NFL Futures Betting – Odds and Picks for the NFC North

You can’t say nobody saw the Detroit Lions coming last year since there were quite a few people who recognize them as a team on the rise. You can’t necessarily say that anybody would see them get to within a whisker of a Super Bowl berth. 

But there they were, and now they are one of the favorites to win the NFC. 

As for the Green Bay Packers, nobody really knew what to expect out of their first-year starter at quarterback. But that QB proved worthy of succeeding four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, and now the Pack, which made the playoffs as a wild card team, have to produce a second act.

The Chicago Bears decided to move on from quarterback Justin Fields, and now the franchise’s fortunes are squarely in the hands of Caleb Williams, who they took first in the draft. The Minnesota Vikings, who did not retain one of the NFL’s more productive passers, will also move ahead with a rookie signal-caller, although that situation will likely take longer to develop.

Let’s take a look at the NFL betting odds posted on the NFC North:

  • Detroit Lions +125
  • Green Bay Packers +150
  • Chicago Bears +300
  • Minnesota Vikings +600

Detroit Lions (+125) 

  • 2023 record: 12-5 SU, 12-5 ATS 
  • Head Coach: Dan Campbell

The Detroit Lions had a season of highlights last season, and it was about time. They won their first division championship in 30 years and got incredibly close to winning a ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time in their existence.

Those who were not familiar with Dan Campbell discovered his level of intensity two years ago when the team was the subject of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” documentary series. Campbell had been an assistant coach in various spots in the NFL and had briefly served as an interim coach for the Miami Dolphins. He whipped the team up to a frenzy for a couple of weeks, but then things fizzled out.

It does look like he’ll be able to stick around a little longer this time. And general manager Brad Holmes is building some job security too, after the Lions have made some superb draft picks over the last few years.

Will there be a point when most people will say that Detroit got the better of the trade that brought Jared Goff from the Rams for Matthew Stafford? Are we at that point already? Goff was second in the NFL in passing yards last year with 4575, and he had almost 300 more yards on play-action passes than any other quarterback.

Detroit complements that well with a two-headed ground attack that truly asserts itself. David Montgomery (1015 yards, 4.6 ypc) and Jahmyr Gibbs (945 yards, 5.2 ypc) are about as dynamic a backfield duo as you’ll see in the NFL. We see no reason to believe that can’t persist this year, as we are behind an offensive line that is excellent. Right tackle Penei Sewell had the highest run blocking and overall grade at the position in 2023, according to the analytics site Pro Football Focus.

A lot of people around the league questioned why the Lions spent a first-round draft pick on Gibbs, but he proved to be vital. It also demonstrates Holmes’s degree of acumen when it comes to drafting players. Why, for example, did they trade tight end TJ Hockenson? Well, after a rookie season that saw the second-round pick get named second-team All-Pro, no one’s asking about that anymore. 

Amon-Ra St. Brown has caught 225 passes for almost 3300 yards over the last two seasons, but the Lions certainly could do with a little more depth in the wide receiver corps.

The Lions have to improve their defense against the pass. They were 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game and 30th in yards allowed per attempt (7.4). It is for this reason that they went after cornerbacks with their first two draft selections – Terrion Arnold of Alabama and Ennis Rakestraw of Missouri. They also got another corner, Carlton Davis, who came in a trade with Tampa Bay.

And don’t forget that Emmanuel Moseley, who played just one game in 2023 because of a knee injury, is coming back. They hope that this at least balances the losses of corner Cameron Sutton and safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. And they hope to have more strength on the defensive line with the arrivals of DJ Reader and Marcus Davenport.

From top to bottom, there’s no better team in this division.

Green Bay Packers (+150)

  • 2023 record: 9-8 SU, 9-8 ATS 
  • Head Coach: Matt LaFleur

There’s a difference between this year’s Green Bay Packers team and last year’s. That is to say, this year’s team goes into the season with some lofty expectations.

