NFC North Betting Preview: Should Green Bay Still Be an Overwhelming Favorite?
If there is ever a downtime for the NFL, this is it. Between the draft and the start of training camps, this is one of the rare stretches on the calendar when there isn't something big happening.
That doesn't mean we have to check out from the action.
NFL odds offers a robust futures market, including odds for each division winner as well as win total odds for every team. Now is a great time to lay some futures bets.
Let's take a look at the NFC North and see where there's betting value to be had.
Packers Under 10.5 Wins (+135)
Even before losing Davante Adams this offseason, the Green Bay Packers were due for negative regression. They were very fortunate to win 13 games a season ago. By Pythagorean expected wins, Green Bay was the luckiest team in the league, totaling just 9.8 Pythagorean wins.
Their +79 point differential in 2021 was 80 points clear of anyone else's in the NFC North, but it was the worst point differential among the NFL's eight division winners. The +79 clip was just the fifth-best point differential in the NFC, so the Packers getting the top seed was partially due to some good fortune and partially due to a soft NFC North.
The NFC North may very well be weak again, with the Detroit Lions (25th) and Chicago Bears (27th) ranked near the bottom of the league in our nERD metric.
But there are reasons for optimism with the Minnesota Vikings under new coach Kevin O'Connell, and because the Packers got first last year, Green Bay has to face the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- three teams in the top eight by nERD -- for their same-place NFC games, although their overall strength of schedule is right in the middle of the pack, per Sharp Football.
Don't get it twisted -- our model still very much likes Green Bay.
They should be a good team, and while the loss of Adams is a blow, they'll get back top-tier corner Jaire Alexander, who was limited to only four games last season due to injury. We rank Green Bay fifth in nERD with a mark of 3.86, which is their expected margin of victory against an average opponent on a neutral field.
We have the Packers winning 10.5 games, right at this line. But with the over priced at -160 and the under at +135, it makes more sense to take the plus-money on the under.
Vikings to Win the Division (+300)
The NFC North is priced as a two-team race between the Vikings and Packers (-170). Per our numbers, the Packers should be favored -- just not by this much.
While our nERD rankings have Green Bay 5th (3.86) and Minnesota 18th (0.30), we give the Packers much less of a chance to win the NFC North than the -170 price implies. That -170 number implies odds of 63.0%, but we have Green Bay winning the division 53.5% of the time.
That creates value in taking someone else to win the division, and unless you want to get nuts with the Lions or Bears, the Vikings are the logical choice.
Despite boasting Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings have been a run-heavy team the last two seasons, ranking 27th in pass rate in 2020 and 18th in 2021. You may be thinking they should run a lot since Cousins isn't that good, but Cousins was actually pretty dang effective last year. He ranked sixth in adjusted yards per attempt (8.1) and ninth in Passing Net Expected Points per drop back (0.22).
Cousins was good, and if he keeps performing at that level, Minnesota will absolutely benefit from throwing it more. That's something they are expected to do this year under the aforementioned O'Connell.
As we laid out in the previous section, the Packers are due for negative regression, and if that occurs in addition to the Vikings improving in O'Connell's first campaign, Minnesota could be right in the hunt for the NFC North.
We give the Vikings a 28.3% chance to win the division. Not great, obviously. But the implied odds at this +300 price are only 25.0%. I like the Vikings a little more than that and think they could be a surprise team this fall.