The Green Bay Packers are the clear favorite to capture their fifth straight NFC North title with the rest of the division struggling to improve over the offseason and one team actually losing a franchise player during free agency. The Packers themselves must deal with the fallout of a devastating playoff loss that cost the organization a shot at a sixth Super Bowl appearance and may use the disappointment as a catalyst for a renewed interest in the regular season. Let's take a closer look at the NFC North's 2015 schedule with important games and make a few predictions. All odds come from Bovada.
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Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Odds: +700
Games of Consequence :Week 2 against Seattle; Week 3 against Kansas City; Week 6 against San Diego; Week 8 at Denver; Week 13 at Detroit; Week 14 against Dallas; Week 16 at Arizona
Green Bay will get a shot at some redemption for last season's NFC title game collapse right off the bat as they play Seattle during Week 2. Mike McCarthy and his staff spent the offseason trying to bolster up the special teams unit that was largely responsible for the meltdown last season by drafting multiple players that could make an impact right away. Outside of those additions, the Packers will be returning a core group of players that managed to produce 12 wins in 2014.
Schedule-wise, Green Bay will have a tougher-than-normal year as the team faces the NFC West, perhaps the toughest division in the entire NFL, this season. The squad will also have a couple other marquee matchups against Denver, Kansas City and Dallas. After a Week 1 game against Chicago, the schedule will get particularly tough for Green Bay as it plays Seattle, Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego and Denver in a six-week span. Do not be surprised if the team struggles to start 2015.
Prediction : 11-5, division champions.
Super Bowl Odds: +3300
Division Odds: +450
Games of Consequence : Week 1 at San Diego; Week 3 against Denver; Week 4 at Seattle; Week 5 against Arizona; Week 8 at Kansas City; Week 10 at Green Bay; Week 12 against Philadelphia; Week 14 and 15 at St. Louis and New Orleans; Week 16 against San Francisco
Detroit took a huge hit over the offseason when Ndamukong Suh decided not to re-sign with the team, taking an offer from the Miami Dolphins. The Lions still have one of the most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league, but offense was never their problem to begin with. But an already-suspect defense lost the one player that was actually holding things together.
Schedule-wise, Detroit has a brutal 2015 awaiting with opening games against Seattle, San Diego and Denver. The Lions seem to match up poorly with the NFC West, and they will probably struggle during most of their non-division matchups, which also include games against Philadelphia, New Orleans and Kansas City. Expect a tough year for Detroit.
Prediction : 8-8
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Division Odds: +900
Games of Consequence :
Minnesota was surprisingly competitive during a season in which the organization lost its star running back for most of the year. The team finished 2014 with a 7-9 record and covered 10 games to produce the fifth best ATS mark in the entire league. There is no guarantee that the Vikings will be able to trade Adrian Peterson, and the legendary running back may just return to Minnesota, which wouldn't be a bad thing for the team. The schedule looks to be the biggest issue ahead for the Vikings as they could conceivably start off the year with six losses. Expect Minnesota to be competitive and cover spreads but not win very many games
Prediction : 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Division Odds: +1200
Games of Consequence : Week 1 and 2 against Green Bay and Arizona; Week 3 at Seattle; Week 4 at Kansas City; Week 9 San Diego; Week 11 against Denver; Week 12 at Green Bay; Week 13 against San Francisco
Chicago has received a lot of buzz from NFL insiders who believe the organization had an excellent offseason with a high-profile coaching addition in John Fox and few solid defensive acquisitions. The biggest question that the Bears did not answer was their quarterback situation. Jay Cutler is coming off a horrendous season and has turned into one of the most maligned players in the NFL. At this point it does not even matter how good Chicago can be on defense, because we know that the offense probably won't be able to hold up its end of the ball.
Prediction : 7-9
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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