Prior to last season – and let’s be honest – everyone was wondering whether Jordan Love was going to be able to successfully take the reins from Aaron Rodgers, who had been traded to the New York Jets. Love was being groomed for the eventuality of this happening, and the Pack thought enough of him to make him a first-round draft pick. But truth be told, Love had often looked like a deer in the headlights in those instances in which he had been given playing time. 

Well, when the ball was finally in his hands, he not only showed a lot of growth, he came on like a freight train as the season progressed. Not that there wasn’t some angst; Green Bay, which had been beaten on the season’s final day by Detroit in 2022, ruining a nice late-season-charge that seemingly had them headed to the playoffs, was 3-6 after nine games.

Then the Packers got a whole lotta Love. They rambled to six victories in their last eight games and secured a wild card spot with a 9-8 record. Over that eight-game stretch, the third-year man out of Utah State threw 18 TD passes with only one interception and registered seven QB ratings over 100. He finished the regular season with  4159 yards and 32 touchdowns.

In the wild-card round, the Packers got off to a 27-0 lead in Dallas before cruising to a 48-32 victory. The next week, they took a seven-point lead into the final quarter against San Francisco but allowed the Niners to score two TDs to overtake them. 

All in all, it was an extremely successful season. 

So now what?

Well, now they have a new front-runner to chase in the Detroit Lions. And if Caleb Williams proves to be for real, the Chicago Bears might be breathing down their neck. 

Matt LaFleur enters his sixth season as head coach. When he first came on board to replace Mike McCarthy, someone told Rodgers that he would love his system. Love has apparently gotten very used to it by now. 

The Packers had become used to a nice running back duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Jones was the more dangerous of the two but battled injuries last season. He’s departed, and Dillon still appears on the depth chart.

But Josh Jacobs has been signed to a four-year free-agent deal. In 2022, Jacobs led the NFL with 1,653 yards. Last season, he had less than half that much and only 3.5 yards per carry with Las Vegas. Marshawn Lloyd was drafted out of USC and will probably play a role in the backfield almost immediately.

There is some shuffling around on the offensive line, as guard Jon Runyan is gone and tackle David Bakhtiari has retired. The Packers really like Zach Tom to play somewhere along the line, and we’ll see what they do with first-round pick Jordan Morgan. 

If anything is going to hold Green Bay back, its defense. They allowed 6.7 yards per pass attempt in 2023, ranking 22nd in the league. And they yielded 4.5 yards a carry; LaFleur’s teams have usually had a poor record of stopping the run.

Chicago Bears (+300) 

  • 2023 record: 7-10 SU, 8-7-2 ATS 
  • Head Coach: Matt Eberflus 

The Bears got into that difficult situation where they had to make a decision about their quarterback plans. Justin Fields was the “quarterback of the future” of the moment, having been a first-round draft choice. And he was quite nimble, rushing for over 1000 yards in the 2022 season. But he was never very fluid as a passer, and after three years he had 40 TD’s with 30 interceptions. 

It could be argued that he was not prepared to come in and read NFL defenses. And Chicago had to decide for itself whether they wanted to move forward with him or take advantage of the draft pick they had inherited from the Carolina Panthers when they dealt their own #1 pick from the 2023 draft. 

Basically, it came down to whether they were going to roll the dice with Fields and hope that he becomes a complete quarterback or grabs Caleb Williams, a Heisman Trophy winner and consensus #1 prospect who could not lead either Oklahoma or USC into the College Football Playoff.

I don’t know if the choice was all that hard for them; they dealt Fields to Pittsburgh and will cast their lot with Williams, who provides them with a big arm and elusiveness in the pocket and seems a little more sure of himself. 

Williams does not appear to be the kind of quarterback who’s going to take off and run like Fields—indeed, he totaled only 524 yards rushing in his two years at USC—but he was dangerous in the red zone, with 21 touchdowns on the ground as a Trojan. Will he step right in and take over games like CJ Stroud did in Houston? That would be a tall order, but general manager Ryan Poles has put his best foot forward to offer him some help.

