Adrian Peterson returns after a year off for the Vikings. Minnesota is widely considered to be a sleeper, but does that mean this will have enough to catch up to Green Bay and Detroit? Chicago, meanwhile, turns to John Fox to try and clean things up after a five-win season in 2014. In the coming years, this will be a three-team race with the Vikes moving into contention.
Much like I did with the college football win totals, I will break down the schedules in terms of home and road opponents outside the division. In most situations, I'll give a split to each team in divisional play with them winning at home and losing on the road. Vegas is much more on the ball in the NFL compared to college football so the numbers are a lot sharper.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 7 wins +120, Under 7 wins -140)
Record Last Year: 5-11
Offense: Brandon Marshall is gone although the team replaced him with rookie Kevin White. Between White and Alshon Jeffery, Jay Cutler has weapons to go to if he gets time. Eddie Royal is an underrated addition to play the slot, as he just knows how to get open. The offensive line hopes for better health than last year. The new regime will use do-everything running back Matt Forte a little less then Marc Trestman did.
Defense: The majority of the changes took place on this side of the ball. Lance Briggs, Chris Conte, Stephen Paea, Charles Tillman and D.J. Williams all depart, as this unit tries to get younger. Among those being shuttled in are Mason Foster, Jarvis Jenkins, Pernell McPhee and Antrel Rolle.
Schedule: Chicago's road games are bunched up with three back-to-backs this season. It could be a long year if the Bears lose their first two contests at home against Green Bay and Arizona.
Prediction: The under is the play here. Chicago's rebuilding and in this division you can't afford to do so and contend. The Bears have road games at Seattle, San Diego and Kansas City which won't help. It could be a long year for Bears fans.
(Over 8.5 wins +135, Under 8.5 wins -155)
Record Last Year: 11-5
Offense: It's pretty much status quo for the Lions offense. The only major change occurred with Reggie Bush going to San Francisco. He'll be replaced by Ameer Abdullah, who will fit in nicely with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. An already solid offensive line added Manny Ramirez and rookie Laken Tomlinson. The key as always will be Calvin Johnson's health and Matthew Stafford's accuracy.
Defense: A big hole in the middle opened up when Ndamukong Suh moved on to Miami. It got even bigger when Nick Fairley also left in free agency, but Haloti Ngata was brought over to help out. This was the best team against the rush in the NFL last year. That may be hard to duplicate without Fairley and Suh. Ziggy Ansah will be asked to pick up the slack on the outside along with DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch.
Schedule: Detroit plays three of the first four on the road with trips out west to Seattle and San Diego early. The Lions have two three-week homestands on the schedule, Weeks 5-7 and 11-13.
Prediction: No real lean on this one. The defense will struggle to maintain its success from last year while the offense will be expected to score a little more. The Lions need to improve on the league's 28th-ranked rushing offense.
(Over 11 wins -115, Under 11 wins -105)
Record Last Year: 12-4
Offense: As usual the Packers didn't bring in a ton of new faces through free agency and instead relied on improvements through the draft. The offense should keep rolling along with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. He has an embarrassment of riches with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson on the outside while Eddie Lacy patrols the backfield.
Defense: Several players on this side of the ball departed with A.J. Hawk, Davon House, Tramon Williams and Jamari Lattimore all finding new homes. Teams were able to run on this unit in 2014 despite the presence of B.J. Raji inside and Clay Matthews outside. Who knows if the Packers will get the same production from Julius Peppers, who is 35 years old.
Schedule: Green Bay can start fast with four of its first six at home before the Week 7 bye. The two road games over that span are winnable, coming at Chicago and San Francisco. Road games at Denver and Carolina await the Pack after the bye.
Prediction: Eleven wins is on the money as far as I'm concerned. This team is solid all the way around and should continue to be the front-runner in the division. As long as Rodgers is healthy, the playoffs are in Green Bay's future.
(Over 7 wins -270, Under 7 wins +230)
Record Last Year: 7-9
Offense: Adrian Peterson is back and there's two schools of thought on how well he will do. One school says he'll be rested and ready to rush the ball well, while the other says he'll be a year older and not as effective. Whatever AP can do will be a big help to Teddy Bridgewater, who was pretty solid as a rookie starter for Minnesota. The Vikes added Mike Wallace this offseason to go with Charles Johnson and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Defense: This is a very young group that continues to grow and improve. Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and Everson Griffen are all under 28 years old and the building blocks for a good defense. Trae Waynes was drafted to beef up a secondary that will be under fire in this division. This unit more than held its own against the pass last season, finishing seventh in that category.
Schedule: The Vikings will be in the spotlight in Week 1, as part of the later "Monday Night Football" game in San Francisco. Minnesota hosts Seattle, San Diego and Kansas City while the Vikings have to play at Denver and Atlanta.
Prediction: The money move is right as the Vikings are primed to make a move up in the NFC North. The defense has pieces in place while the offense figures to be more successful with Peterson back. Minnesota will win this division in either 2016 or '17.
— 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.