The NFC North was the only division with one team posting a winning record during the 2021 season.
The Green Bay Packers were 4-2 in division play en route to winning their third consecutive division title by five games. Things are expected to be somewhat more competitive in the division this time around. The fact that Green Bay traded Davante Adams, perhaps the best receiver in football, gives hope to the other three teams in the division.
The NFL playoff odds list the Packers (+1200) third among NFC teams in the odds to win the Super Bowl. The Vikings (+4000) are tied for ninth.
BetUS Odds to Win NFC North
- Green Bay Packers -200
- Minnesota Vikings +275
- Detroit Lions +1000
- Chicago Bears +1200
Green Bay Packers
Not long ago there were a few certainties whenever Green Bay had the ball. Aaron Rodgers and Adams would hook up early and often. The tougher the spot the Packers were in, the more likely that Adams would come down with a huge catch. When Green Bay wasn’t throwing the ball, it was a pretty good chance Aaron Jones was running with it. Finally, left tackle David Bakhtiari was leading the charge.
Going into 2022, Adams is now a Las Vegas Raider, Jones is being pushed for the lead back role by AJ Dillon and there are questions about when Bakhtiari will be able to return to the field. That leaves Rodgers to lead the way.
“He’s been doing it at a really high level for a really long time.”
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) July 28, 2022
Green Bay drafted three receivers and that includes second-round pick, Christian Watson. Sammy Watkins was brought in as well.
The Packers let Za’Darius Smith go. The linebacker had 26 sacks during the 2020 and 2021 seasons before being limited to one game a season ago. First-round picks Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt should give the defense a couple more playmakers. It doesn’t hurt that they were members of Georgia’s national championship team as they bring a winning approach to Titletown.
Having star cornerback Jaire Alexander for more than four games will be a huge boost on defense.
There’s no reason to think that the Packers won’t top the expected win total of 11 games and win the division title for the fourth season in a row.
The arrival of Kevin O’Connell as the head coach could signal a change in offensive philosophy. O’Connell was the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and the buzz coming out of camp is that footballs could be flying through the air more than in past years with the Vikings.
Receiver Justin Jefferson and tight end Irv Smith Jr. could benefit the most from a more wide-open passing attack. Adam Thielen missed four games and finished with just 726 yards. It has been four years since Thielen posted a 1,000-yard season so there are questions about his place as a go-to receiver.
It won’t be all about the passing game with Kirk Cousins airing things out. When healthy, Dalvin Cook is one of the NFL’s best running backs. Cook has missed 13 games over the last four seasons.
The focus in the draft was improving the secondary with the selections of Andrew Booth and Lewis Cine. It was a pretty interesting draft for the Vikings who traded down twice to allow the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to select potential game-breaking receivers.
Minnesota was last in the NFC in total defense while finishing second in the NFL in sacks. That is a strange combination. The defense returns its top two tacklers in linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith but bids adieu to safety Xavier Woods as well as linebackers Nick Vigil and Anthony Barr.
The NFL predictions show -130 odds for the Vikings to top their expected win total of 9. Getting Minnesota to 10 wins would be a pretty solid first season for O’Connell with the Vikings.
The roar you heard on draft day came when the Lions got word that Aidan Hutchinson was available when the Lions went on the clock with the second overall pick. Only two teams had fewer sacks during the 2021 season than the Lions. Detroit not only adds a top-notch pass rusher but he happens to be both a Michigan native and former University of Michigan star.
Detroit moved up to address another need with the selection of former Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. While Williams is still working his way back from injury, the potential of having Williams, last year’s rookie sensation Amon-Ra St. Brown, former Jacksonville Jaguars No. 1 wideout D.J. Chark and elite tight end T.J. Hockenson gives the Lions options in the passing game that they haven’t had in years.
Jared Goff’s first season in Detroit was solid. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes as he threw only eight interceptions. However, he didn’t connect on many big plays either. With next year’s draft loaded with quarterbacks expected to go early, this could be a make or break year for Goff.
It would help Goff and the offense if running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams stay healthy. They both missed four games a season ago. Swift looks like the type of back an offense can be built around at times but he also has moments when he struggles.
Charles Harris is coming off a career-high 7½ sacks so he should be able to team with Hutchinson to get after the quarterback. The fact that safeties Tracy Walker III and Will Harris were the top two tacklers for the Lions tells you everything you need to know about the Detroit defense a season ago.
Amani Oruwariye continues to improve at cornerback but this is a defense in need of more playmakers.
The odds are at -135 for Detroit to go over its expected win total of 6.5 according to the NFL picks. The Lions haven’t won more than six games in each of the last four seasons so a seven-win campaign would be a sign of some progress.
The Chicago receiving corps wasn’t that good before and now Allen Robinson is with the Los Angeles Rams. Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin have also moved on.
More playmakers are needed to help out second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Darnell Mooney is a pretty good slot receiver while Cole Kmet has potential at tight end. Chicago scored the fewest points in the division in 2021 and little has changed to make anybody think that won’t happen again.
David Montgomery should be averaging more than 3.8 yards per carry while Khalil Herbert had his moments as a rookie.
The Bears traded Khalil Mack, one of the best pass rushers in football. Mack had six sacks in the seven games he played in last season. He could have formed a pretty good pass-rushing tandem with Robert Quinn (18½ sacks in 2021) but that isn’t going to happen.
The Bears used their first two picks to improve the secondary with the selections of cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker. Those didn’t seem to be the greatest needs. However, they are well-regarded prospects.
Standout linebacker Roquan Smith is not happy with his contract situation and rectifying that would seem to be pretty high up on Chicago’s to-do list.