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June 25, 2018 Staff Writer

NFL News

2018 NFL Betting Futures: Vikings, Packers Battle Atop NFC North Odds

The Chicago Bears are the last team to win the NFC North other than the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers over the previous eight seasons, and that is a long shot to happen again this year. With the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the defending division champion Vikings improved in the offseason, and they are listed as +125 favorites (bet $100 to win $125) to repeat at the sportsbooks.

Minnesota tied the Philadelphia Eagles for the best record in the NFC last season at 13-3 behind quarterback Case Keenum, who ended up leaving for the Denver Broncos as a free agent to become their starter. The Vikings seemingly upgraded at the position with the signing of Cousins, arguably the top free agent on the market following six years with the Washington Redskins. Cousins is coming off three consecutive 4,000-yard campaigns in Washington and signed a three-year deal worth $84 million.

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North four straight seasons before seeing Minnesota take it two of the past three, and they are hoping to ride the arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers to another Super Bowl appearance this year. Rodgers is still the top signal-caller in the division, even with the arrival of Cousins, although he must rebound from an injury-plagued 2017 campaign that saw him miss nine games.

The Packers are the +140 second choice to dethrone the Vikings, and they have made some key changes this offseason to help Rodgers and the offense. Gone is injury-prone wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. While Nelson was one of the favorite targets of Rodgers throughout their time together, he is getting older at 33 years old, and the team has some other promising young receivers. In addition, Green Bay brought in former All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.

The Detroit Lions are next in line at +600 to win the division, and they are hoping that veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford can keep them on track for their third winning season in a row. The Lions went 9-7 a year ago to again finish second in the NFC North, but they failed to make the postseason unlike 2016 when they did so with the same mark. The 30-year-old Stafford may have had the best season of his career with 4,446 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, also developing into more of a leader as one of the elder statesmen on the team. With a new head coach in Matt Patricia and running back in LeGarrette Blount, it will be interesting to see how those two former New England Patriots will make their way in Detroit this year.

Finally, the Bears are the +900 fourth choice to repeat what they last accomplished in 2010 when they made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Since then though, Chicago has turned in only one winning season – going 10-6 in 2012 but still missing the playoffs – which led to the end of former head coach Lovie Smith’s career there. After firing Smith, the Bears have hired three more coaches to replace him, the latest being former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who takes over this year in relief of the departed John Fox. Nagy’s main job will be to further mentor and mold last year’s top draft pick, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.