The football odds say there's only going to be one winning team in the NFC North this year, but that team just happens to be a legitimate Super Bowl 50 contender.
Somebody out there really loves the Green Bay Packers. While all the other sportsbooks on our NFL odds board have the Seattle Seahawks favored to win Super Bowl 50, the fine folks at Bovada see it differently. They've got the Packers in the pole position at +500, ahead of the two-time and defending NFC champs at +650.
It's unusual, but not terribly surprising, given how much of a “public” team the Packers are compared to Seattle. Either one would make a fine addition to your NFL picks, given how weak their respective divisions look. According to our NFC North final standings, based as always on the regular season win-loss records and the usual stat-friendly projections, Green Bay is the only winning team in this Frozen Four.
Middle of the Road
That might seem a bit harsh, but let's start with the numbers and work from there:
We'll get back to Green Bay in a second, but for now, let's contemplate the fates of the Vikings and Lions. There's room for optimism in both cases; Minnesota and Detroit are both favored to go OVER eight wins, although the Leos are also favored to go UNDER 8.5 at most locations. However, while TeamRankings has the Vikings ahead 8.3 wins to 7.4, FiveThirtyEight puts the Detroit Lions in the lead at 7.8 to 7.5.
The Vikes have the more upside of the two. They went 10-6 ATS last year while winning seven games, and they saw ongoing improvement from rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, who will be joined this year by RB Adrian Peterson. Detroit (11-5 SU, 7-9 ATS) has to recover from the loss of DT Ndamukong Suh and others to free agency, but people might be underestimating the Lions defense – incoming DT Haloti Ngata made five consecutive Pro Bowls before missing four games last year on a PED suspension.
Do the Right Thing
The Packers should end up winning the NFC North anyway. Except for Aaron Rodgers' first full year at quarterback, they've yet to suffer a losing season under coach Mike McCarthy, winning at least 10 games in six of McCarthy's nine years at the helm. This is one of those rare organizations that does things “the right way.” We can count on some relatively consistent results, as long as Rodgers stays healthy, of course.
By contrast, look at what happened to the Bears last year (5-11 SU, 7-9 ATS) with all the key injuries they had on both offense and defense. You'd normally expect some regression toward the mean in that department, but this isn't the same team anymore – players have left, and head coach John Fox has arrived. Win or lose, the Bears should be very interesting to watch this year, even if many of their fans will be hate-watching QB Jay Cutler.