The Green Bay Packers have retaken the NFC North. The NFL odds aren't shining on the Minnesota Vikings for Super Bowl 50, but is either team in good shape?
Jason's 2015 record as of Dec. 15: 48-45-2 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 25-31 Total
There's little doubt that the Green Bay Packers (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS) are the class of the NFC North. They're in first place in the division, they've got the two-time and reigning league MVP in Aaron Rodgers, and they're one of this year's top Super Bowl 50 contenders, priced at +1000 over at GTBets. Will the cheeseheads be celebrating on February 7? As my old friend Charles de Camembert used to say around this time of year, it's in the hands of feta now.
First things first. The Packers haven't even clinched a playoff spot, let alone the NFC North title. The Minnesota Vikings (8-5 SU, 10-3 ATS) are just one game back after briefly holding the division lead; they're a lot farther down the NFL odds board at +6000, but they're on the verge of qualifying for the postseason. The Vikings have two games coming up against losing teams before visiting Lambeau Field in the regular-season finale. Anything can happen.
Is there really enough gap between these two teams to justify putting Green Bay in your NFL picks for Super Bowl 50? Football Outsiders had the Packers ranked No. 13 overall in Weighted DVOA going into Week 13, just one spot ahead of the Vikings. Of course, nailing down first place in the NFC North and a possible first-round bye would make a big difference, and Green Bay has the hammer right now. That's still not enough.
It's not that the Vikes have been tearing it up lately themselves. They've dropped three of their last four games, starting with a 30-13 defeat at the hands of Green Bay (+1 away) in Week 11. Minnesota's record is very much the product of a soft schedule, soft enough that Pro-Football-Reference has the Packers valued 4.5 points per game higher – that's including last week's action. Or you could simply look at Minnesota's point differential of plus-3 on the season. That's a 6-6 team right there. Indeed, Football Outsiders gives the Vikings 6.4 Estimated Wins thus far.
Let's Ask Mikey
Let's look again at the Packers (7.4 Estimated Wins), though. They appear to have shaken off their midseason slump, but back-to-back wins over the Detroit Lions (+2.5 at home) – which required a Hail Mary touchdown, don't forget – and the Dallas Cowboys (+6 away) shouldn't inspire much confidence.
The Packers are also in the middle of a transition on offense, with head coach Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling duties from associate head coach Tom Clements. This could be exactly what the Packers need, or it could be too little, too late given the number of injuries they've dealt with in 2015. For six times the payout, we'd rather roll the dice on Minnesota.