There was a lot of offseason news that has impacted the preseason power rankings and betting prices for these teams. The most notable storyline of course was the cloud of Aaron Rodgers return to the Green Bay Packers, who spent all summer going public about his frustrations with the organization. We now know he will be the the man in Green Bay for at least one more season.
Around the rest of the division, the Vikings are having Covid issues at the start of camp and they are the least vaccinated team by a wide margin. This could come into affect later this year since the NFL will force Covid infected teams to forfeit games if they can’t take the field. This will impact division standings, win totals, and etc. On the lower end of the division, Dan Campbell is encouraging his players to get in all out brawls during training camp. Justin Fields as looked impressive in camp, even if Andy Dalton will be your Week 1 starter.
Here are the Division Odds, presented by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Green Bay Packers: -160
Minnesota Vikings: +250
Chicago Bears: +550
Detroit Lions: +2200
The Favorite: Green Bay Packers
Division Odds: -160
Key Players Re-signed: RB Aaron Jones, TE Marcedes Lewis, DE Tyler Lancaster
Key Additions: QB Blake Bortles
Key Departures: RB Jamaal Williams, C Corey Linsley, DL Montravius Adams
2021 Draft: OG Royce Newman, DT Tedarrell Slaton, CB Shemar Jean-Charles
After an offseason full of drama, innuendo, subtweets, and mysterious Instagram posts- the Packers are back on top as the favorites to win the NFC North. The reason for that - Aaron Rodgers is back. Rodgers ended the off-season drama with the organization signing a short extension and clarified his entire thought process of the past few months in a long monologue during his first training camp press conference. It seems the Green Bay locker room will be back in sync. I think Rodgers' “threat” to leave may speed up the urgency in Green Bay.
Green Bay returns most of their roster from the team that went to the NFC Championship game. Green Bay did not add any notable free agents, but they did draft Amari Rodgers from Clemson. The Packers are also hoping Robert Tunyan and AJ Dillon can take the next step in the backfield. On offense, the Packers were the top scoring team in the NFL last season and they were ranked in third in third down conversion and first in Red Zone touchdown percentage. As long as Rodgers is back, those numbers shouldn't drop significantly.
Still, Green Bay will need to get better on the defensive side of the ball, specifically being more physical at the point of attack on the defensive end. They ranked 24th in defensive line yards. As for the rest of the defense, Matt LaFleur's club used their first round pick on Erik Stokes from Georgia to play on the opposite side of Jaire Alexander. While having two great corners is a great asset to have, it doesn’t solve their problems defending the interior run game.
So the Packers are essentially hoping Aaron Rodgers repeats the production of his MVP season. Green Bay's top percentages in third down conversion rate and red zone touchdown percentage are due for regression right?
I'm not buying it.
The Packers are a Super Bowl contender and deserve to be heavy favorites in the NFC. With a lack of competition in the NFC North, the Packers should win the division. But I have my doubts with their ability to raise the Lombardi trophy.
The Pick: Packers to win the division
Odds to win the division: +250
Over/Under win total: 8.5
Key Players Re-signed: G Dakota Dozier, WR Chad Beebe, PK Dan Bailey
Key Additions: CB Patrick Peterson, S Xavier Woods, DT Dalvin Tomlinson
Key Departures: TE Kyle Rudolph, LT Riley Reiff, S Anthony Harris
Key Draft Picks: OT Christian Darrisaw, QB Kellen Mond, LB Chazz Surratt
The Vikings struggled to a 1-5 record out of the gate last season. In large part, it was due to a young defensive secondary that struggled all year. It didn't help that defensive lineman Danielle Hunter got hurt as well. It led Minnesota to finish 29th in scoring defense and 27th in yards per play allowed. To fix these problems - specifically in the secondary - Minnesota signed veterans Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods. In my opinion, the Vikings attempt to improve their secondary is equivalent to a handyman trying to patch a leak without cement. Peterson and Woods were among the worst defensive backs in pass coverage last season. Unless the veterans can prove me wrong and turn back the clock, this Vikings secondary will still be awful.
For reference, they need those two 30 year old veterans to step up to help a pass defense that allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. It’s a young man’s league - maybe Woods/Peterson can mentor the young guys in the film room- but they are not improvements on the field.
