The staff at Oskeim Sports is working on an NFL betting preview for every team in the league. Each NFL betting preview will be published by division, and today’s NFL betting preview focuses on the NFC North.
You can find Oskeim’s NFL betting preview on the NFC East here. Be sure to visit Oskeim’s Blog on a regular basis as his team is working feverishly to publish an NFL betting preview for the NFC West and NFC South.
The Vikings dominated the division last season with a potent defense and timely offense behind quarterback Case Keenum, earning the number two seed in the conference. With Kirk Cousins now at the helm, Minnesota looks to remain the team to beat in the NFC North.
However, the Packers should be much improved with a healthy Aaron Rodgers all season. Detroit could be a factor as well and while the Bears will be improved, will have a difficult time getting out of the basement in the division. Here’s what to expect from each team in the 2018 season.
1. Minnesota Vikings
While the defense was the cream of the crop in the NFC, their season-ending 38-7 thrashing at the hands of the Eagles in the NFC Championship game, undoubtedly left a bitter taste in their mouths. They are currently fifth in ESPN’s power rankings and tied with the Packers, Saints and Rams with an over/under of 10 wins.
While Case Keenum played very well, the Vikings believe their offense will be more potent with the addition of Kirk Cousins, who was signed to a three-year contract. Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook lead what should be a solid running attack, but Minnesota will likely rely on Cousins getting the ball to Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Stephon Diggs, who combined for 20 touchdown receptions last season.
Much of the core group remains from last season, however, the Vikings added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Playing in a division with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and improved Lions and Bears will likely keep Minnesota below their 13 wins from last season.
Nevertheless, Minnesota has the best chance to win the division. Their strong defense alone could take them deep into the NFC playoffs.
2. Green Bay Packers
Two immediate factors will key the Packers improvement this season. First, they will benefit from a fourth-place schedule after going 7-9 last season. Also, the return of Aaron Rodgers, who missed more than half of last season due to injury, is significant.
Immediately they are in the mix and perhaps the team to beat in the NFC North. They are tied with a group for over/under in wins at 10. They lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers but upgraded at tight end with the signing of veteran and former All-Pro Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal.
Rodgers will also have to target in Davante Adams, but no offense is complete without a solid running game. Jamaal Williams must pick up from his 556 yards on the ground last season to take the pressure off the passing game.
Defensively, Green Bay signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson this offseason, in attempts to bolster a defense that ranked 24th in points allowed last season. The Packers could also get immediate help out of the draft, getting an A- grade from CBSSports.com.
The road is never easy with the likes of Detroit and Minnesota in the division, but the Packers can’t be counted out as long as Rodgers is at the helm. A playoff appearance is not out of the question and perhaps some Rodgers’ magic in the postseason.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions finished 9-7 last year behind a strong offense that ranked seventh in the league in scoring. They relied on Matthew Stafford, who threw for 4446 yards and 29 touchdowns. However, the running game was suspect, led by Ameer Abdullah, who ran for only 552 yards with a slim 3.3 average per attempt.
The running game should be improved the addition of LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 766 and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt with the Eagles last season. The biggest weakness for the Lions is on the defensive side of the ball, giving up 23.5 points per game, 21st in the league.
Interestingly enough, the Lions drafted only two defensive players and none until the third round. A few minor defensive signings were made in the offseason, but none that will shake up the depth chart.
Detroit appears to be a middle of the pack team, as their 17th rating in the power rankings and over/under of 8 wins indicates. Should the defensive improvement, the Lions have enough firepower to challenge Green Bay and Minnesota for the top.
My gut instinct tells me that won’t happen and the Lions, albeit it exciting at times, will be a .500 team and third in the division.
4. Chicago Bears
Coming off a five-win season, the Bears are an over/under of 6.5 wins for this season. They are also 24th in ESPN’s power rankings. Playing in a tough division doesn’t bode well for the Bears, even if they show improvement over a year ago.
Defensively, they were quite solid, ranked ninth in the NFL in points allowed. Offensively, the Bears were dreadful, averaging a mere 16.5 points per game, 30th in the league. Chicago added to their defense, drafting linebacker Roquan Smith out of Alabama with their first pick.
Focusing on the offensive side of the ball, the Bears selected center James Daniels and wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round. Chicago s strong at running back with Jordan Howard, who rushed for over 1100 yards, but needs continued growth from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
The passing game could be the key to how much the Bears improve. They threw for only 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while receiver Kendall Wright, had only 614 receiving yards. The last place schedule will benefit the Bears, but a .500 season would be a major accomplishment. A 6-10 or 7-9 finish and last in the division is most likely.
Thank you for visiting Oskeim Sports’ blog today for its NFL betting preview on the NFC North. Oskeim’s next NFL betting preview will focus on the teams in the NFC South. Good luck this football season!