NFC North Divisional Futures, Predictions & Odds To Win The Division In 2021
The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings made the playoffs last season. In 2020, both have the same odds to win the division.
The NFC North is the only division in the NFL without a clear favorite, and that makes it fascinating.
Let’s break it down.
Odds To Win NFC North 2020
|Green Bay Packers||+165|
|Bet On The NFC North Divisional Winner At|
Green Bay Packers +165
The Packers reached the NFC Championship game last season, but the San Francisco 49ers obliterated them in that contest.
Green Bay finished with a 13-3 mark, but never looked quite as impressive as their record said. The team went from 6-10 in 2018 to win seven more games in 2019.
Teams that improved by six wins or more from one year to the next, usually regress. No team in NFL history with such an improvement, in the previous year, won the same amount of games the following season.
Unimpressive Roster Changes
A step back is expected for Green Bay in 2020, especially since the Packers did nothing to improve their roster during the offseason.
They signed WR Devin Funchess, but the wideout opted out of the season. The team also had a controversial draft, selecting QB Jordan Love and RB AJ Dillon in the first two rounds. Neither covered a team need. They also lost RT Bryan Bulaga, who is now with the Chargers.
Green Bay also lost LB Blake Martinez in the free agency. Martinez led the team in tackles in 2019 but will be replaced by Christian Kirksey, who played in Cleveland the past five years.
The Defense Will Have A Lot To Prove
Last season they were destroyed by San Francisco in two games. Many mentioned their success was because they had a favorable schedule last season.
To be fair, that narrative is not wrong. The unit faced the following quarterbacks: Mitch Trubisky, Kyle Allen, Matt Moore, Joe Flacco, Derek Carr, and rookies Dwayne Haskins, Daniel Jones, and David Blough.
In 2020 the lineup will look a lot different. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater, and Gardner Minshew are all set up to face the Packers.
Minnesota Vikings +165
The Vikings are the Packers’ number one challenger for the NFC North title. Yet, the team has been so inconsistent over the last few years, nobody will blame their doubters.
Minnesota will have Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak as their new offensive coordinator. Kubiak is not new in the franchise. He was the teams’ assistant head coach & offensive advisor in 2019.
Let’s Talk QB Cousins
His number one challenge will be taking Kirk Cousins where no one has before. Cousins has thrown 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in two years with Minnesota. But he hasn’t made the difference the Vikings were hoping for when they signed him.
Last season he was sensational in play-action situations, but average the rest of the way. He completed 71.8% of his passes after play-action while averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. He also scored a league’s high 14 touchdowns in that situation. I’m guessing Kubiak will use play-action a lot in 2020.
Who Will Fill Diggs’ Shoes?
Cousins won’t have WR Stefon Diggs this season after the wideout got traded to Buffalo. Instead, WR Adam Thielen will be the number one target while rookie WR Justin Jefferson takes the second spot.
Besides Cousins, the Vikings defense is the biggest enigma in 2020. The team lost DT Linval Joseph (Chargers) and DE Everson Griffen (TBD), but also all three starting corners: Xavier Rhodes (Colts), Trae Waynes (Bengals), and Mackensie Alexander (Bengals).
Minnesota should be a contender in the NFC North, but those losses are signifigant.
Chicago Bears +325
The Chicago Bears went from a surprising 12-4 record in 2018 to a mediocre 8-8 in 2019. The team didn’t have the same success on defense and eventually exposed their low-level QB.
Chicago recorded 50 sacks in 2018 but just 32 a year later. The turnovers forced by the defense also dropped. The Bears will try to go back to their defensive identity to have a shot in the division. The offense will be a work in progress, but if the defense delivers, the team should do more than just compete.
Plenty Of Defensive Talent
The good news is the Bears have plenty of it to go back to the 2018 level or at least close enough. Their D-line is nasty with DT Akiem Hicks and DE Khalil Mack leading the way. The front office signed veteran DEs Robert Quinn and Barkevious Mingo to add depth.
Linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are two of the best LBs duos in the NFL. Last season they missed some games, but when healthy, they complete a fantastic front seven.
Chicago’s most significant loss is CB Prince Amukamara, who now plays with the Raiders. Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine are good cornerbacks without reaching a top-player status. The safety position is more than cover with Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson.
The Bears’ Defense: All The Right Names
The Bears defense has the right names to be back as one of the best in the league.
A great defense can carry a lousy quarterback. That’s what happened two years ago when Mitch Trubisky looked competent. Chicago’s front office brought QB Nick Foles from Jacksonville in exchange for a fourth-round pick. The Bears also swallowed Foles’ contract.
The move is an obvious message that the Bears are moving on from Trubisky. They will allow him to compete for his job, but he doesn’t have the pole position anymore.
The Bears ranked in the bottom five in yards per attempts to wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs last season. Foles doesn’t need much to surpass Trubisky’s showing from last season, though he needs to stay healthy.
Detroit Lions +600
It’s year three for HC Matt Patricia, and it’s time to deliver. The former Patriot defensive coordinator was hired to take the team to the playoffs and more. With a 6-10 record in 2018 and 3-12 in 2019, nobody can say they have even been close. If anything, the team regressed under Patricia.
Detroit will have four players that spent time with Patricia in New England. DE Trey Flowers was already there, but they added DT Danny Shelton, SS Duron Harmon, and OLB Jamie Collins. Matt Patricia can’t complain about not having his guys.
The Lions’ Offense: As Talented As Any
The Lions’ offense is as talented as any other. The problem is QB Matt Stafford needs to stay healthy, or any chance to upset the favorites will go down the trash. Stafford played only eight games last season. Detroit lost every single game he wasn’t on the field in 2019.
Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola are a great trio of wideouts. They all give Stafford endless options in the passing game. The Lions drafted RB D’Andre Swift, and he will share carries with Kerryon Johnson. And there’s TE T.J. Hockenson, who I expect will better in his second year.
As I said, this team has talent. The only problem is it doesn’t have the right coach.
NFC North Division Winner Prediction 2020
The boring answer would be the Green Bay Packers at +165. The team won 13 games last season, reached the NFC Championship game, and still has the best QB in the division. Even by regressing in 2020, they should be in good shape.
However, my pick it’s going to surprise many. I find the Bears as the team with the biggest upside out of this group. People are sleeping on Chicago mostly because their offense was atrocious last season.
A few factors came in to play. Mitch Trubisky is the simple answer, but the offensive line also regressed while RB David Montgomery struggled.
Bear In Mind: Trubisky Won’t Be The Starter This Season
Nick Foles will control the offense and will be good enough to take them to the next level. The O-line should improve with a QB who can command the offense like Foles, and so should Montgomery.
The best defense in the division belongs to the Bears and is not even close. Minnesota had an exodus on defense, the Packers’ run D remains the biggest Achilles heel, and I don’t trust anything surrounding Matt Patricia.
The Bears at +325 have the talent and value to make this pick the right one. Ten wins should be enough.
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