Packers hold the throne in the NFC North

It’s just one month until preseason and two months until it really matters! Need to get caught up on where every NFL team stands as the season approaches? Here’s a handy preview complete with odds to let you know what to expect from each team heading into the 2017 season.

Not all of the odds below are available for betting at online sportsbooks. Props like winning the division or conference can generally be found at bigger sites. Props on Cutler chants at Soldier Field cannot. If you’re so new to betting that that wasn’t obvious, perhaps I can interest you in our list of top sportsbooks, which will help you separate the wheat from the chaff as you embark on your maiden wagering voyage. 

Also see: NFC WestNFC South; NFC East.

CHICAGO BEARS

Not even the draft was fun for Bears fans this year, making the annual Packers playoff loss the only thing on the league calendar they can truly enjoy anymore. (swimfinfan, via Flickr)

This will be a fun change for Bears fans. Instead of hoping their veteran QB can change his ways and stop throwing stupid interceptions, they’ll be hoping one of their two inexperienced signal-callers can develop into a QB that won’t throw stupid interceptions. Fun!

Outside of that, things are franchise norm for the Bears: strong run game, a potentially dominant front-seven on defense, and a passing attack that is sure to finish near the bottom of the league. Unfortunately it’s not the 1980s, so that’s not enough for playoff appearances anymore. Chicago’s deficiencies in the secondary and at receiver are so big, they could sink their season even if Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky turns out to be a capable starter. Among a cast of misfits and rejects at receiver (Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, Kevin White and Markus Wheaton) the Bears are hoping at least one player can replicate the production of outgoing Alshon Jeffery. Meanwhile, rather than use a high pick on a cornerback, the Bears are searching among the scrap pile to see if they can find their next Charles Tillman.

If there’s a hero among those positions, he’ll need to emerge quickly, because Chicago is staring down an 0-4 start: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Getting behind the eight ball like that could lead to calls for a change at quarterback, head coach and maybe more.

2017 Bears Odds & Props

Odds to win NFC North: 16/1

Over/under how many games Mitchell Trubisky starts: 6.5

Over/under how many interceptions the Bears defense generates: 10

Odds a “bring back Cutler!” chant breaks out at Soldier Field: 4/1

As much disdain as Cutler got from fans, statistically speaking, he’s the best quarterback the Bears have ever had.

DETROIT LIONS

They failed to beat a single playoff-bound team, and lost their last three games of the regular season; but that didn’t stop the 2016 Lions from somehow sneaking into the dance. Their stay was brief and unremarkable though, after the Seahawks bounced them 26-6 in the Wild Card round. The entire season would just be a footnote in the book of bad playoff teams were it not for how the Lions won so many of their games last year: eight of their nine wins featured a fourth-quarter comeback. They say you can’t teach clutch, but you also can’t count on it every week. This year, Detroit needs to improve in a ton of areas so that Matthew Stafford doesn’t have to lead game-winning drives for 50-percent of the season.

Detroit ranked last in defensive DVOA, third-last in rushing yards per game, and generated the fourth-fewest takeaways. T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner were added to the offensive line, in hopes of generating more push up front. Defensively, the Lions spent three of their first four draft picks addressing their weakness, while adding veteran cast-offs through free agency. If any of these moves are going to help their woeful defense, we’ll know right away: Detroit opens the season with the Cardinals, Giants and Falcons.

Given how fortunate the Lions were to make the playoffs last year, and noting their history of failing to sustain success, they seem like an easy choice to regress this season, even if the roster is improved.

“Who says I need Megatron to lead a perfectly mediocre team?” (Brook Ward, via Flickr)

2017 Lions Odds & Props

Odds to win NFC North: 5/1

Odds Stafford leads league in passing yards: 10/1

Over/under fourth-quarter comebacks this season: 4.5

Odds Calvin Johnson tries to re-join the Lions this year: 50/1

Apparently the losing really got to him. So unless Bill Belichick suddenly takes over the team, I don’t see Megatron back in silver and blue.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Aaron Rodgers has done a lot to make Packer fans forget Brett Favre, but when it comes to falling short in the playoffs, it’s starting to feel like no. 4 never left. Rodgers got the title monkey off his back early, winning a Super Bowl in his third year as a starter in 2010. Since then, the Pack have won five NFC North titles, 66 regular season games and zero NFC Championships. So the question in Wisconsin isn’t how the Packers do relative to this tiresome division. It’s whether this perennial Super Bowl pick can finally get back there.

The answer may just hinge on how much better you think Rodgers can play, because as usual, the Packers made few changes to their team in the offseason. For the second year in a row, Green Bay added a tight end in free agency, this time opting for the big mouth and big frame of Martellus Bennett. They also added whatever is left of 12-year-vet Jahri Evans to help with losses along the o-line. Then it was basically a ton of late-round picks that will need to step up. That’s especially true at running back, where only converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery has an NFL carry to his name.

The Packers defense should remain bad. Sure, it’s passable enough to win this division, but their inability to defend the pass will get exposed against teams like Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. Getting home-field will be crucial for Green Bay, whose last three playoff losses came on the road. But in order to compile a good enough record for a high playoff seed, they’ll need 2016 second-half Rodgers for basically the entire season.

2017 Packers Odds & Props

Odds to win NFC North: 5/7

Odds to win NFC Championship: 6/1

Odds Aaron Rodgers wins MVP: 11/2

Odds Bennett is the recipient of a Rodgers Hail Mary: 22/1

Randall Cobb, Richard Rodgers and Jeff Janis have all gotten one. Surely the Black Unicorn can high point one.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Few teams could make Bradford vs Bridgewater seem like an important debate, let alone a franchise-altering one. But with neither quarterback under contract for 2018, and Bridgewater battling to return this season from a gruesome knee injury, Captain Checkdown or Teddy Two Gloves will be the storyline to watch for the Vikings this year. After Bridgewater helped the team to the playoffs in 2015, Bradford quarterbacked them to an 8-8 finish last season. Statistically Bradford was far superior to Bridgewater, setting an NFL record for completion percentage (71.6-percent). However, he largely attained that mark by throwing well short of the sticks on third down. Neither one screams “Super Bowl-winning quarterback,” but with a defense that is ready to contend now, Minnesota needs to decide on one of them. That, or go all in on Kirk Cousins next year.

This season will mark the first year in a decade without Adrian Peterson, but considering he’s basically missed two of the last three seasons, it’s easy to imagine the Vikings without him. At least the team was prepared for his loss this time around, adding Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. Improvements along the offensive line were also made (however minor the upgrade of Reilly Reiff over Matt Kalil is), but don’t expect a massive improvement from the 26th-most efficient offense. Though the Vikes D is good enough to lead this team to a respectable record, it’s hard to see Minny edging out an NFC South or East team for a playoff spot.

2017 Vikings Odds & Props

Odds to win NFC North: 7/2

Over/under Vikings’ third down conversion rate: 39-percent

Odds neither Bridgewater nor Bradford is the starting QB in 2018: 4/1

Cousins is the obvious choice, but don’t rule out a return from Brett Favre.

Boris

Hockey may be a wildly unpopular sport in the U.S., but where no one is paying attention, there's a ton of value for Boris to mine. An avid NHL fan of over 20 years, Malloy made his first bet against a friend during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (going against Ray Bourque) and has been hooked ever since. He has yet to pay off that debt of $2, but he's made plenty back since. In between worrying about the league's next lockout, he regularly contributes to MTS and is also fluent in football, basketball, baseball and French (sort of).