So long as Aaron Rodgers is taking the snaps in Green Bay, it’s likely the Packers will be the NFC North favorite regardless of their shortcomings or the progress of other clubs.
The same holds true this year after an uneven season still ended with the Packers atop the division. They appear improved, but the Vikings and Lions could be better as well.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulated the NFC North 10,000 times and here are the expected win totals:
Green Bay Packers: 10.7
Minnesota Vikings: 8.5
Detroit Lions: 6.8
Chicago Bears: 4.8
Green Bay Packers (4/11 division odds): The Packers won the NFC North last year despite some glaring weaknesses. They are heavy favorites to repeat as champion after taking measures to address their shortcomings.
They used their first four draft picks to bolster a defense that was No. 22 last year and showed glaring shortcomings in a playoff loss to the Falcons. They used their next pick on BYU running back Jamaal Williams, who will likely provide an instant upgrade to the league’s No. 20 rushing offense.
Minnesota Vikings (7/2 division odds): The Vikings were No. 28 in total offense last season and ranked dead last in rushing. They addressed the need by grabbing versatile back Dalvin Cook of Florida State along with a pair of wide receivers and tight end Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
The young playmakers must have a massive impact in order to help injury-prone quarterback Sam Bradford amid doubt that Teddy Bridgewater will be able to return from the injury that sidelined him all of last season. The Vikings ranked No. 3 overall in defense last season.
Detroit Lions (6/1 division odds): The Lions saw their once-promising season end on a sour note as they stumbled into the playoffs after losing their last three regular-season games and were routed in the wild-card round by the Seahawks.
But they appear to have had a great draft, grabbing Florida products in linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Teez Tabor in the first two rounds to shore up the defense. The offense also got some promising prospects in Northern Illinois wideout Kenny Golladay and tight end Michael Roberts from Toledo.
Chicago Bears (50/1 odds): The Bears finally bid a long overdue farewell to Jay Cutler, but they may not be better off on the field in the short-term. They notoriously traded up to take North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky, whom they likely could have grabbed in their original No. 3 slot without gifting a trade to San Francisco.
It’s unlikely Trubisky or off-season acquisition Mike Glennon will change the franchise’s fortunes or even get the fan base excited anytime soon. Chicago also didn’t do much to improve a mediocre defense (No. 15 in the NFL last season).
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