2020 NFC North Preview – Prediction and Best Bet
August 19, 2020
Thanks for stopping back for the fourth division in our eight part series. We are covering every division to get you primed for the NFL season. We will provide some insight on each team in the division, what to expect in 2020 and ultimately the pick to win each division and whether or not that team is worth a wager.
Previous Division Reviews
Continuing to work our way from east to west, the next division up is the NFC North. This should be another competitive division, but one team does stand out in terms of attractiveness of play.
The current odds for the NFC North are as follows:
🏈Minnesota Vikings +160🏈
🏈Green Bay Packers +180🏈
🏈Chicago Bears +380🏈
🏈Detroit Lions +550🏈
Minnesota Vikings +160
The Vikings return their notable core from a 10-6 season on 2019. They did make the playoffs with that record, but did not win the division, falling short of the overachieving Packers from a record perspective. The offense will continue to have a stout rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook with Gary Kubiak taking the reigns of the offense.
Last year’s offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has moved on to be the head coach of the Browns. Kubiak is a seasoned NFL coordinator and head coach and the offense should be at the same level it was in 2020. Perhaps a little more aggression on the passing side could help matters. Quarterback Kirk Cousins weaponry will remain around the same level it was in 2020. He loses overrated wide receiver Stefon Diggs after he was traded to Buffalo, but will have another year of development form tight end Irv Smith Jr and also adds first round wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings were middle of the pack from a yardage allowed perspective, but they were a top five scoring defense. They had extremely inconsistent cornerback play in 2019 and opted to revamp that position in the offseason. There will be youth covering the perimeter in 2020, and there will likely be some hiccups, but it is highly unlikely the secondary takes a step backwards. The defense as a whole will likely remain similar to what it was in 2019.
We are most likely to see the Vikings take the division in 2020 and a repeat of their double digit win season last year. 10 or 11 wins should be plenty to win this division as it is highly unlikely to see an anomaly in record vs point differential like we saw from the…
Green Bay Packers +180
The Packers 13-3 record from 2019 was so far from indicative as to the level of the team, it simply cannot be understated. Their 13 win season was accompanied by a +63 point differential. For reference, the other two 13 win teams in the NFC, the Saints and the 49ers, had point differentials of +117 and +169, respectively. Even the 10 win division rival Vikings were at +104. This should paint a vivid picture of how fortunate they were to finish with the record they did. They ended the season just 2-3 against non divisional playoff foes and it should be noted the win against the Chiefs was without Patrick Mahomes.
Their offense was far from elite, as 14 of the 31 other teams outscored them, and there is no reason to hope for much improvement in 2020. The running back centric approach made their offense a middling one, and they were in desperate need of pass catchers to on the perimeter for 2020. Instead of addressing that need, they signed pedestrian talent Devin Funchess in free agency, who has now opted out of the season. They then proceeded to use their first round draft pick on Jordan Love, the potential heir apparent to diminished quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Then mind bogglingly, in the second round, they drafted yet another running back.
The defense overachieved, and can be a sieve to running backs. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is just a middling DC in the league, and there is not a wealth of talent to make that unit ascend in any fashion. This is a team with regression in store for 2020, and a losing record would be a far more likely outcome than a repeat of a 13 win season.
On paper, the Vikings are a far better bet for the division than the Packers, but the lines are essentially the same. The Packers are perhaps the easiest fade of any “contender” in the league.
Chicago Bears +380
The Bears are a distant third in the preseason prognostication race, but there is room for hope. While 2019’s 8-8 season may have exposed head coach Matt Nagy as far less than we thought he was, one simple change could change the fortunes for this team as a whole.
We now have more than enough information to know Mitchell Trubisky is never going to be the quarterback of a true contender. He has just replacement level ability, yet Nagy let Trubisky sink the Bears ship in 2019. The Bears half way addressed a potential replacement, bringing in Nick Foles in the offseason. While Foles is just a middling or worse starter in the league, he would be a massive upgrade over Trubisky.
The Bears do have competent weaponry in place, starting with true alpha wide receiver Allen Robinson. Also in play are second year running back David Montgomery, who could be in for an ascension, and wide receiver Anthony Miller, who has flashed ability and could be in a spot to become a true contributor. The Bears offense was mostly painful in 2019, but will get a boost this season, assuming Trubisky is no longer the signal caller.
The defense is quietly still very good, ranking fourth in scoring defense and eighth in yardage allowed in 2019. Considering the state of the offense, this was quite an impressive outcome.
The defense should be very similar in 2020 and with a boost from the offense, this team could really turn around and be a dark horse in this divisional race. Just adding 2-3 more wins from 2019 would put them squarely in the mix.
Detroit Lions +550
The Lions 2019 season was lost when quarterback Matthew Stafford went down, and the 3-12-1 outcome was an ugly one. Stafford returns this season, but there is not enough competence in the coaching staff nor enough ability on the defensive side of the ball to be truly competitive in 2020.
Stafford will be back this season and he does have a true alpha wide receiver in Kenny Golladay, but there are questions about the run game. Kerryon Johnson was up and down while on the field, and oft injured, so the Lions paid up to draft D’andre Swift this offseason to try to bolster that aspect of the offense. The offense will be competent enough if healthy, but where it gets ugly for this team is on the defensive side. They allowed the second most yards and seventh most points in the league in 2019, and saw cornerback Darius Slay flee to the Eagles this offseason. 2020 really could be worse than 2019 for this defense and that means even the most successful of seasons would bring a .500 record.
Lions are not in play for the 2020 divisional crown.
The Vikings are the most likely team to leave with this divisional crown, but are perhaps not the best price. The +380 on the Bears is slightly more attractive than the +180 on the Vikings. Neither are an exceptional price or bet, but these are the only two teams that should be considered for a wager in the NFC North.