We’ll be providing a betting preview for each NFL division this week leading up to the first set of full games on Sunday. We continue today with the NFC North. Click here for a list of all the major offseason moves by each NFC North team.
The NFC North could conceivably have three teams in the playoffs in January.
Matched up with the NFC West and AFC South, every team in the NFC North has a generous schedule that features a large share of winnable games. It will be tough for the Packers to repeat their 15-1 record from 2011, leaving room at the top for either Chicago or Detroit to sneak up and contend for the title.
In what could be the deepest division in the league, Minnesota will have to win most of its games outside of division play to get to a respectable record.
The NFC North’s divisional futures odds listed at 5Dimes:
Most value: The Packers will probably win this division yet again, but they’re not really worth a bet at such a low payout. Instead, give us Chicago at 4.5-to-1. This team won the division just two years and finally gave Jay Cutler a legitimate target outside with old friend Brandon Marshall. Michael Bush will be a nice safety net for Matt Forte in the running game, and the defense will be solid as usual. Don’t forget, Chicago was one of the NFC frontrunners before getting saddled with injuries in 2011.
Packers: 11.5 (over -115)
Bears: 9 (over -135)
Lions: 9 (over +110)
Vikings: 6 (over -110)
Best bet: Count us as believers that Minnesota can get to seven wins. Or, at least, that a 7-9 record is more likely than 5-11. The schedule is generous enough and opens with two very winnable games against Jacksonville at home and Indy on the road, and that also leaves very doable matchups with Tennessee, Washington, Arizona, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. The final six games include two each against Chicago and Green Bay and another one at Houston, so the Vikings will have to get to seven victories fairly quickly.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
If you’d simply bet on the Packers over the past six seasons, you’d have hit more than 62 percent of your bets. An amazing feat for a highly public team with two very popular quarterbacks (Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers) starting over that span. All three other teams in the NFC North are sub-.500 against the spread over the past six years, and none of them posted winning records in 2011.
Here’s a look at each team’s record ATS since 2006 (with last year’s record in parentheses).
Packers: 58-35-3 (11-5)
Bears: 45-48-3 (8-8)
Lions: 42-49-5 (7-7-2)
Vikings: 40-51-5 (6-8-2)
The NFC North is matched up with the NFC West and the AFC South, leaving one opponent each from the NFC East and NFC South as the only differences in the schedule.
Below are the two “swing games” on each team’s schedule.
Packers: vs. New Orleans, at New York Giants
Bears: at Dallas, vs. Carolina
Lions: at Philadelphia, vs. Atlanta
Vikings: at Washington, vs. Tampa Bay
Analysis: Green Bay has by far the toughest draw and Minnesota the easiest, but that’s no surprise and the way it should be. The key difference here is between Chicago and Detroit. You could make a case that the Lions’ draw is actually tougher than the Packers’, with two of the NFC’s best teams on the schedule. Meanwhile, the Bears get a very winnable home game against the Panthers and have the benefit of playing Dallas instead of Philly. Big edge for the Bears in this draw.
WHO TO FOLLOW
A Twitter follow list for beat writers covering each team.