Without a great defense, the Vikings will need to score a ton of points. Thankfully for them, the Vikings offense is good (8th in offensive DVOA). With this formula you are asking Kirk Cousins to consistently win shootouts. Is that the best recipe for success?
Every good Mike Zimmer team has had a solid defense that was complemented by the offense. This will be the second year in a row where those roles are flipped.
On top of that the Vikings schedule is incredibly daunting ranking as sixth toughest schedule according to PFF. The Vikings have routinely struggled with division games but have usually been consistent getting wins outside of the division. That task will become a lot harder this year. They have four contests versus AFC North teams, four contests against the NFC West, the other Los Angeles team (the Chargers), and then Carolina and Dallas to round out the slate. The Vikings are underdogs in six of those games according to early lines from oddsmakers.
So while Minnesota will be fun to watch, I don’t see a bounce back year the Vikings and this may be the final year for Mike Zimmer. I’ll bet their win total under 8.5.
The bet Vikings under 8.5 wins:
The Darkhorse: Chicago Bears
Odds to win the division: +550
Over/under win total: 7.5 wins
Key Players Re-signed: WR Allen Robinson, CB Artie Burns, K Cairo Santos
Key Additions: QB Andy Dalton, RB Damien Williams, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu
Key Departures: QB Mitchell Trubisky, KR Cordarrelle Patterson, CB Kyle Fuller
Key 2021 Draft Picks: QB Justin Fields, OT Teven Jenkins, OT Larry Borom
When one team falters another team must blossom. The Bears have a chance to be very good if they can get some good quarterback play. Andy Dalton is listed as the starter, but how long is that going to last really? Not very long. The prospects of Justin Fields being transcendent, makes this Chicago Bears squad extremely intriguing.
In addition to drafting Fields, Chicago re-signed Allen Robinson who graded out as a top five wideout in the NFL despite having Nick Foles and Mitch Trubusky throwing him the ball all year. The Bears run game will be better after drafting Tevan Jenkins and Larry Borom along the offensive line. David Montgomery has emerged as one of the more underrated backs in the league. The one-two punch of Montgomery and Damien Williams should be great.
On defense, this may be the last run for a top 5 group in football. Khalil Mack, Akeem Hicks, and Roquan Smith still anchor one of the top 3 front seven’s in the NFL. If the Bears can consistently put up 24 points, Chicago will be in contention to beat anyone this season. But it all depends on if Justin Fields is under center. I’ll still bet their win total but wait to add more on a big Super Bowl future if Fields gets under center.
A competent offense with that defense makes the Bears dadngerous.
I love the Bears win total of 7.5 and I think they have some value to win this division at +550.
The Pick: Over 7.5 wins
Odds to win the division: +2800
Key Players Re-signed: DB Mike Ford, DE Romeo Okwara, LS Don Muhlbach
Key Additions: RB Jamaal Williams, WR Breshad Perriman, PK Randy Bullock QB Jared Goff
Key Departures: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Kenny Golladay, PK Matt Prater
Key 2021 Draft Picks: OT Penei Sewell, DT Levi Onwuzurike, DT Alim McNeill
Let’s talk about breaking knee caps. With all due respect, I will be rooting for the Lions every game this year out of my love for Dan Campbell. I would run through a freakin brick wall for him. Unfortunately for the Lions, Campbell won’t be allowed to run through guys himself anymore. The Lions have a lot work to do, as Detroit ranked near the bottom in most defensive categories last season and gave up a league high 32.4 points per game. The new physical culture Campbell is trying to build may help. But who really knows. The fact is Lions are favorites in exactly zero of their 17 games.
Offensively Detroit lost long-time franchise QB Matt Stafford and top receiving targets Kenny Galloday and Marvin Jones. Despite this, the Lions will be able to surprise teams with their ground and pound style. They have one of the best offensive line units in football, and a good running back tandem with De'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. The Lions won’t be pushovers here, and I can see them having a lot of value throughout the year as underdogs. Unfortunately I don’t see those close tight games translating to many wins.
So I'm going to stay away from the most popular win total in Vegas. When the entire world is on one side, it typically never wins. Simply, enjoy every single second of Dan Campbell’s post game press conferences.
The Pick: Stay Away
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