The Packers have won the NFC North three straight seasons for the second time since the name was changed from the Central. No team has won it four straight years since the mid-1980s. Here's a look at each club's NFL odds for a finish of No. 1-4.
Green Bay Packers
NFL odds (from BetOnline): first -145, second +225, third +600, fourth +1600
Green Bay's division stranglehold might be ending as the Packers' win total has dropped each of the past two seasons to last year's 8-7-1. The Packers probably would have won double-digit games again had Aaron Rodgers not been lost to a broken collarbone in Week 9, but he returned in the regular-season finale and beat the Bears with a last-minute touchdown pass to win the division. The offense will be just fine with Rodgers, 2013 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy and receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. The defense, as has been the case the past few seasons, is the concern. That group finished the 2013 season ranked 25th in yards allowed and 24th in points. I'm not sure the additions of past-his-prime Julius Peppers or rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are enough to fix that. Linebacker Clay Matthews is nearly important on that side of the ball as Rodgers is on offense, but Matthews has been very injury prone.
NFL odds: first +300, second +175, third +180, fourth +550
There are two main questions regarding the Bears entering this season: How will the revamped defense play and who backs up Jay Cutler at quarterback? Difficult to take too much from the preseason, but the defense has looked decent and really can only improve from last season. The team got a scare when first-round rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller hurt his foot in last Thursday's preseason win over Jacksonville but he's OK. It's looking like Jimmy Clausen will beat out Jordan Palmer to be Cutler's No. 2 and recent history has shown that Clausen is going to be needed at some point. The Bears look really strong but are very thin. They were so desperate at receiver when projected No. 3 Marquess Wilson went down with a broken collarbone that they signed Santonio Holmes . If Holmes has the right attitude, it could be a high-reward deal for Chicago. If running back Matt Forte is injured, it's probably Shaun Draughn's job or rookie Ka'Deem Carey's. That's a major drop-off from Forte. The Bears have Super Bowl caliber talent, but they must stay healthy.
NFL odds: first +350, second +200, third +160, fourth +150
The Lions are the only team to never win the North as their last division title was in 1993. They may not get as good of a chance to win the North as they did last season with both Green Bay's Rodgers and Chicago's Cutler missing around half the season with injuries. In typical Lions fashion, the team imploded down the stretch with turnovers and stupid penalties, two staples of the Jim Schwartz era. That needs to be job No. 1 of new head coach Jim Caldwell: better discipline. Alas, it already sounds like it might not be working because talented defensive tackle Nick Fairley has looked disinterested so far and has been demoted to the second team. Plus you never know when fellow tackle Ndamukong Suh is going to do something silly on the field and perhaps get suspended for it. It's a shame those guys are knuckleheads because Detroit could have the best defensive front in football. The offense is going to score plenty with the additions of Golden Tate and first-round rookie tight end Eric Ebron to Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush.
NFL odds: first +1600, second +800, third +400, fourth -275
I believe this will be the worst team in the NFC this season. Matt Cassel is clearly going to start the year at quarterback, but I'd expect he's replaced by Teddy Bridgewater by around Week 6 (at home vs. Detroit). It's quite likely the Vikings are 0-5 heading into that game with expected road losses in St. Louis, New Orleans and Green Bay and home defeats to New England and Atlanta. This will also likely be Adrian Peterson's last season in Vikings purple and the fact the team is playing outside will hurt his game (so don't take him to lead the NFL in rushing on that prop). Peterson benefitted hugely from playing at least eight games a season on that quick turf in the dome. Minnesota has five home games after November and it's going to be pretty nasty in that weather at the University of Minnesota. This team wasn't build for that.
NFL picks: Chicago wins a tiebreaker vs. Green Bay for the division. The Lions are third and the Vikings in the basement again.