2021 NFC North Betting Preview: Will the Packers Win Another Division Crown?

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Packers-vs-Vikings

The NFC North has been one of the most competitive divisions in football over the past few years. That said, the Green Bay Packers almost always find their way to the top of the standings by the season’s end. Green Bay has won the North in each of the last two seasons, and they have accounted for seven of the division’s 10 titles since 2011.

While the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears have risen up on occasion, the Packers had very little competition in the North a season ago. Led by league MVP Aaron Rodgers, the Packers cruised to a 13-3 regular season and an easy division championship. The Bears finished a distant second at just 8-8, while the Vikings (7-9) and Detroit Lions (5-11) had seasons to forget.

Online NFL sportsbooks are expecting more of the same in 2021. BetOnline has the Packers as -130 favorites to win the North for a third straight campaign. Green Bay has endured a fairly difficult offseason, but with Rodgers back in the fold, the Pack are still among the betting favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 56.

Can anybody dethrone Green Bay this season? Or will the Packers be crowned kings of the North yet again?

Chicago Bears Preview

  • 1st place (+500)
  • 2nd (+200)
  • 3rd (+120)
  • 4th (+600)

The Chicago Bears finished just 8-8 last year, but it was just good enough to earn Chicago a Wild Card spot. The Bears would go on to lose to the Saints in the Wild Card Round, 21-9, which finally led to the team’s decision to part ways with the ineffective Mitch Trubisky. Back in March, Trubisky signed a free-agent deal to play behind Josh Allen in Buffalo.

Trubisky and Nick Foles were both relatively ineffective in their respective stints as the Bears’ QB1s last season, so Chicago tried to address that glaring area of need this spring. The team plucked veteran Andy Dalton off of the free-agent scrap heap before using their first-round draft choice on ex-Ohio State standout Justin Fields.

The Bears have said since signing Dalton that he will be their starter this season, but everyone knows it’s only a matter of time until Fields gets his opportunity. Dalton has been a serviceable starter at the NFL level before, but the 33-year-old is incredibly unlikely to emerge as a transformative presence in an offense desperately in need of some playmaking.

While Dalton may be the Bears’ starter in Week 1, Fields will take over at some point. Chicago has surrounded their new QBs with some interesting weaponry, led by David Montgomery out of the backfield. Montgomery struggled as a rookie before coming on strong last year. In 15 games a season ago, the former third-round pick averaged 4.3 yards per carry on his way to 1,070 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He added another 54 catches for 438 yards and a couple of more scores, to boot.

Tarik Cohen will return from a torn ACL, while Damien Williams is now here to provide depth in the running game. Chicago won’t have to lean quite as heavily on Montgomery as they did last season, but he did show marked improvement in every aspect of the game last year.

Allen Robinson is still here, and he has quietly become one of the game’s most dynamic all-around threats in the passing game. Robinson totaled 1,250 yards on 102 catches despite the Bears’ disastrous QB play a season ago, which makes you wonder what kind of video game numbers he may be able to post if Chicago gets more competent play out of their quarterbacks. Darnell Mooney emerged last season as a legitimate deep threat opposite Robinson, as well.

The Bears won this division two years ago thanks in large part to a salty defense led by Khalil Mack. Mack hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was in his first season with the Bears, but he is still a game-changing presence on the edge. Chicago’s defensive line will get a boost with Eddie Goldman set to return at D-tackle after opting out last season.

Based on the question marks offensively, the Bears’ playoff hopes will likely hinge on whether the defense can get back to ranking among the best in the league in 2021.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins

  • Over 7.5 wins (+105)
  • Under 7.5 wins (-135)

The Bears have reached double-digit wins in a season just once since 2013, and oddsmakers aren’t too keen on their chances to even reach the .500 mark again this year. Chicago has posted back-to-back 8-8 seasons, and the line heading into the new campaign has been set at 7.5.

Chicago kicks off the season with a tough matchup on the road against the LA Rams, where they’ll face a familiar foe in Matthew Stafford. The Bears will then play back-to-back games against AFC North teams in Cincinnati and Cleveland before their first divisional clash with the Lions in Week 4. The first half of the schedule gets incredibly difficult heading into their Week 10 bye with consecutive games against the Packers, Buccaneers, 49ers, and Steelers.

The juice is on the under on 7.5 wins, and I tend to agree. Dalton doesn’t move the needle enough to look like a major upgrade over Foles/Trubisky, and there’s no telling how much success Fields will have in his first NFL season. Green Bay is clearly the cream of the crop in this division, and it’s fair to wonder whether the Bears have been passed up by the Vikings, too.

Bet the under on Chicago’s win total.

Chicago Bears –Under 7.5 Wins (-135)

Detroit Lions Preview

  • 1st place (+2800)
  • 2nd (+900)
  • 3rd (+300)
  • 4th (-350)

The Bears appear to be going nowhere fast, but at least they’re not the Lions. Detroit Lions fired the disastrous Matt Patricia into the sun halfway through last season, which was a move that seemed rather popular with the players. However, Detroit then turned around and questionably replaced him with former Saints assistant Dan Campbell, who doesn’t seem much different.

