NFC North preview

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So we’re on to the NFC side of things, I probably should have started with the NFC seeing as they play the opener and I’ve now got 5 days to do them, but hey ho, here we go!

I’ve enlisted @jayhatton49 to help with a couple of divisions, he’ll be covering his beloved NFC West and the NFC East. I’ll take on the North and South. I know full well that my opinions on the Dallas Cowboys are incredibly low and arguably biased, so figured I’d give that division a miss as to not horribly offend Cowboy nation!

Anyway, on to the North!

#1 – Minnesota Vikings – Last year – 13-3, SB Odds – 12/1 (365), Division odds – 5/4 (Skybet) – o/u – 10.5

Mike Zimmers Vikings won this division at a canter last year, mainly due to the injury to Aaron Rodgers. This year should be a proper test of whether they are worthy champions or not. They also did it with a backup QB and a muddled offensive line. Safe to say Zimmer is a coach I have high regard for. The QB situation had another change in the off-season they upgraded by bringing in Kirk Cousins at considerable expense giving him, at the time, the highest amount of guaranteed money in history. I like Kirk Cousins, and although Case Keenum had a fine year he’s better. They have kept Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs in the passing game. Thielen had the better year last year  (1,276 yards, 4 TDs), he was more of a possession receiver while Diggs switched to the outside and has more pace to provide more of a deep threat (849 and 8) There’s a feeling that Diggs will emerge as the preferred target to Cousins, and they hooked up well in limited pre-season work. At receiver, other than those two they’re a little short on depth, Laquon Treadwell will need to breakout after a disappointing 2 years since being drafted in the 1st round. Which means that tight end Kyle Rudolph will probably need to resume his role as a major player in the passing game, he actually only just topped 500 yards last year, but finished with 8 TDs as well. I think he’ll top the yards this year and remain around there for TDs. They have improved the run game simply by welcoming back Dalvin Cook. He suffered an ACL injury early in the season, but he looked great before that and I look forward to seeing how he performs this season, he’ll be doing it behind an average offensive line and with Latavius Murray for company but I think he’s got the talent to succeed. Murray will allow them to ease Cook back in and he’ll more than likely vulture goal line work as he’s pretty damn good there, another guy with 8 TDs from last season. They should get good field position due to having one of the best defenses in the league. They have re-signed a lot of their stars and added a couple of depth players as well. All in all, they’re a well coached, well balanced team who won their division last year and have got stronger over the summer. I can see a Superbowl run coming here.

#2 – Green Bay Packers – Last year – 7-9, SB Odds – 14/1 (Redzone), Division odds – 6/4 (Skybet) – o/u – 9.5 – 10.5

The Packers season was over last year as soon as the Vikings broke Rodgers collarbone. They thought they had an adequate backup who they liked, they were wrong. Rodgers is back and should be pretty fucking happy now that he’s earning $80m by March next year. around $400,000 per day! – He’s worth it though, he’s the best QB in the league. He won’t have been happy that they traded away his favourite target in Jordy Nelson, but they replaced his red-zone prodution with Jimmy Graham. The tight end got 10 TDs in Seattle last year, and i’d imagine will be used in a similar way with GB. I was going to say Davante Adams will have a breakout season, but he had 12 TDs in Rodgers last full season and even 10 last year with Brett Hundley throwing to him, He’ll be the #1 there now and should top 1,000 yards for the first time in his career this season. The other pass catchers are a bit muddled, there’s been a lot of rumours concerning Randall Cobb being traded for some reason, he’s nothing particularly special but he does what is needed, if he can stay healthy which has been an issue he’ll help them out. Number 3 pass catcher there? Possibly Jake Kumerow? The Bengals released him, the Pack picked him up and he’s become Rodgers favourite target in the pre-season and a guy he seems to have a good relationship with. They drafted a couple of pass catching rookies in Valdes-Scantling and Equimanous St. Brown, they’ve kept them both on the roster so we’ll see what happens there. Their main improvement this year could well be the defense, they drafted highly there and seem to have found a couple of very good players to solidify that area.

