The Green Bay Packers are big odds-on favorites to win the NFC North for a fourth straight season. They won the division easily in the last three seasons, going 13-3-0 in 2019 and 2020 and 13-4-0 in the expanded 2021 season. And they’re expected to do so comfortably again in a division that is undergoing wholesale changes everywhere except in Green Bay.
The Minnesota Vikings are an interesting case. In recent years, they’ve been Green Bay’s biggest rivals. For that, they’ve earned consideration as the second-best bet in NFL betting markets. However, with a new head coach and supporting staff, it raises legitimate questions about their merit in the post-Mike Zimmer era.
Finally, the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions are the longshots of the NFC North. Both franchises are in the midst of proper rebuilds. This means that there are too many unknowns to make either one a viable betting option to win the NFC North this season.
Odds To Win the NFC North
- Green Bay Packers -200
- Minnesota Vikings +275
- Chicago Bears +900
- Detroit Lions +1000
Green Bay Packers -200
Since the inception of the NFC North in 2002, the Green Bay Packers have been the most successful team in the division, winning 12 of the division’s 20 titles. But this dominance really took off with the advent of Aaron Rodgers, who is directly responsible for leading the Packers to eight of the last 11 division titles since 2011 and winning Super Bowl XLV.
Going into the 2022 NFL season, Green Bay is correctly projected as the team to beat in betting online markets. The Packers are priced as the -200 favorites to win. And the gap in the odds between them and their rivals says it all.
Aiding the Packers along (not that they need that much help when they have one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game) is a relatively easy schedule. According to the NFL Strength of Schedule (SOS) rankings, the Packers have the 22nd-toughest schedule (or the 10th-easiest depending on how you look at it).
Green Bay bore the brunt of heavy criticism for its approach to the draft in 2020 and 2021. Most notably, drafting quarterback Jordan Love and failing to bolster the offense were the gravest charges levied at them. Not that it hurt them in the end.
Aaron Rodgers on signing Sammy Watkins: “I was 100% on board with that. I think it’s important you get guys who have a lot to play for, and I think Sammy has the opportunity to continue & travel down a new path in his career … I love the disposition. I really enjoy the person.” pic.twitter.com/fAX0UWXFIm
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) June 7, 2022
Nevertheless, this time around, they might have appeased some of their harshest critics. Taking a more balanced approach in 2022, they drafted 11 players, three of which were receivers to give Rodgers added weapons to target. They’ve also brought in established talent, including wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
So long as Rodgers is the offensive pivot, toppling them from their princely perch will be a big ask. Even the departure of one of the best receivers in the league, Davante Adams, hasn’t upset the apple cart.
That’s a testament to the greatness of Rodgers, who makes players around him better. As well, to Matt LaFleur, who has had one of the best coaching starts in the NFL with three division titles and two NFC Championship Game appearances in his first three years.
Minnesota Vikings +275
The Minnesota Vikings have been the most consistent rival to Green Bay’s dominance in recent years. Whether that will be the case this season remains to be seen following the departure of Zimmer.
New head coach Kevin O’Connell comes to Minnesota on the heels of a Super Bowl victory. O’Connell was the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams last season, playing a big part in resurrecting Matthew Stafford’s career.
O’Connell inherits a relatively good team built by the defensive-minded Zimmer. That puts him and his staff in a more advantageous position than some of his counterparts in a similar position this season.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is no Matthew Stafford, but he is a steady hand in the pocket. Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are enviable offensive talents that can be among the top five in their respective positions this season. On the flip side, the defense isn’t too shabby either.
In some ways, one could argue that the Vikings are an underrated team, which would make them a tempting NFL pick to rock the boat this season. But that’s just theoretical. The reality is that the bookmakers can’t see a clear path to the NFC North title for Minnesota. So, if they can’t, then it’s a longshot bet, make no mistake about it.
Chicago Bears +800
This time last year, the NFL was high on Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago’s front office was thrilled to have scooped up the Ohio State Buckeye product and Bears’ fans were giddy with excitement about the future, believing they’d landed their very equivalent to Patrick Mahomes.
How quickly things change in a year. Fields is still regarded as a promising talent, but he’s coming off a brutal rookie season in which he was roughed up, flattened and thoroughly rocked. The optics weren’t good, even if these struggles and disappointments could be blamed on Matt Nagy and an anemic Chicago offense.
Fields’ sophomore season will see him begin working with a new coaching staff spearheaded by Matt Eberflus. Eberflus was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-21.
How this change in coaching will impact the second-year quarterback is up in the air. But if Chicago’s prospects aren’t looking too hot at the sportsbook exchange, then the obvious inference is that his prospects won’t be that much better either.
The Bears are a work in progress. That’s the definition of a longshot bet…
Detroit Lions +1000
The Detroit Lions were one of the worst teams in terms of their final record on the season, but they won fans over with their grit and determination. Head coach Dan Campbell didn’t have a lot to work with in his first year. He also had a lot of injuries with which to contend. But he had his players playing their hearts out and that’s a testament to his character.
Update: Lions coach Dan Campbell is crying & we don’t blame the guy. Tough loss AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/S8Lye1gBEl
— the Sports ON Tap (@thesportsontap) October 10, 2021
The fiery head coach is passionate. He’s not averse to wearing his heart on his sleeve, often showing myriad emotions in his post-game interviews. He showed he could be tough too, calling out players when they’re not delivering.
The Lions are still a long way from becoming viable contenders in the NFC North, never mind the league. That said, they should take a step forward in 2022. They have one of the easiest schedules in the NFC North and one of the easiest in the wider league (28th in NFL SOS rankings). If they don’t capitalize on it to get a few more wins than they did last season, it would be a huge disappointment.
Above many things, this season is going to be a referendum on quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams’ cast-off struggled in his first year in Motown and he was one of the players that Campbell called out later in the season. How Goff performs in his second year is going to be defining. Indeed, the Lions will go only as far as he will take them.