Packers Continue to Lord over NFC North
It may be the “same ole” for the NFC North this coming season as the Green Bay Packers are once again the cream of the crop. Aaron Rodgers returns with a shiny new contract and even without his top receiver in Davante Adams, the Packers are expected to win 11 or so games per their NFC North win totals. Green Bay goes for its fourth straight division title and its 10th in the Rodgers era.
As for the rest of the division, the Minnesota Vikings remain a distant second per the NFC North standings‘ odds. Let’s get real… this team could benefit greatly from a long-needed coaching change and also improve its already formidable defense.
The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions will be duking it out for the third place in the division. The NFC North win Totals have them neck-and-neck with similar records and near-similar odds to make the playoffs. Between the two, Detroit did much better in the offseason so the Lions may finally climb out of the division’s basement.
The NFC North will also benefit from having one of the softer schedules as it faces the two East divisions. In fact, the Lions have the fifth-easiest schedule in the NFL while the Packers’ strength of schedule is ranked 22nd.
There is a solid chance the Chicago Bears end up with the first overall pick in 2023. Poor Justin Fields. He may go from being a quarterback messiah to just another failed prospect as management blew up the team around him. Chicago traded away its best player in Khalil Mack then barely added any weapons for their quarterback.
Chicago drafted Velus Jones with their third-round pick and added a few pieces to the moribund offensive line. But none of what Chicago did improved the team significantly on paper. Fields was sacked an average of 11.8 percent of the time when attempting to pass and this may continue in 2022.
The Bears are also switching schemes under Matt Eberflus as the team looks to reclaim its defensive identity. Chicago’s defense has gone from the best in 2018 to the 22nd last year. This team still has plenty of promising players on this side of the ball but a brutal offense will limit whatever gains the defense can make hence why their win totals have dropped from its opener of seven to 6½.
The Detroit Lions have become the “loveable losers” thanks to their coach, Dan Campbell. While the Lions only won three games last season but went 11-6 against the spread (ATS) thus showing that they played better than oddsmakers expected them to. Opposite to Chicago, bettors have sided with the Lions and have bet up their NFC North win totals from six to 6½. Their playoff odds also shortened from +500 to +400.
Detroit did not draft a star quarterback but it did the next best thing; take two potential stars in Aidan Hutchinson on defense and Jameson Williams at receiver even if the latter is hurt and may miss games. The Lions finished with the second-worst defense in 2021 so the team addressed this issue by using most of its draft capital to take defenders – six of their eight picks.
The team has also re-signed most of its free agents from last season thus giving this team plenty of continuity. Players love Campbell and will keep working hard for him and a schedule with 11 games against non-playoff teams may just make the Lions another hot underdog per the NFL betting trends.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers made a good decision to stay in Green Bay. While fans and media can fantasize about him in Pittsburgh, the Packers are sitting pretty atop the NFC North. Green Bay has won 13 games for three straight seasons hence why the market has moved on the “over” of their 11-win total.
Here we go again, the Packers once again failed to build an arsenal around Rodgers. Not only did the Packers get rid of Davante Adams but they also let Marquez Valdes-Scantling go. Green Bay held until the second round to take a wide receiver. Rodgers takes a while to trust his receivers so it may be rough to see him with a new group.
On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay cut two-time Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith who went to Minnesota. The Packers’ defense, which finished 13th in 2021, has a good shot at finishing in the top-10 again. Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt are Pro Bowl-caliber additions though Minnesota is not too far behind the Packers now.
The Minnesota Vikings got faded on the NFC North win totals as their opening number of nine has dropped to 8½. The market is likely jaded from seeing the Vikings finish with less than nine wins for the last two seasons. Kevin O’Connell should revitalize a stagnant offense while Ed Donatell lights a fire with the underachieving defense.
Minnesota is still expected to miss the playoffs though this team could play much differently than its past versions. Quarterback Kirk Cousins remains a controversial figure as a quarterback that looks better in Fantasy Football than in real football. Still, he re-signed with Minnesota so the powers-at-be think he’s the man.
O’Connell and Donatell are also not the only new faces on the personnel side of things. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the team’s new general manager. Adofo-Mensah had an integral role in turning around the 49ers and Browns. He could have a positive impact on the Vikings.
[Correction: This story originally stated the Green Bay Packers took Christian Watson in the third round, while he was actually taken in the second.]Follow us on Twitter