The Lions’ Biggest Move This Offseason Was the Trade of Stafford

Stafford grew tired of putting up gargantuan numbers on a perennial loser, so the Lions did him a favor by sending him to the Rams. Detroit got former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff back in the deal, which likely won’t do much to improve the enthusiasm around this team moving forward.

Goff has a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, of course, but he seems to have regressed in the two years since. Goff’s numbers have been trending in the wrong direction in recent years, but the Lions are hoping that the 26-year-old can turn things around after a change of scenery.

Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones both bolted in free agency, which means the Lions will be banking on an unproven receiving corps featuring Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Quintez Cephus. Tight end TJ Hockenson may be thrust into a larger role given Detroit’s lack of established pass-catchers, but don’t be surprised if this team focuses more on the running game.

D’Andre Swift showed flashes last season while sharing the backfield with Adrian Peterson. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry on just 114 attempts while adding 46 catches for 357 yards, as well. Swift finishing with 10 total touchdowns was an impressive feat for a rookie playing such a limited role, but he’ll be a featured part of the offense in year two. The Lions also have ex-Packer Jamaal Williams in the mix to serve as a change-of-pace option.

The Lions’ offense may be surprisingly good thanks to a quality offensive line. The massive Penei Sewell is expected to start at right tackle as a rookie, and he’ll join a line that features Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and a solid young left tackle in Taylor Decker.

The Lions didn’t blitz very often last season, but that should change with Aaron Glenn and Dom Capers now in the fold and tasked with reworking the defense. Jeff Okudah, Jamie Collins, and Trey Flowers give the Lions Pro Bowl talent at all three levels defensively, but this is going to be a major work-in-progress under the new coaching staff.

Over/Under 4.5 Wins

  • Over 4.5 wins (-140)
  • Under 4.5 wins (+110)

The Lions have one of the lowest win total props in the NFL after mustering just five victories a season ago. While there are plenty of holdovers on defense, the team is working with almost an entirely new offense with a brand-new coaching staff. There will be growing pains here as a result, and the odds suggest Detroit is destined to finish last place in the NFC North once again.

Of course, that’s not exactly a leap. Chicago is a team with a low floor, but they won’t be as dreadful as Detroit. The Packers are a playoff lock, while the Vikings should push for a Wild Card berth. Betting on the Lions to finish dead-last in the division at -350 is a bet you’re almost sure to win.

The schedule won’t do them any favors, either. Detroit begins the season with four straight games against teams that made the playoffs last year. Of their 17 games overall, just seven will come against non-playoff opponents. The most winnable game on the schedule appears to be a home date with the Bengals in Week 6. Otherwise, there’s a decent chance the Lions will be betting underdogs on a weekly basis.

The odds say the Lions are more likely to win at least five games than they are to win four or less, but I don’t necessarily agree. It’s going to be another long season in the Motor City, which is probably why Campbell was given a six-year deal to sign on as head coach. Bet the under on 4.5 wins for these guys at the current +110 odds.

Detroit Lions –Under 4.5 Wins (+110

Green Bay Packers Preview

  • 1st place (-130)
  • 2nd (+195)
  • 3rd (+500)
  • 4th (+2800)

To say the Green Bay Packers‘ offseason was full of drama and uncertainty would be an understatement. Rumors about Aaron Rodgers’ unhappiness with the team’s situation swirled for months, but the team ultimately remained firm in their stance that they would not be trading the future Hall-of-Famer. Shortly before training camp, similar murmurs began to circulate about Rodgers’ favorite weapon, Davante Adams.

However, cooler heads prevailed in the end. The Packers have reportedly restructured Rodgers’ contract in order to allow him to potentially leave as a free agent as early as next offseason. In return, Rodgers has agreed to stick around in an attempt to lead the team back to the promised land at least one more time. Rodgers has been honest about his frustrations with the team’s recent shortcomings, but he’ll be the Packers’ QB1 for at least another year.

The 2021 Packers’ roster looks an awful lot like the one that fell to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game last year. Green Bay’s offense will still be centered around Rodgers and Adams, with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon likely to draw most of the work out of the backfield. Allen Lazard has emerged as a useful No. 2 behind Adams, while Robert Tonyan is fresh off of a breakout campaign. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has also established himself as Rodgers’ preferred deep target.

There’s no reason to expect this offense to be anything other than one of the most prolific in football again this term. Green Bay is hoping at least one of Za’Darius Smith or Preston Smith will return to his 2019 form, while Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes give the Packers’ secondary some legitimate talent.

At this point, injuries are likely the only thing that could prevent the Packers from winning a third straight NFC North title this season. At -130, you’re getting pretty good bang for your buck on Green Bay to finish first.

Over/Under 10 Wins

  • Over 10 wins (-130)
  • Under 10 wins (+100)

The win total prop of 10 for Green Bay looks a little low considering the team is coming off of consecutive 13-win campaigns. However, the Packers’ schedule this year ranks among the toughest in the league based on last year’s records. Green Bay’s 2021 opponents sported a collective .542 winning percentage a season ago, which makes this the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL.

