2016 NFL Division Winners at BetOnline: NFC North and NFC South Edition

nfl-nfc-divisions

nfl-nfc-divisionsDivisional futures are some of our favorite markets for NFL bettors. We seem to find a lot more value betting divisional futures versus postseason futures, such as which team will win the NFC Championship, AFC Championship, and Super Bowl.

Today, we will take a look the NFC divisional markets with a breakdown of NFC South and NFC North and our picks to win, along with some upside plays.

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NFC North

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The Packers (-250)

Last season was Aaron Rodgers’ worst of his career, which certainly hurt Green Bay’s playoffs hopes, but didn’t diminish them. The Packers finished second in the division with a 10-6 and earned a Wild Card berth. They lost in overtime to the Cardinals in the first round.

Rodgers has Jordy Nelson back this year from a torn ACL. He’s expected to play Week 1 and is not fully healed but should be back to full health in the early part of the season. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is also over the shoulder injuries he battled all last season. Starting running back Eddie Lacy has slimmed down from last season. It appears to be all systems go for the Packers once again.

Defensively, their front seven is the weakest part of the unit, but it’s still around the league average. Their secondary has a chance to be elite if a few players take a step forward. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Packers should have a top-five secondary, with upside for more.

Ideally, this bet would have been a lot better before the injury to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but Green Bay is deservedly the massive favorite in this division. As crazy as it sounds, they’re underpriced at -250.

The Vikings (+400)

Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome injury in practice last week that ended his 2016 season. Bridgewater suffered a fully torn ACL and other structural damage. He’s facing a lengthy rehab and may not even be ready for the start of next year.

Bridgewater’s injury puts a big dent in Minnesota’s playoff chances after they won the division last year with an 11-5 record. Next up is backup Shaun Hill, who was once considered one of the league’s better backups. That’s no longer the case. Hill is now 36, and his last NFL start was Dec. 28th, 2014.

Adrian Peterson will become a lot more important this season. Now 31 years old, one of the greatest running backs ever is a bit slower, but is still one of the league’s top runners. It ‘d be nice if the passing offense can step up as well. Stephon Diggs and Charles Johnson don’t make for best outside receiving duo. So far, first round pick Laquon Treadwell has not done enough in camp to push for a starting job.

There is a lot to like defensively. Both the Vikings front seven and defense are top-ten units and are especially effective with a strong running game. Harrison Smith is debatably the league’s best safety.

Green Bay has a stranglehold on this division, but if Hill works out or the Vikings find help outside the organization – they have a shot and for +400, it’s worth taking a stab. Their defense is immensely talented and if they play at an elite level and the skill players on offense step up, they could make this one interesting at the end of the year.

Update: The Vikings traded for Sam Bradford. This gives them a nice upgrade at quarterback when compared to Shaun Hill, but Bradford isn’t going to light the world on fire. He will be use similarly to Bridgewater.

The Bears (+900)

Chicago’s first year under the John Fox wasn’t much better than Mark Tressman’s 2014 season. The Bears finished last season at 6-10, just one game better than Tressman that year. Chicago hasn’t had a winning season since the franchise went 10-6 in 2012-13 under former head coach Lovie Smith. Things won’t likely get better this season.

Cutler is coming off one of his better seasons, but he has struggled with inconstancy often in the past.  Aside from the injury-prone Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, there simply aren’t many other playmakers on this offense. Their offensive line should improve this season but is still one of the worst in the league.

The Bears upgraded their front seven this offseason, and it’s easily the most talented part of the roster. They added Akiem Hicks to the defensive line, along with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan at linebacker.

While a lot of free agent money went into the front seven, there wasn’t much left for the secondary. Chicago is likely to be without their top three cornerbacks as they head into Week 1, but even if everyone was healthy, there are question marks all over the unit.

Chicago may see a small improvement this year, but regressing is not a shocking outcome either. An injury to Alshon Jeffery would knock their entire offense down a peg, and the defense is still easily in the bottom third of the league. There’s not a lot of talent on this team, even at +900, we’re not biting.

The Lions (+1000)

Despite going 11-5 in the 2014-15 season, Detroit went 7-9 last year. However, their play did improve drastically down the stretch. The Lions went into their Week 9 bye with a record of 1-7, but we’re able to win six of their last eight games.

Stafford’s play has seemingly declined since his rookie year, but he got better in the second half after the offense was revamped and Jim Bob Cooter took over the offensive coordinator job after Joe Lombardi was fired.

There’s talent on this offense, despite the loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement. Marvin Jones was signed in the offseason formerly of Cincinnati. They also added Anquan Boldin to take over the slot receiver role.

The offensive line is a question mark but could play better than expected. Detroit used their first round pick on Taylor Decker to start at left tackle. The hope is that an improved offensive line will open up holes for second-year pro, running back, Ameer Abdullah. The Lions were last in the league in rushing yards last season.

Defensively, it’s a mixed bag. Their front seven has the potential to be one of the better units in the league. The secondary is just average or poor behind cornerback Darius Slay, but if they improve, this unit would easily be in the upper half of the league.

If there is a darkhorse in this division, it’s Detroit. Their play during the second half of the season shouldn’t be discounted. If things break right, this team could improve a lot compared to last year’s record.

