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The NFC North is one of three divisions that saw multiple teams win double-digit games last year. As a result, the Packers and Vikings both reached the playoffs and won their first playoff games before losing to San Francisco.
It was not all good news for teams from the NFC North as the Bears and Lions had disappointing seasons. The Bears finished 8-8 a year after winning the division. The Lions could not recover from an injury that forced quarterback Matthew Stafford to miss eight games. They finished with a 3-12-1 record after losing all eight games started by the combination of David Blough and Jeff Driskel.
The NFC North is always looked at as one of the most competitive divisions. Will that be the case in 2020?
This is the sixth of an eight-part series where we break down the best season win total bets of every division. And here are all of our 2020 NFL Over/Under Win Totals Predictions. These odds are courtesy of BetMGM.
Chicago Bears (Over 8 -105, Under 8 -115)
Chicago’s over/under is set at eight wins, which is exactly what they finished with last year. Despite starting one more game last year than he did in 2018, Mitchell Trubisky’s yardage and touchdown totals were down. Bears fans are left to wonder if the trade for Nick Foles was meant to light a fire under Trubisky or if his days as the starter are numbered.
The Bears gave up on another high draft pick of theirs, as they released linebacker Leonard Floyd. They signed Robert Quinn as his replacement, while also adding Barkevious Mingo and cornerback Artie Burns. Outside of trading for Foles, the only other newsworthy move on offense was signing tight end Jimmy Graham.
For Chicago to find more success in 2020, they need to get protect the quarterback better. The Bears ranked 21st in the league in sacks allowed. In addition, the offensive line did not create many rushing lanes as evident by their 27th-ranked rushing average of 3.7 yards per attempt.
Given that Chicago does not own a first-round draft pick, it will be harder for them to fix all their holes through the draft. As a result, the Bears are likely to struggle again offensively this season. However, their defense is still solid and will keep them in many games.
At first glance, their schedule does not appear all that difficult. Surely, four games against the Vikings and Packers combined are always going to be tough. However, many of their toughest opponents (New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston, Indianapolis) all travel to Chicago. There are enough winnable road games to squeak out nine or more wins. In addition, if Trubisky struggles the Bears can at least turn to a capable quarterback in Foles.
Though I lean to the over, I’d rather wait and see what Chicago does in the draft and specifically how they address their offensive issues.
Detroit Lions (Over 6.5 -115, Under 6.5 -105)
The Lions started the year with a 3-4-1 record before Matthew Stafford got hurt. After losing their final nine games of the season, Detroit’s “reward” is the No. 3 pick in the draft. Many mock drafts have the Lions selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah as a direct replacement for the departed Darius Slay. Other experts think Detroit is in a great position to trade out of their pick to a team looking to move up for a quarterback while stockpiling more draft assets.
To make up for the loss of Slay, the Lions added cornerback Desmond Trufant. They also added former Patriots Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins to reunite with coach Matt Patricia. However, even with all these additions, there are still a number of question marks for a defense that ranked 31st in the league last year.
Optimists on Detroit entering 2019 would tell you that they lost seven games by seven or fewer points. With some regression to the mean with winning some close games along with a healthy Matthew Stafford, perhaps Detroit can end the year more towards the .500 pace they were playing to before Stafford got hurt.
One of the biggest reasons I am not buying a Detroit bounce-back is an apparent “culture issue” in the organization. Darius Slay had some pretty nasty things to say about coach Matt Patricia on his way out the door. It is fair to wonder if more players feel the same animosity towards their coach but just have not said anything publicly. Chemistry issues are never good in team sports, especially football.
In a division that features three teams that can contend for playoff spots, that leaves too many wins needing to come from outside the division to surpass their projected win total.
Verdict: Take Detroit UNDER 6.5 wins
Green Bay Packers (Over 9 -115, Under 9 -105)
After a year where the Green Bay Packers won 13 games and earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, it seems odd to see their projected win total set at nine. Oddsmakers must feel that their season was somewhat of a mirage, or that the 49ers exposed many weaknesses of theirs in the NFC Championship.
One reason for Green Bay’s low total is that their team appeared to have gotten worse in the off-season. The Packers replaced Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga with Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner respectively. Most scouts would tell you that those are downgrades at each position. In addition, the signing of wide receiver Devin Funchess does not project to improve the offense much if at all.
In the eight seasons that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has started 16 games, last year’s yardage total was his second-lowest. That could be because of the emergence of running back Aaron Jones. It could be because Rodgers is getting up there in age, as he will turn 37 in the upcoming season. Or, it could speak to a sudden lack of weapons outside of Jones and Davante Adams in the Green Bay offense.
For the under to hit, the Packers would have to finish .500 or worse. As long as Rodgers is under center, that is a bet I want no part of. There is bound to be some regression this year, but their range of outcomes is too big to handicap properly.
Minnesota Vikings (Over 8.5 -125, Under 8.5 +105)
The under 8.5 wins has plus-money odds, and that is great news considering it is one of my most favorite bets.
Perhaps no team that is viewed as a contender has as many holes as the Vikings do. Before free agency, it appeared Minnesota’s biggest question marks were at cornerback, wide receiver and offensive line. After free agency, it looks like there are more questions than before at each position.
The Vikings lost cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander. They have very little cornerback depth on the roster and are filling these holes with inexperienced players. Look for them to draft cornerbacks early and often in the upcoming draft.
In addition to the question marks at corner, the Vikings traded one of their top-two receivers in Stefon Diggs. Minnesota now enters the season with Tajae Sharpe as the No. 2 receiver to Adam Thielen, which does not appear all that intimidating of a threat on the outside. Lastly, the Vikings still have not addressed their need at offensive tackle and have also lost guard Josh Kline in the process.
Minnesota went 10-6 last year which was good enough for a wild card spot. I do not envision any scenario where the Vikings are .500 or better, no matter what they are able to do in the draft.
Minnesota’s five non-divisional road games are against Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Seattle. OUCH! Bank on it being a long year upcoming for Kirk Cousins and company.
Verdict: Take Minnesota UNDER 8.5 wins