver a division title to the fans at Lambeau. The Bears have some talent on the horizon, but I am not sure to Trubisky is the long-term answer in Chicago. I’d take more of a shot on them than the Lions, only because I have no faith in Detroit’s defense to stop anyone. All and all, I expect the Packers to take this division if Aaron Rodgers remains healthy.
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