NFC North Best Bet(s): The Packers, despite their hefty -250 price, are the best bet in the division. Minnesota at +400 could make some noise if they upgrade at passer and their defense continues to improve. The Lions are an interesting upside play. At 10/1, there’s plenty of merit to a high payoff wager with how much they have grown as a team since the midpoint of last season.

NFC South

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The Panthers -250

Carolina comes off a Super Bowl loss after a dominating regular season and playoffs, for the most part. The Panthers finished the season 15-1 last year and won the NFC South by a huge margin, but there are reasons to believe it might be closer this year.

Cam Newton is the ultimate dual threat quarterback and took league MVP honors last season, which was well deserved. Their offensive line is one of the best in the league. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin will be back this season after missing all of the last year due to injury.

Led by Luke Kuechly the Panthers front seven is one of the best. Their pass rush is excellent, and their linebackers led by Kuechly are easily the best linebacker coverage unit is easily the best in the league. The issues come in when we move to their secondary, which has been heavily depleted since last season.

The Panthers drafted three rookies to restock their secondary after Josh Norman left in free agency to the Redskins and Charles Tillman retired. They play a lot of zone defense and have excellent front seven, which could help them with the inexperience in the secondary

The rest of the division is weak, but they may be challenged this season. Cam Newton was otherworldly regarding efficiency last year. He’s a great player, but there has to be some drop-off. Their secondary being dismantled is going to be a major issue if the offense can’t score like it did last season.

If we’re paying -250, we would rather go with a team like the Green Bay Packers.

The Falcons +625

Atlanta seems always to be on the cusp of getting better and competing for a Super Bowl, but always falling short. Since their 13-3 season under Mike Smith in the 2012-13 season, the Falcons have gone 18-30. They’re coming off an 8-8 year last season.

Matt Ryan isn’t the model of consistency at the quarterback position, but he continues to post above average years. Ryan also dealt with a huge number of drops last season from his pass catchers.

Julio Jones gives the receivers a leg-up on most other squads, but there isn’t a ton behind him. Gone are Roddy White and drop-prone Leonard Hankerson. Into to the mix is former Bengal and slot receiver Muhammad Sanu. Sanu is a big upgrade over what they had last year but isn’t a game changer.

The good news is that the Falcons have one of the best offensive lines in the league. They kept all four spots besides center from last season but upgraded that spot with former Browns center, Alex Mack.

Defense is where it gets shaky. Their front seven is young and athletic, but it’s mostly unproven. It will be one area that they need exceed expectations if they want to compete this season. They’ve largely overhauled the unit from last year.

In the secondary, there isn’t much behind Desmond Trufant. He’s an elite talent, but the rest of the unit is largely below or around the league average.

If Carolina slips up, this division could belong to the Falcons. If their revamped defense works out – they could be a scary team. One that is particularly loaded with offensive talent. There is a lot to like on a team that most others are down, especially at +625.

The Saints +650

Although they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees – New Orleans hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2013 season. New Orleans went 7-9 last year, which might be impressive considering how poor they are on the defensive side of the ball.

Not much has changed offensively. The Saints offense is loaded, and they have an upper tier offensive line, but one that did look shaky in the preseason. New Orleans always puts up big offensive numbers, because their defense is awful.

The front seven gave up a league-worst 4.9 yards per game last season against the run, the worst mark in the league. Their secondary does have some hope for improvement with talented a talented shadow cornerback in Delvin Breaux and safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Jarius Byrd. However, based on last year’s statistics, it’s going to be a long year defensively.

New Orleans’ defensive issues and their poor play on the road are two major concerns heading into the season. Although they are close with the Falcons when it comes betting odds, they may be the worst team and far out of the playoff picture come December.

The Buccaneers +700

Tampa Bay is coming a 6-10 season and have hired their former offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter to take over after firing Lovie Smith last season. The Bucs have a lot to look forward to in the coming years, but they probably aren’t ready to compete just yet.

Jameis Winston III’s first season in professional football was a big success. Sure, he made rookie mistakes, but he has a cannon for an arm and some big receivers to throw to in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. He also probably has the best one-two punch in the league in Doug Martin and Charles Sims at running back.

The offensive line is an issue, however. It’s hard to move the offense with a weak line, through the air or on the ground and is far from ideal when you have a young signal caller. The defense might not be much help either.

Their front seven may be the worst in the league, even with Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle, who had a down year by his standards. Robert Ayers will upgrade the unit, but like the Saints, the Buccaneers really struggled against the run.

The secondary is another weak spot. Vernon Hargreaves III was drafted in the first round at cornerback. He’s been Pro Football Focus’ top-rated cornerback in the preseason. If he can carry that over into the regular season, it would be a huge plus for a secondary that is short on elite talent, even above-average talent.

As mentioned earlier Tampa Bay has a lot of excellent pieces, and they will be a team to watch the next few years. In the short term, they probably won’t be competing with the number of question marks they have on both sides of the ball. At +700, we’re not interested.

NFC South Best Bet(s): Carolina has lost a lot of talent on defense to be worth plunking down money at a price of -250. This division may be weak, but they are still vulnerable. Atlanta seems to be the most likely team to rise to the top of the South at +625, but it’s a tough division to call.

Joseph Falchetti

Joe is the author of the blog, most picks, and the majority of excellent content on SafestBettingSites. He's been mentioned on Forbes.com as a gaming analyst and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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