You won’t find a division more heavily built on tradition and grit than the NFC North; with windswept, icy landscapes populated by some of the most diehard fans in the entire NFL. From the Packers’ cheeseheads to the Vikings’ ravage fans, the NFC North is all-in. It also provides for some of the most watched storylines of 2020, including Aaron Rodgers’ future with the Packers, and the Bears’ quarterback room.
This page will serve as a one-stop-shop guide to betting on the NFC North – complete with a 2019 recap, 2020 lookahead, past division winners, and where to bet the NFC North. The most important piece of advice is to shop around before placing a wager. For instance, just because FanDuel Sportsbook offers the Vikings (+150) doesn’t mean every outlet will. An extra minute or two of searching could lead to larger payouts. With that said, let’s cut into the NFC North.
NFC North odds
2019 NFC North results
The one stat that defines the Packers’ 2019 campaign: they were 8-0 in one score games. Credit where credit is due – that’s thanks to toughness, discipline, Rodgers, and a great rookie coaching campaign by Matt LaFleur. What it’s not is replicable. The Packers essentially fudged their way to 13 wins which was amplified by two drubbings at the hands of San Francisco (once in the NFC Championship Game). Another outlier was running back Aaron Jones’ 19 total touchdowns, which kept Green Bay in many games. Rodgers, despite his final season totals, wasn’t the same gunslinger of recent years and LaFleur relied on a downright ridiculously productive campaign from Jones. It’s a season to be celebrated, no doubt, but the numbers do cast major questions on the Packers moving forward.
Did someone say rinse and repeat for the Vikings? Yet again, the Vikings played their way to a respectable record, a playoff berth, and a matchup with the New Orleans Saints. And, like in 2018, the Vikings pulled off an improbable win surrounded by officiating controversy. Dalvin Cook, who played most of the season, was just one year removed from a devastating ACL tear and amassed 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns. Minnesota’s defense was fifth in total defense and was the least penalized squad in the league. Kirk Cousins was efficient and, for the most part, took care of the football. It was a respectable year for the Vikings until they ran into the buzzsaw that was Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers; they were beaten soundly (just 147 total yards of offense) and their season was halted.
After one of Chicago’s most impressive seasons was ended by the infamous double-doink, the Bears put forth in 2019 one of the most uninspiring 8-8 efforts in the NFL. The offense managed just 17.5 points per game (29th) and the team suffered losses to the Raiders and Chargers. Mitch Trubisky was an eyesore– managing just 3,100 yards passing and a 17-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. For the most part, the Bears beat who they were supposed to (5-2 against teams who finished below .500) and lost the games they needed to win (2-6 against teams who finished above .500). The highlight of the season was undoubtedly sweeping the 10-6 Vikings, which included a Week 17 victory where Chicago rushed for 158 yards on one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. In the end, Chicago massively underachieved, falling 1.5 games under their 2019 expected total (9.5) and missing the playoffs despite having the seventh best preseason odds to win Super Bowl LIV.
Before Matthew Stafford was lost for the season with an injury, the Lions were looking like an alright team– they were 3-4-1 in games started by Stafford. After that, they went 0-8 and scored more than 20 points just once. It was musical chairs with quarterbacks during that stretch with both Jeff Driskel and David Blough getting shots as the starter– neither of which completed 60% of his passes nor averaged over 5.6 yards per pass attempt (league average: 7.2). The defense wasn’t much better: they held opponents to under 20 points just twice all year. If there is a positive spin on the season, it’s that they ended up with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft.
2020 NFC North outlook and predictions
As mentioned, there is a likely regression coming for the Packers. An 8-0 record in single-score games is unsustainable and the rushing touchdown rate is historically an outlier. But that doesn’t mean the Packers won’t be a good team. They return 10 of 11 defensive starters and have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL (ranked 4th by PFF). Rodgers is still the signal caller and his weapons – Davante Adams and Jones – are back. LaFleur returns after a stellar rookie coaching campaign and Green Bay is ready to repeat as division champs; however, they fall behind Minnesota in odds to win the division. Despite loud cries from Rodgers for more weapons, the Packers moved up in the draft to select his replacement, Jordan Love, another running back, AJ Dillion, and a handful of role players that won’t be catching a ball from AR. All offseason, Rodgers has been publicly casting doubt on his future with the team. Because of the uncertainty and animosity in Green Bay, the Packers’ win total sits at a modest 8.5 at most sportsbooks.
