NFC North Picks & Odds: +300 Vikes to spike Aaron

The offseason in the NFC North was absolutely all about Aaron, and now the dust settled it’s time to sift through the wreckage and give you our picks to win the division in 2021.

Rodgers did pretty much everything bar football in the last few months, getting engaged to movie star Shailene Woodley and guest hosting ‘Jeopardy’ among them.

But finally, a few weeks ago, he patched up that ugly rift with the Green Bay front office and returned to work. Just in time for Packers training camp.

So instead of giving back pay checks, Rodgers is now ready to try and follow up on his NFL MVP season in 2020 by helping his team to a Super Bowl – it’s 10 years now since he last visited the biggest game on earth.

Rodgers and his fallout have caused betting carnage in the NFC North over the summer – at one stage Minnesota was favorite when it looked like Aaron might actually retire rather than come back to Lambeau.

The odds have settled down again now, and it is Green Bay’s division to lose. But will they? Let’s dive in for more detail.

Odds to win NFC North

Green Bay is a firm favorite, and here are your latest odds:

NB: Odds correct on Tuesday September 7, 2021

NFC North Analysis & Predictions

Green Bay Packers: If Rodgers doesn’t heal the rift with GM Brian Gutekunst and return to the fold, Green Bay is not even favorite to win the North again (it was an NFC-best 13-3 in 2020). Instead its a prohibitive -159 favorite.

This is not like Tampa in the South though, a rock-solid selection that doesn’t even cause us to lose a second’s sleep.

No, we expect a regression from Green Bay in 2020. It will still be really good, but not as good as the past two years. Which leaves the door opener for a challenger at last in the North.

Rodgers will not have all-world left tackle David Baktiari protecting his blindside for the first six weeks of the season – he will start on PUP as he continues to rehab after suffering a torn ACL late in 2020. Meanwhile center Corey Linsley is gone through free agency and second-round draft pick Josh Myers had better be good enough to replace him.

Green Bay went defense in Round 1 of the 2021 Draft (sorry Aaron) to select Georgia CB Eric Stokes. Probably haunted be memories of its secondary being victimized by Tampa’s stellar receiving corps in that playoff defeat earlier this year.

Oh, one other thing. That restructured contract Rodgers signed to return to the fold? It pretty much means he will be traded after 2021. This is one ‘Last Dance’ which could turn pretty sour pretty quick if things don’t start well.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikes had a turbulent year in 2020, ending it 7-9 after all sorts of injury and other concerns hit them hard.

It promises to be much better in 2021, so much so that we’re willing to roll the dice on this team. There are many reasons to be optimistic.

Head coach Mike Zimmer has hardly ever coached a bad defense, but he did last season. That should absolutely change in 2021 as we expect normal service to resume.

Pass rusher Danielle Hunter is back after missing the whole of 2020 through a neck injury while the free-agent additions of DTs Sheldon Richardson and Dalvin Tomlinson beef up the interior significantly.

On the back end CB Patrick Peterson is not what he was (utterly elite that is), but he brings some talent and helluva lot of leadership and savvy to the secondary.

Offensively Dalvin Cook is one of the league’s finest backs (maybe THE finest) while WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are one of the league’s best tandems.

Minnesota made a smart move in the draft by using its first selection to take OT Christian from Virginia Tech. It is your faithful analyst Stryker’s firm belief that you win up front in this league. Vikes doing the right things on both sides of the ball.

If there is a question mark against Minnesota it is at QB. We have never been huge fans of Kirk Cousins, but while we might believe he’ll never win the big one, he is much-maligned to the point of parody.

You can’t blame a man for maximizing his market value, and Cousins is the sort of mid-tier NFL QB who can absolutely drive the bus successfully with a stellar defense to support him.

Chicago Bears: Yet another new start at QB in Chi Town – the Mitch Trubisky experiment is over.

I remember arguing with Bears fans on Twitter a couple of years ago (never a good idea) when I told ’em you should never trade two first-round picks for anybody outside of a QB. Khalil Mack everybody.

So I told these Bears fans it was a bad move, and that in the end it would all be about Trubisky, and was he the guy. Well in the end he wasn’t and now he is backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo.

So now Justin Fields is the new Messiah after the Bears traded up in Round 1 to select the former Ohio State signal caller. But staggeringly he won’t start against the Rams in Week 1.

Instead, head coach Matt Nagy is sticking by his promise/threat (take your pick) to start veteran Andy Dalton behind a shaky offensive line.

Dalton was advertised as one of the league’s best backups when he moved to Dallas in 2020. But he was far from stellar as he led the Cowboys to a miserable 6-10 record after Dak Prescott went down in Week 5.

Yeah Dalton had to contend with a banged-up O line, but he gave us no confidence that he can be the guy any more.

This Chicago team does have offensive weapons (we love Allen Robinson) and a good defense. The jobs of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace depend on Fields. So WTAF are they waiting for?

As for division winners, the above analysis should tell you that we are very much out.

Detroit Lions: When incoming head coach Dan Campbell gave us this beautiful soundbite we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry:

“We’re gonna kick you in the teeth. When you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. When you knock us down, we’re gonna get up, and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off.”

It sort of felt more Monty Python than anything great and motivational, and the Lions are up against the 8 ball heading into 2021.

Detroit of course made a huge decision in the off-season, trading Matthew Stafford to the Rams and getting a ton of draft capital PLUS Jared Goff in return. Ouch (if you are Jared Goff).

Bringing Goff into this situation – remember Sean McVay clearly could not stand any more of his one-time great hope – is fascinating but potentially disastrous. Goff seems like the ultimate system QB. There is no system in Motown yet.

Oh, and if that is not enough, Goff has nobody to throw to. We’re not sure we’ve even heard of the boys Detroit is going to line up out wide on offense this season. Gone are the days when the Lions used to take a WR in Round 1 of the Draft every year – whether they needed one or not.

We did love the move to grab the falling Oregon LT Penei Sewell in Round 1. Though reports suggest there are growing pains there.

Campbell is the sort of guy you root for. He’s great copy and a player’s coach. But this is a huge task he is taking on.

IF – and it is a big if based on recent history – Detroit uses the draft capital acquired in the Stafford trade well, then in a couple of years things could be very different.

But in 2021 things will be largely the same, in fact maybe worse. The only question is whether the Lions win a game, and whether they beat out Houston for the first pick in the 2022 Draft.

NFC North Picks

When we picked Washington to topple Dallas in the NFC East, it was all about value. Same goes here.

Simple fact is we just can’t bet Green Bay at those -159 odds, and there is enough hope in Minnesota to believe that the +300 represents worthwhile value.

OddsCritic Pick: Minnesota Vikings to in the NFC North at +300 (Unibet, SugarHouse)