The Chicago Bears were one of the surprise teams during the 2018 season. Chicago was expected by almost every analyst to finish in last place in the NFC North, but the Bears turned almost every projection upside down by cruising to a division title with a 12-4 record. The defense was fantastic after the addition of Khalil Mack, and the offense was pretty good in Matt Nagy’s first year in charge of the team. Although almost all of the best players from last year’s team are back, the Bears find themselves only slight favorites over Green Bay and Minnesota.
2019 NFC North Odds
Chicago Bears +175
Green Bay Packers +200
Minnesota Vikings +222
Detroit Lions +1185
The pessimism surrounding the Bears can be traced to many people not believing in Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky had a solid second season with Chicago, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes and throwing for over 3000 yards. Chicago went 11-3 with Trubisky under center, but many people still don’t believe even though he went 26-43 for 303 yards and a touchdown in the Bears playoff game.
Nagy looked to shore up the running game in the offseason by adding Mike Davis from Seattle. Jordan Howard wasn’t too impressive after running for 3.7 yards per carry behind a good offensive line, so he was traded to Philadelphia shortly after Davis was signed. Tarik Cohen returns as a home run hitter that is electric when catching the ball in the flat.
Chicago’s defense should be one of the best in the NFL once again. Trading for Mack just before the start of the season made this unit elite, as Mack is the best outsider linebacker/defensive end hybrid in the game. Roquan Smith started to come into his own late in his rookie campaign, making this an elite linebacking corps.
The defensive line has a Pro Bowler in Akiem Nicks and a very underrated run stuffer in Eddie Goldman, while the secondary has two elite players in cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was brought in to make this unit even better. Chicago has only improved this offseason, so even though there could be some regression, I love the Bears to win the division at this price.
Green Bay is the next favorite to win the division. That’s pretty incredible as the Packers went just 6-9-1 last year, but Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the game today and he has a new coach.
Rodgers threw just two interceptions despite starting 16 games and throwing 597 passes in 2018, and that kind of accuracy is just absurd. The team is hoping that new head coach Matt LaFleur will create more of a conducive atmosphere for the offense to flourish, but there are serious questions at almost every other position.
There are no proven receivers outside of Davante Adams, and the running game has been a mess for the last few years. The offensive line didn’t really get better in the offseason, and Jimmy Graham is nearing the end of his career.
Za’Darius Smith was signed in free agency to provide pressure, and the team is hoping first round picks Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr. can shore up a below average defense. They have too many questions for me to be comfortable with betting on them though.
Minnesota was hyped up as a Super Bowl contender in 2018, but the Vikings finished 8-7-1 and missed out on the playoffs. Franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins was above average, but the defense was surprisingly mediocre and that combination led to an underwhelming season.
The Vikings offense has a lot of talent. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league, and Minnesota is hoping that Dalvin Cook can stay healthy and be the workhorse running back they hoped he would be when he was taken in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that safety valve Kyle Rudolph won’t return, so rookie Irv Smith Jr. might have to take on a big role.
This defense still has the pieces in place to be one of the best units in the NFL. There isn’t a weak unit in the bunch, as Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, and Everson Griffen are a menacing defensive line, and Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are solid linebackers. The secondary has first round draft picks Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes, and Mike Hughes, making the back four a veritably No Fly Zone.
Detroit is considered the longshot to win the division this year. There aren’t many that believe in Matt Patricia, as very few ex-Bill Belichick assistants seem to work out, and the decision to make Paul Pasqualoni his defensive coordinator has been questionable at best.
The front four figures to be the best part of the defense with Damon Harrison and Trey Flowers joining former Alabama stars Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson up front. The back seven is a major concern though.
On offense, the Lions tight ends could put up surprising numbers, and Kerryon Johnson could be a fantasy star at running back. However, Matt Stafford might be the worst quarterback in the division, and it feels like Detroit will finish between six and nine wins for the fifth straight season.
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