The Vikings have a massive leg-up on most of the NFL this coming season– an experienced, respected head coach and an experienced, respected quarterback returning. With a wild and limited offseason, this might be the most crucial trait in a successful 2020 season. Minnesota successfully doused the Cook contract situation before it even began, and the star running back reported to camp on time– something that could have derailed the offense fast. With all potential distractions behind them, it’s no wonder the Vikings hold the best odds to take the NFC North in 2020. The biggest hurdle for the team is getting over the playoff hump and securing a Super Bowl berth, their first since 1976. The defense remains intact and looks to continue their recent success, where they’ve finished in the top six in total defense four of the last five seasons (finished ninth in 2018). The Vikings still fall under longshots to win Super Bowl LV, coming in around +2500, but could be an interesting bet to throw a few dollars down on.
The old adage goes, if you have more than one quarterback, you have none at all. In this case, the Bears have both a struggling Mitch Trubisky and perennial playoff sensation Nick Foles competing for their top spot. Could Chicago be gently pushing Trubisky out? That remains to be seen. They used their first pick (which wasn’t until the second round) on a tight end – Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame – bringing their post-draft total to nine TEs (yes, nine). The defense is at least a bright spot, which allowed the fourth-least amount of points in 2019 and the sixth-least amount of rushing yards per attempt. With a volatile top of the division, the Bears are around +425 odds to win the division (which is one of the better odds for a third-place projected team). Expectations for have been tempered, but not totally removed, with Chicago being projected to win 7.5 games.
Stafford is back, the Lions managed to acquire a lockdown corner to replace the departed Darius Slay, they took a couple shots on rookie weapons, and bolstered their offensive line. Bottom line, Detroit had a nice offseason. The biggest story for the Lions is Matt Patricia’s job security, which could be zero if the Lions don’t at least look competitive in 2020. The schedulers didn’t give Patricia a break– the Lions have the league’s fifth-hardest schedule this season (0.515 opponent win percentage last year). Despite back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North, Detroit still has +550 odds to win the division– the best odds of any projected last place finisher in the league. The Lions have a projected 6.5 win total at most books, making them a tough bet to take in the NFC North.
The NFC North has the lowest variability in odds to win of any division in football. In fact, Detroit (+550) still holds 15% of the handle– making the NFC North one of just two divisions with every team holding 10% or more of the total handle (AFC East). Green Bay (+180) sits second in odds, but leads in percentage of total bets (45%) and percentage of the handle controlled (33%). That’s followed by Minnesota (34% of all bets, 30% of the handle), and Chicago (17% of bets, 22% of the handle). Though there are two clear leaders – the Packers and Vikings – wagers have been fairly evenly distributed throughout all four teams.
Past NFC North division winners
|2019||Green Bay Packers||13-3|
|2016||Green Bay Packers||10-6|
|2014||Green Bay Packers||12-4|
|2013||Green Bay Packers||8-7-1|
|2012||Green Bay Packers||11-5|
|2011||Green Bay Packers||15-1|
How to bet on NFL division winners
To reiterate advice given here, shop around before diving headlong into the first bet you see; different outlets offer different odds and a minute or two of your time could result in some more money coming your way.
When reading an odds table, there’s several numbers of note. The first is the odds, which tells you who is favored (lower numbers are favored) and how much a successful bet would earn you. For example, a $100 bet on Green Bay (+180) would win you $180 with a total payout of $280. Next is the handle, which tells you what percentage of the total amount bet on the AFC North division winner each team commands. For example, the Vikings have 30% of the handle– meaning 30% of all money bet on the NFC North winner has gone to the Vikings. Last is the percentage of bets, which refers to the number of bets– not the amount– wagered on each team. The Bears have 17% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the Bears have 22% of the handle, meaning larger betting amounts are being placed on the Bears).
Maybe more so than any division in football, the NFC North is a total toss-up; even last place Detroit is getting some attention from bettors. Throughout the year, most eyes will be on the Packers’ and Bears’ quarterback rooms and on whether or not Minnesota can make the next jump. Plus, Green Bay is good for a November snowstorm game at least once a year.
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|