#3 – Chicago Bears – Last year – 5-11, SB Odds – 100/1 (Hills), Division odds – 8/1 (Sky, PP) o/u – 7.5

Khalil. Mack. – What a trade pulled off by the Bears. They have given up a lot to give him and made him the highest paid defensive player in the league, but they have a fantastic defensive lineman now to add to their already sneakily good defense. That’s definitely the talk of this week, but over the summer the talk was all about the offense mainly due to replacing John Fox with an actual offensive looking coach in Matt Nagy. He’s coming over from the Chiefs who had one of the better offenses in the league and the hope is that he can make this team exciting to watch finally! – He’ll need to improve Mitchell Trubisky at QB, he had a fairly good rookie year given his complete lack of experience at any level when they drafted him and should take a step forward this year with better coaching. They signed Allen Robinson in free agency and if he’s fully recovered from his ACL Injury should become the chosen target in the passing game. Opposite him you’re looking at, possibly… Kevin White? Will he finally step up? He had a play in pre-season that got people talking! Taylor Gabriel is very speedy and Nagy should be able to find a way to get him involved in the game either passing or rushing and there’s been a lot of hype around rookie slot receiver Anthony Miller who looked great in training camp and seems like he’ll probably be the slot receiver in most offensive looks. Jordan Howard has topped 1,000 yards in both of his seasons in the league so far and should hit that mark again this year, they’ve been making a point of saying he’ll be used on all 3 downs, but his pass-catching isn’t exactly reliable so it seems to me that he’ll be the workhorse on first 2 downs and they’ll have Tarik Cohen in one pass catching downs. The human-joystick is great fun to watch, prime example being his return vs the 49ers last season. At tight end they paid a fortune for Trey Burton from the Eagles and the hype behind him has been fairly extreme! The belief is that he’ll be the Bears version of Travis Kelce. Time will tell on that one but the logic is there I guess.

#4 – Detroit Lions – Last year – 9-7, SB Odds – 80/1 (Redzone), Division odds – 8/1 (PP) o/u – 7.5

Ah, the Bengals of the NFC. This is the only way I can understand how people view my own team. They’re Meh, Blah, *shrug* – They may make the playoffs but they won’t do anything. One thing they do have above the Bengals is a franchise QB though. Matthew Stafford is top 10 in the league and his side-arm throws are a thing of beauty, he moves well in the pocket and can make any pass that’s needed. Mr. Reliable for him is Golden Tate, he’s had over 90 receptions in every year he’s been at the Lions and topped 1,000 yards in 3 of them. Marvin Jones was the more exciting player for neutrals though, 1,100 yards, 9 TDs and some great contested catches one in particular that I remember was going over Xavier Rhodes. They should also welcome back Kenny Golladay who sparked in the limited work he got before getting injured, he’ll add to the downfield threat in the team and may take away a little from Jones. After losing Eric Ebron in free agency they don’t have a huge amount at tight end, Luke Willlllllson from the Seahawks looks like he’ll be the main man, but that probably doesn’t mean a lot here really, a positive for Jones and Golladay though. They improved their offensive line in the draft by getting Frank Ragnow and will be hoping they can finally get a running game going having still not had a 100 yards rusher in a game since Barry Sanders played for them. They seem to have finally given up on Ameer Abdullah (RIP his career) and brought in LaGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson in FA and the draft respectively. Blount has a hard north to south runner who has won back-to-back Superbowls, to safe to assume he knows what he’s doing back there! Johnson is an exciting prospect who can do it on the ground and in the passing game, he’s expected to take a pretty full role as the season moves on. They retained Theo Riddick who is a master at 3rd down work and will probably stay as that. So it’s a bit of a puzzle who will do what back there and something that new coach Matt Patricia will have to work out at some point. They have a pretty good defense as well which is essential in this division, Darrius Slay is one of the better corners in the league and Patricia is a defensive coach so you’d expect them to be solid there.

Summary

I have the Vikings winning the league, obviously it won’t be as easy as last year, but I think they’re the most solid unit team on the whole and have improved with Cousins and Cook hopefully there for the season. They were only a game away from making it last year and I can see them taking the extra step forward this year. The Packers will push them close though, and Mack signing for the Bears gives them pass rush which could cause the Vikings offensive line problems. Whoever gets out of this division will have truly earned it though!

  • Rams and Vikings both to make the playoffs – 5/4 (Skybet) – 4 points

I did like and mentioned earlier in the off-season the Bears to beat their points total on Bet365, but that line is down at the moment because of the Khalil Mack news so will need to see if that re-appears before the season starts.

If you can still get 6/4 and up on Bears o295 points when the market re-opens then that’s a good bet.

Aaron Rodgers is probably a good bet for Comeback player of the year, but there’s a lot of options there at the moment and I’m not entirely sure how they pick it so I’ll give it a miss, Beckham, Watt, Wentz, Luck, David Johnson. Yeah, not going to pick from those lot.

If like me, you do fancy the Vikings then you can get 25/1 on them by opening an account at RedzoneSports via the link below –

RZBet

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