All four NFC North teams rank in the top-six in that regard, which should level the playing field a bit. Green Bay will start the season in New Orleans against a Saints team with plenty of question marks before their home opener against Detroit a week later. The Packers will play the entire NFC West before their Week 13 bye before closing the campaign with games against Baltimore, Cleveland, Minnesota, and Detroit.

Anything can happen over the course of a season, but I’m still inclined to bet the over on 10 wins for this team. The Packers will still come in as betting favorites in a number of games despite the fairly daunting schedule, and they should be able to pad their record by beating up on their fellow NFC North bunkmates. The over on 10 wins looks pretty safe for the Pack at -130.

Green Bay Packers –Over 10 Wins (-130)

Minnesota Vikings Preview

  • 1st place (+190)
  • 2nd (+200)
  • 3rd (+200)
  • 4th (+950)

The Minnesota Vikings were stuck in neutral for most of last year, which was a disappointing result for a team that advanced to the Divisional Round the year before. Minnesota finished just 7-9 following a disastrous 1-5 start, though they did play a little better as the season progressed.

The key for this team will be health, because there is plenty of talent on both sides of the football. Say what you want about Kirk Cousins, but he is fresh off of a very productive campaign during which he topped 4,200 yards passing with a career-high 35 touchdowns.

Of course, it helps to have arguably the game’s most talented receiving duo at his disposal. Adam Thielen has been one of the most productive receivers in the league for years, and Justin Jefferson looks like a perennial Pro Bowler after his standout rookie season. Jefferson racked up a whopping 1,400 receiving yards on 88 catches with seven touchdowns in his first year as a pro.

The running game speaks for itself with Dalvin Cook fresh off of yet another stellar showing of his own. Cook rumbled for 1,557 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. That said, depth could be a concern here. The team has very little proven talent beyond Jefferson and Thielen in the passing attack, while the running game takes a major step back whenever Cook is out of the lineup.

The offensive line is hugely important for both facets of the offense. Keeping the immobile Cousins upright is no easy task, and the Vikings’ offense will instantly break down if their QB doesn’t have enough time to throw.

Minnesota’s defense was a dumpster fire last season, which was a far cry from the 2017 unit that led the NFL in points and yards allowed. Danielle Hunter is back after missing all of last year, while Anthony Barr will be returning after missing 14 games a season ago. Michael Pierce will debut for the team after opting out last year, as well.

The Vikings recorded just 23 sacks as a team last year, which was the worst mark in franchise history. Hunter was great before his neck injury, but it’s worth wondering whether he’ll be quite as dynamic rushing the passer as he was pre-surgery. This linebacking corps is unproven, but Minnesota did address a needy secondary by adding Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, and Mackensie Alexander into the fold as free agents.

Over/Under 9 Wins

  • Over 9 wins (-125)
  • Under 9 wins (-105)

As mentioned, the scheduling gods didn’t do the NFC North squads any favors this year. Minnesota has the fifth-most difficult schedule of any team with their opponents having posted a .531 winning percentage in 2020. Clearly, the Vikings will have to avoid another slow start if they want to bounce back after that underwhelming showing last year.

That should be easier to accomplish this time around, however. Before their Week 7 bye, the Vikings will face the Bengals, Cardinals, Seahawks, Browns, Lions, and Panthers. Seattle and Cleveland were the only playoff teams among that group, and Minnesota will get to face both of them at home.

That’s where the good times end, though. After the bye, just three of their last 11 games will come against non-playoff foes. One of those teams is a Cowboys team with lofty expectations, while the Vikes will also head to LA to face an upstart Chargers outfit.

Clearly, the Vikings will have to make the most of their early-season schedule and hope they can squeak out enough positive results down the stretch to earn themselves a playoff nod. Toppling the Packers at the top of the division looks rather unlikely at this point, but I do think this team is talented enough to battle their way into the postseason.

The Vikings look like a good bet to finish as runners-up in the NFC North at +200. They likely won’t have to go much better than .500 to do that, and I think 8-9 wins is the most likely outcome here. Taking the under on 9 is the slightly better value at -105.

Minnesota Vikings –Under 9 Wins (-105)

Who Wins the NFC North in 2021?

Clearly, the North is the Packers’ to lose. The Bears and Vikings both have given Green Bay a run in recent years, but Aaron Rodgers and co. should have little trouble when it’s all said and done. Assuming Rodgers can stay healthy and motivated, it’s hard to bet against Green Bay to emerge victorious here.

So, the North will likely come down to the Bears and Vikings duking it out for second place once again. I give the slight edge to Minnesota given their proven commodities on offense, plus there’s no telling how the Bears’ uncertain quarterback situation will ultimately play out.

Here’s How the NFC North Will End up in 2021

  • Green Bay Packers 1st (-130)
  • Minnesota Vikings 2nd (+200)
  • Chicago Bears 3rd (+120)
  • Detroit Lions 4th (-350)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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