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NFC North: Win Totals and Record Predictions for Bears, Lions, Packers, and Vikings

by May 22, 2020

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The NFL schedule is official, which means hungry sports bettors can rejoice knowing that NFL team futures can finally be placed. Obviously, there is still plenty of time for rosters to change between now and the start of the regular season, but I’m going to take a look at the schedules for NFC teams and provide advice on individual team’s win totals based on what each team looks like right now.

Today I’ll be focusing on the always competitive NFC North. All win total projections come from FanDuel.

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CHICAGO BEARS

  • 2019 Record: 8-8
  • 2020 Strength of Schedule: (.508) – T-13th hardest
  • 2020 Win Total: Over 8 (+105) / Under 8 (-125)

This win total feels really generous for a team that is shaping up to have a QB controversy play a prominent role in their season. The media is going to be all over the question of will we see Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles under center. Normally such a controversy spells disaster for teams, and Chicago will suffer a similar fate this season.

No matter who starts the season under center, as soon as they mess up, fans are going to be clamoring for the other to take over. Based on the schedule, it won’t be long before this takes place.

To put it simply, this schedule is hard. Their first seven games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season, but almost all of those teams are better now than they were a year ago. This fits into the storyline of whoever starts the season being on a short leash. If the Bears drop a few of their early games to the likes of Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Matthew Stafford, it is likely that most fans will only see the team names next to the losses, not necessarily the rosters.

As I navigate this schedule, I look for eight wins but have a hard time coming up with them. Let’s say they split with Detroit, which is in no way a lock, they only have two or three easy wins on the schedule in the Giants, Jaguars, and possibly Carolina. 

Even if they win all of those games and succeed in the aforementioned split with Detroit, they would have to find at least three wins against Atlanta, the Rams, Houston, Tennessee, and Indianapolis. There’s a chance, but it seems unlikely that they are able to win more than half of those contests, especially since three of those games are on the road. In reality, the Bears win two of those games at most.

But, let’s be generous and say they win three of those five. They would then need to beat Tampa, which is unlikely, split with Minnesota, which is possible, or split with Green Bay which they always have an outside shot of doing. Winning one of those five games would give them eight wins, which is still just a push. 

Even being generous, I have a really hard time getting the Bears to nine wins. With the drama that is sure to be surrounding the team all year, the under feels like the safe play.

Week 1 at Lions Loss Week 9 at Titans Loss
Week 2 vs Giants Win Week 10 vs Vikings Win
Week 3 at Falcons Loss Week 12 at Packers Loss
Week 4 vs Colts Loss Week 13 vs Lions Win
Week 5 vs Buccaneers Loss Week 14 vs Texans Win
Week 6 at Panthers Win Week 15 at Vikings Loss
Week 7 at Rams Loss Week 16 at Jaguars Win
Week 8 vs Saints Loss Week 17 vs Packers Loss

 
2020 Record Prediction: 6-10

The Pick: Under 8 wins

DETROIT LIONS 

  • 2019 Record: 3-12-1
  • 2020 Strength of Schedule: (.525) – T-5th hardest
  • 2020 Win Total: Over 6.5 (-150) / Under 6.5 (+125)

The juice is terrible, but I love the Lions’ over. It’s a make or break year for Detroit. Not just for head coach Matt Patricia, but also for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who many thought could leave the Lions this past winter. 

Detroit comes into this season knowing that anything other than a playoff appearance will result in the firing of Patricia. It certainly wouldn’t be a good look for Stafford either as he enters his 12th season as starting quarterback for the Lions, but has yet to produce a playoff win.

The Lions are coming off a three-win season, which is probably the reason for this low number. However, up until Stafford’s injury last year, the Lions were very competitive in games. They almost pulled out victories over the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the NFC championship game losing Packers.

As long as Stafford stays healthy, the Lions will be better than they were last season, and even though their strength of schedule is tied for fifth hardest, it’s actually quite favorable. They start the season at home against the Bears and get to play Green Bay at Lambeau in Week 2. That is well before Lambeau turns into the frozen tundra, and while Detroit will likely lose the game, it is one that they could potentially steal in an early-season shocker. 

They also have winnable road games against the Jaguars, Bears, Panthers, and Cardinals. This means that a lot of Detroit’s tougher games will be played at Ford Field where the Lions tend to play up to their competition when at full strength.

The Lions non-divisional home games consist of the Colts, Washington, the Saints, the Texans, and the Buccaneers. With how their road games shape up this season, they will probably only need to win two, and possibly even one of those five games, in order to clear the 6.5 win total. Washington should be a lock, even though Detroit lost to them last season because again, that was without Stafford.

The Tampa Bay game in Week 16 should be very interesting since Patricia will be facing off against Tom Brady. Patricia was able to knock off Brady and the Patriots in his first season in Detroit, and while many will expect the Bucs to be huge favorites if things go according to plan for them this season, I like Patricia to shock Brady again.