One can easily see that the broad receiver group has been upgraded, as Keenan Allen came in a trade with the Chargers that only cost them a fourth-round draft choice, and they picked Rome Odunze, one of the best available wide receivers, in the first round. With DJ Moore, who’s already there, this is a formidable group. Gerald Everett joins Cole Kmet at tight end, so they’re okay there. 

The Bears were second in the NFL in rushing yards last season, and they brought D’Andre Swift on board to join up with Khalil Herbert. What we’re trying to say is that they will be well-rounded on offense. Now all they need is for the rookie trigger man, who was throwing some errant passes in OTA’s, to get things under control. 

Minnesota Vikings (+600) 

  • 2023 record: 7-10 SU, 7-7-3 ATS 
  • Head Coach: Kevin O’Connell

Can one help but agree that the Vikings are in something of a “rebuild” mode? They could have given Kirk Cousins another monster contract, but they decided to let him walk. 

As most of you probably know, Cousins was having another solid statistical season when he went down with an Achilles injury, which then sent the Vikings into an adventure, to say the least. Joshua Dobbs came in on concise notice and, for a time, achieved folk hero status. But that didn’t last. The team has four different starting quarterbacks (Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens are included here) and finished 7-10.

Minnesota went into the draft without anyone who could be counted on behind center. Sam Darnold was first on the depth chart, but that brought nothing but laughs from everyone. 

They had two picks in the first round, but that was no guarantee they’d be able to get anyone who could help them. What they really wanted to do was figure out a way to move up to the #3 pick, where they could land North Carolina’s Drake Maye. Josh McCown, who had been named quarterback coach under Kevin O’Connell, had worked with Maye when he was in high school, and the two had kept in close touch.

Alas, that kind of trade could not be made. Instead, what they did was take the 11th pick and trade with the Jets to move up to #10, where they selected JJ McCarthy, who had just led Michigan to a national title. 

Is it conceivable that Darnold could serve as a “seat warmer” while McCarthy learns what everyone is doing? 

When McCarthy eventually makes it into the lineup, he won’t be alone. Justin Jefferson is quite simply one of the best wide receivers in the business, and he’s being paid like it. The team just inked him to the most lucrative deal for a non-quarterback in the history of the league. Jordan Addison, the former Biletnikoff Award winner, had 911 yards as a rookie.

TJ Hockenson ranks among the best tight ends, and they certainly hope he’ll recover from a knee injury in time to participate at some point. 

Minnesota was way down the list in terms of total rushing, and they’ve set out to change that with the acquisition of Aaron Jones, who did not get the offer he was looking for out of Green Bay and decided he wanted to stay in the division to play the Packers twice a year. Jones, if he stays healthy, is the punishing infantryman the team has been missing. 

Defensively, this team did a decent job stopping the run (3.8 ypc allowed), but the furious pass rush of Danielle Hunter and his 16.5 sacks (now in Houston) will be missed.

There’s a lot for the Vikes to put together in order to contend.

Why the Lions Are the Dark Horse in a Competitive NFC North Race 

Aside from Minnesota, we wouldn’t count any team out of this race. And we’re only giving the Bears that consideration because of the possible chance that there could be a “CJ Stroud” effect coming from Caleb Williams. 

This is one of those instances where we trust the Detroit management. Both the Lions and the Packers have holes in the defensive side of their program, but the Lions might have some difference-making rookies to make the secondary deeper. Plus, they have more offense to be able to overcome defensive weaknesses. It happened last season; it can happen this season too. 

For more insights on NFL betting, including over-under bets, visit our articles on NFL Betting – AFC Over-Under Regular Season Win Bets and NFL Football Betting – NFC Over-Under Regular Season Win Bets.