This is going to be a fun three-team race
The NFC North will be a fun three-team race with each squad under some sort of pressure. The Chicago Bears are dying to find a kicker which could be one of their only weaknesses. Meanwhile Green Bay has a new head coach who is already trying to keep Aaron Rodgers happy. Finally, Minnesota has to show the NFL that Kirk Cousins is not a .500 quarterback and is well worth the (guaranteed) money the Vikings paid him. Detroit also is the division and the Lions are making some solid moves, but I just don't know if it's enough to compete with the other this year.
Over 9 wins -130...Under 9 wins +110
Offense: A lot of this hinges on Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last year. It looks like the backfield will see a mix of rookie David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. Cohen was the perfect back for Matt Nagy's offense, picking up 71 receptions in 2018. There's some fresh blood in the wide receiving corps in rookie Riley Ridley and Cordarrelle Patterson, who signed in free agency after playing for New England last season. Still, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller are back and are pretty solid.
Defense: This side of the ball carried the team often in 2018. The Bears were first in the NFL against the run and in scoring defense, allowing just 17.7 points per contest. It all begins with Khalil Mack, who had 12.5 sacks last year. Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are a solid duo up front while Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd and Danny Trevathan join Mack at linebacker. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller play corner while Eddie Jackson and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix are at safety. The biggest question will come at kicker as the team hopes to identify a more reliable option after the Cody Parkey experience in 2018.
Verdict: Chicago has a Week 6 bye and it comes after a trip to London to play Oakland. After the bye, the Bears play three of their next four at home. Things toughen up at the end with games against the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs and Vikings making up the December slate. Even though I'm not the biggest Trubisky guy, I still think this squad is an over at around 10 wins.
Over 6.5 wins -140...Under 6.5 wins +120
Offense: The goal once again is to not have Matthew Stafford throw too many passes, but every year it seems like that's never the case. Kenny Golladay made a nice leap last year and Marvin Jones Jr. is a veteran, but the addition of Danny Amendola will help. Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson will try to make the tight end position more viable for Stafford. The backfield is crowded but should be led by Kerryon Johnson. Others who could get involved are C.J. Anderson and Zach Zenner as Theo Riddick has already been cut. The offensive line is just okay.
Defense: Matt Patricia managed to get free agent Trey Flowers to join him in Detroit. Flowers was a big-time pass rusher in New England and I'm sure he'll do the same for the Lions. Getting Damon Harrison for so little was a nice addition up front along with Mike Daniels, a cap casualty in Green Bay. Linebacker Jarrad Davis led the team with 100 tackles and added six sacks. Darius Slay is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and a player who doesn't get enough publicity. Quandre Diggs is underappreciated at safety. We'll see how this unit does with Ezekiel Ansah moving on.
Verdict: The Lions have an early bye in Week 5. For the most part, they alternate home and road games outside of two straight at home followed by two straight on the road in late October. Detroit is another team with just two prime-time games including one on Monday night in Green Bay. I agree with the money move probably on the over.
Over 9 wins EVEN...Under 9 wins -120
Offense: Aaron Rodgers has a new head coach in Matt LaFleur and a new quarterback system as well. Early reports have Rodgers struggling with certain aspects and falling back into old habits. He's lost Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson the last two years and has them replaced by a really young group outside of Davante Adams. Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J'Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown are among the guys who Rodgers will have to throw to. Jimmy Graham seemed like a good addition at the time, but he only had two touchdowns last season.
Defense: The team addressed this side of the ball in free agency, picking up Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith, and Adrian Amos for the pass rush and secondary. Clay Matthews went to the Rams, which means the linebacking corps could be a little weaker although either Smith should help offset the loss. Letting Mike Daniels go early in training camp was an odd decision, but Kenny Clark is a nice piece up front. The secondary has a solid mix of youth and experience with Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander at corner and Amos and rookie Darnell Savage potentially at safety. This side of the ball should see some improvement.
Verdict: After a tough road game at Chicago to start out the 2019 NFL campaign, Green Bay has five of its next six at home. The Packers have four prime-time games including Monday nighters against Detroit and Minnesota. They play four of their final six on the road. The over is worth a look at this price.
Over 9 wins -110...Under 9 wins -110
Offense: Kevin Stefanski takes over at offensive coordinator for John DeFilippo. This is a large season for Kirk Cousins who needs to play a lot better if he hopes to get Vikings fans off his back. Minnesota greatly underachieved last year and part of that was because of Cousins ' own struggles. His numbers look good on the surface with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the best duo at wide receiver in the league and combined fo 215 receptions last season. The backfield loses Latavius Murray meaning rookie Alexander Mattison of Boise State could be the backup to Dalvin Cook. First-round pick Garrett Bradbury and free agent Josh Kline are the two new additions to an offensive line that needs work.
Defense: This side of the ball got a boost when Anthony Barr decided to back out of a deal with the Jets to come back to Minnesota. Some others moved on, including defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and defensive backs George Iloka and Andrew Sendejo. Linval Joseph is one of the best and he has Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter with him up front. Xavier Rhodes is a lockdown corner while Trae Waynes is trying to find some consistency. This defense has Pro Bowl-caliber talent all over the place.
Verdict: Minnesota has a stretch of five road games over seven weeks beginning in late September. The Vikings have the latest bye (Week 12) and finish with a tough stretch. In December, Minnesota gets all three divisional foes at home as well as a pair games on the West Coast (Seattle, Los Angeles Chargers). Not having to play outside in the elements in December (save for Seattle) could be huge. The over is probably worth a look.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.