The Green Bay Packers were the division champions in 2019, despite that their projected win total is not very high. Here are some reasons why.
After a two-year hiatus as division champions, the Green Bay Packers made a surprise run back atop the NFC North with a 13-3 record, including a sweep of the Minnesota Vikings. Will the Packers have a repeat performance or will they fall back to the pack in a tighter race? At Game On Wisconsin, we will be giving a division-by-division outlook of the over/under number for every team leading up to the start of the NFL season. A bet means it is a wager I would play, a lean is an opinion not strong enough for a wager and a pass means the number is exactly correct. All over/unders are via FanDuel Sportsbook.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers exceeded all expectations last year by reaching the NFC Championship game and winning the NFC North at 13-3. Despite the success, the betting market is still skeptical as it was all of last season. It saw the Packers as lucky in large part due to winning so many games decided by one score or fewer and the huge turnover differential they benefited from.
This is why the win total is down to 9 with the juice heavily on the under. Green Bay did not have the cap space to make the big splashes in free agency it did two years ago, and first-round pick Jordan Love will not contribute to winning this year. Also, you have to wonder how that will impact the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur.
Replacing Bryan Bulaga with Ricky Wagner and Blake Martinez with Christian Kirksey are downgrades. The singing of Devin Funchess does nothing to improve Green Bay’s biggest need — explosiveness at the skill positions.
While it seems like the ingredients are there for a regression, that is already built into this total. With Rodgers playing a full season, the Green Bay
Packers have never finished at .500 or worse since his first year as a starter.
The Vikings have built themselves a fantastic roster of talent over the past few years, but the salary cap has started to catch up with them. The roster they will enter the 2020 season with is their weakest in several years.
Minnesota lost a trio of cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander. Secondary play in the NFL has never been more important, and while Rhodes was a shell of his former Pro Bowl self last year it’s still a ton to lose. Outside of Mike Hughes, the Vikings will need the first-round pick Jeff Gladney to step up immediately.
Up front, the Vikings also lost Everson Griffen and his elite pass rush skills along with monster defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Minnesota hopes free-agent addition Ifeadi Odenigbo can replace them as starters.
Minnesota lost offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to Cleveland and have prompted Gary Kubiak to take over his duties, which should maintain the excellent zone rushing attack behind stud Dalvin Cook. The offensive line continues to be a question mark along with the loss of deep threat Stefon Diggs. In a normal offseason, I would say rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson could replace a lot of his production right away, but this figures to be a tougher year for rookies with a lack of practice time.
The Vikings face a very difficult schedule with non-division road games at Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Seattle.
Verdict: Lean UNDER
The Bears were a disappointment last year following their 2019 division championship as they went back down to a .500 squad. They have to look no further than their inept offense and quarterback play of Mitch Trubisky to figure out why.
Trubisky’s days as the starter could be numbered with the trade to bring in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Foles has familiarity with Matt Nagy’s system from their days in Kansas City, so he should be very ready to step in.
The Bears do have weapons to work with as Allen Robinson last year proved he is a legit WR1 following a monster year of 98 catches, 1,147 yards, and seven touchdowns, while Anthony Miller caught fire at the end of last season and has the talent to be a WR2. Tarik Cohen is dangerous out of the backfield and David Montgomery is a running back many draft analysts were enamored with in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The question is the offensive line, which might have been the worst unit in the NFL last year. If they can just be a middling group that would make a huge difference. Chicago is banking on coaching to make a difference with new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Chicago’s defense is likely the best unit out of any team in the NFC North. Robert Quinn was added to form a dynamic pass-rushing duo with Khalil Mack. Akiem Hicks is back healthy on the line and linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Eddie Jackson, and corner Kyle Fuller are all elite players.
I like the Bears to get back over .500 this year and a longshot bet of +350 to win the division is a reasonable one to make.
The 2019 season went up in flames for the Detroit Lions due to the injury of Matthew Stafford. Even with the injury to their quarterback, Detroit lost seven games by seven points or fewer. The Lions were in most of the games they played.
What people also probably forget is that Stafford was playing at an elite level before he got hurt, as he was on pace to throw for close to 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. Stafford has the weapons in the passing game in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and T.J. Hockenson to pick up right where he left off, and while it seems he has been around for awhile Stafford is still only 32.
What should help Stafford too is the selection of Georgia running back D’Andre Swift in the second round of the draft. He averaged over six yards per carry in each of his three seasons for the Bulldogs and brings the explosiveness the Lions have been missing at the position forever.
I think the Lions killed their draft with Swift, Ohio St. corner Jeff Okudah at No. 3 overall and Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara in the third round. Even after trading Darius Slay, Detroit should not miss much of a beat at all with Okudah replacing him, and Okwara has the physical tools to be a formidable pass rusher opposite of Trey Flowers.
Detroit was also very active in free agency to improve its defense by bringing in safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Jamie Collins, nose tackle Danny Shelton and corner Desmond Trufant. Collins had a monster season in New England last year with 81 tackles, seven sacks, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles, and he and Harmon are reunited with their former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Trufant should be recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season prematurely and should serve as an excellent CB2 opposite Okudah.
The biggest question for the Lions is Patricia. Not only has his in-game coaching been bad for two years, but the team chemistry has been terrible. The talent is there for Detroit to take a step forward, so all eyes will be on Patricia to make it happen.