2014 Odds to Win NFC North with Picks and NFL Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 7/24/2014
With all 32 NFL teams back to work with the opening of training camp, you know it will not be long before the start of another season of football. I have been previewing each of the eight division races with the help of BetOnline's NFL futures odds, and the next stop on the tour takes us to the NFC North, where an 8-7-1 record was good enough to claim that title in 2013. The following are this season's picks and predictions for Black and Blue Division of the NFL.
Green Bay Packers Odds to Win the NFC North -160
If you ever question the value of an elite quarterback in the NFL, the story of last year's Packers should make things perfectly clear. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, Green Bay opened the season with five victories in its first seven games. When he went down with a collarbone injury in Week 9, the Packers went 2-5-1 in his absence. The 10-year vet is back and reportedly as healthy as ever, which is the main reason his team is favored to win its fourth straight NFC North title.
Rodgers will have some additional help this season with the addition of wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Richard Rodgers through the draft. The Packers also did a good job at re-signing a couple of key free agents, including fullback John Kuhn on offense and defensive end Mike Neal on the other side of the ball. Green Bay still has one of the most potent offensive attacks in the league, but it's going to have to improve a defense that was ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed (372.2) and 24th in points allowed (26.8).
Chicago Bears Odds to Win the NFC North +300
The expectation level for the Bears continues to rise in head coach Marc Trestman's second season at the helm. Jay Cutler remains one of the better passing quarterbacks in the league, and with a deep receiving corps that includes Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery they should have little problem moving the ball through the air. Matt Forte will continue to anchor the running game after rushing for 1,339 yards in 2013.
Chicago's biggest issue last season was a defense that gave up 29.9 points a game, but it has taken some big steps towards correcting that problem this past offseason. First, the Bears added free agents Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen to their defensive line, and then they used four of their first five picks in the draft to add some depth to this unit, including cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th overall pick in the first round.
Detroit Lions Odds to Win the NFC North +375
Detroit's 1-6 collapse down the stretch last season to finish 7-9 has this team at a crossroads heading into the 2014 season. New head coach Jim Caldwell still has a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, but he has to find a way to bring a winning culture to a perennial losing team. Since 2001, the Lions have posted just one winning season, and they have finished with six or less wins in 10 of those 13 seasons.
Caldwell will look to build on one of the top passing games in the league that is led by the pass-catch duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The Lions added wide receiver Golden Tate to the mix through free agency, and they selected tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th pick in the first round of the draft. In an effort to address a defensive secondary that allowed an average of 246.9 passing yards a game, Detroit added some depth with free agent safety James Ihedigbo and cornerback Nevin Lawson in the draft.
Minnesota Vikings Odds to Win the NFC North +2000
The longest odds to win the NFC North go to a team that stunned the NFL world in 2012 with 10 wins. Unfortunately, this one-hit wonder sunk to 5-10-1 last year. Leslie Frazier was relieved of his duties as head coach, and the Vikings brought in Mike Zimmer to right the ship. Minnesota still has one of the top running games in the league behind perennial All-Pro Adrian Peterson, but turmoil at the quarterback position has haunted this offense for the past several seasons.
The Vikings resigned veteran quarterback Matt Cassel, and they still have some hope that Christian Ponder can be an effective signal caller at this level, but you have to wonder how many early-season losses will it take to pull the trigger on first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater as the team's new starter. He would have some potent weapons around him in wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, but things still shape up as 2014 being a rebuilding year for this team.
2014 NFC North Picks and Predictions
As long as Rodgers remains healthy, there is no reason to go against Green Bay to win the NFC North again in 2014. Chicago should be able to keep things interesting deep into December. And while it will still finish the season in second place, a play on the "over 8.5" wins could be the way to go despite a steep moneyline of -150. The win total for the Lions has also been set at 8.5, but I would go with the "under" on a moneyline of -130 as this team is primed to take a step backwards this year. Minnesota is destined to once again bring up the rear in the NFC North as it will struggle to hit a projected win total of six games.
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