Week 1 vs Bears Win Week 10 vs Washington Win
Week 2 at Packers Loss Week 11 at Panthers Win
Week 3 at Cardinals Win Week 12 vs Texans Win
Week 4 vs Saints Loss Week 13 at Bears Loss
Week 6 at Jaguars Win Week 14 vs Packers Win
Week 7 at Falcons Loss Week 15 at Titans Loss
Week 8 vs Colts Win Week 16 vs Buccaneers Win
Week 9 at Vikings Loss Week 17 vs Vikings Loss

 
2020 Record Prediction: 9-7

The Pick: Over 6.5 wins

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • 2019 Record: 13-3
  • 2020 Strength of Schedule: (.504) – 15th hardest
  • 2020 Win Total: Over 9 (+100) / Under 9 (-120)

Nine wins seem awfully low for the Packers, and could just be the memory of a terrible performance in last season’s NFC Championship game lingering in bettors’ minds. The division will continue to be difficult, but it was last season as well when the Packers won 13 games. 

Many will say that the Packers weren’t as good as their record last season, but finding ways to win is part of the magic of Aaron Rodgers. Others will focus on the Packers drafting Jordan Love, but unlike in Chicago, there is no way it will cause a quarterback controversy at any point this season.

The Packers’ first five games are tough, with two against NFC North foes, and a Week 3 matchup in New Orleans against Drew Brees. Then have an early Week 5 bye, and come off it with a game in Tampa against Tom Brady and the Bucs.

The first half schedule continues to be unbelievably difficult as they travel to Houston, then take on the Vikings before heading to San Francisco. Each of their first eight games is losable, but history says Rodgers and the Packers will find a way to win four of them which is all they will need as they head into a much more favorable back half of the schedule. 

Five of their last eight games are at home, and their three road games are against the Colts, Lions, and Bears. Win two of those road games and three of their home games and they hit nine wins. However, being that it’s the Packers, and Rodgers will want to prove a point to the front office, it will likely be a question of will they win 11 or 12, not nine or 10.

Week 1 at Vikings Loss Week 10 vs Jaguars Win
Week 2 vs Lions Win Week 11 at Colts Win
Week 3 at Saints Win Week 12 vs Bears Win
Week 4 vs Falcons Win Week 13 vs Eagles Loss
Week 6 at Buccaneers Loss Week 14 at Lions Loss
Week 7 at Texans Win Week 15 vs Panthers Win
Week 8 vs Vikings Win Week 16 vs Titans Win
Week 9 at 49ers Loss Week 17 at Bears Win

 
2020 Record Prediction: 11-5

The Pick: Over 9 wins

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

  • 2019 Record: 10-6
  • 2020 Strength of Schedule: (.516) – T-10th hardest
  • 2020 Win Total: Over 8.5 (-150) / Under 8.5 (+125)

Of the entire division, the Vikings win total is the hardest to predict. At first glance it seems very low, but why would Vegas put such a head-scratcher out there for a team that was able to make some noise in the playoffs last season. 

The truth is Minnesota’s schedule is tough. To prove this, let’s start at the end. The Vikings end the season with three of their last four on the road and will have to travel to Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Detroit. Their only home game in that stretch is against Chicago, and though the Bears aren’t primed to have a great season, a divisional matchup, especially against a foe that could be desperate for a win, is never easy.

However, the real key is going to be in their first six games. Minnesota’s bye week is Week 7, and all of the games before that feel like toss-ups. Home against Green Bay, at Indianapolis, home against Tennessee, back to back road games at Houston and Seattle, and then a home game against Atlanta. It feels like they will go into their bye week at either 4-2 or 3-3.

3-3 would certainly be enough to keep the Vikings in the NFC North hunt, but with the final stretch of the season looming, 4-2 would help them feel much more comfortable. The only two games in the back half of the schedule that feel like guaranteed victories are against Carolina and Jacksonville. That would give them six victories with eight games remaining. If they lose road games to Tampa and New Orleans, they would have six games left to get three wins.

One of those games is at Green Bay, and though the game takes place immediately following the bye, Rodgers gets the edge at home. The Vikings will get the Cowboys in Minnesota this season, but the Cowboys feel destined to play to their potential under a new head coach. So we’re still at six wins, with four games left, all against NFC North foes. To get to nine wins, Minnesota would have to take three out of four over Detroit and Chicago. It’s definitely doable.

But again, this is why those first six games are so important. The above scenario assumes the Vikings start the season 4-2. Now, imagine they start 3-3. They would then likely need to sweep Detroit and Chicago to get to nine wins. It’s not impossible, but it’s no easy task. The Vikings are a team that could be a serious contender, but with a difficult schedule, nine wins are all but guaranteed.

Week 1 vs Packers Win Week 10 at Bears Loss
Week 2 at Colts Loss Week 11 vs Cowboys Loss
Week 3 vs Titans Loss Week 12 vs Panthers Win
Week 4 at Texans Win Week 13 vs Jaguars Win
Week 5 at Seahawks Loss Week 14 at Buccaneers Loss
Week 6 vs Falcons Win Week 15 vs Bears Win
Week 8 at Packers Loss Week 16 at Saints Loss
Week 9 vs Lions Win Week 17 at Lions Win

 
2020 Record Prediction: 8-8

Prediction: UNDER 8.5 wins

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Philip Wood is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Philip, check out his archive and follow him @Phil_Wood_Jr.

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