NFC North predictions 2019 - Division winner
2019 NFL Division Winners
By Professor MJ
Which team is going to be crowned NFC North champions in 2019?
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Should you bet the Bears, the Vikings, the Packers or the Lions to win their division this year?
Below are odds as of August 26th, 2019:
a) Chicago Bears outlook
Based on the linesmakers, the Bears are favored to repeat as NFC North champions for the second year in a row. I am not drinking the Chicago Kool-aid.
I see some similarities between the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 2018 Chicago Bears. Both had stout defenses that really dominated their opponents. The 2017 Jags allowed just 16.8 points per game, while the 2018 Bears gave up an average of 17.7 points/game.
Also, both teams had an “okay” quarterback. Bortles had a 21-to-13 TD-to-INT ratio in 2017 compared to 24-to-12 for Trubisky last year.
So what happened to Jacksonville following that superb and surprising 2017 season? They finished with a 5-11 record.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the Bears will end 2019 with the same disappointing record. However, I do expect them to regress quite a bit.
Their defense played awesome last season; I just don’t see how they can be as good this year. They may not perform the same, or they could suffer injuries. Also, former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio left for Denver; the transition to a new coordinator may not be smooth. In other words, it’s much more likely they will regress than get even better.
As for Mitch Trubisky, he has not convinced me yet that he is a good quarterback. And their offense lost running back Jordan Howard who rushed for more than 900 yards in each of the past three seasons with the Bears. Tarik Cohen is a great change-of-pace runner, but I don’t believe he can play full-time, especially with his small frame. They will need either Mike Davis or rookie David Montgomery to step up.
The Bears also have issues at the kicker position. Eddy Pineiro is the lone kicker left, but he hasn’t locked the job yet.
Therefore, overall I feel like the Bears are being overrated by the betting public, and I would stay away from them as favorites to win the NFC North in 2019.
b) Minnesota Vikings outlook
Prior to the 2018 season, many experts picked them to go to the Super Bowl. Their defense was expected to dominate and the arrival of quarterback Kirk Cousins was good news.
Their defense did fairly well by finishing 9th in terms of points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. But to be honest, more was expected from them. They under delivered and, unlike the Bears defense, I believe there is room for improved play.
I also like their very balanced attack. Despite criticism, QB Kirk Cousins still finished 2018 with 30 touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions. He has possibly the best WR duo in the league with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is also back; he has been a steady guy by catching at least 49 passes in each of his past four seasons, while not missing a single game during that 4-year period! They have also added rookie TE Irv Smith out of Alabama as their second-round pick in the draft.
The guy that most people are overlooking is running back Dalvin Cook. I believe this will be his breakout season. He has shown great flashes in his first two seasons, but injuries have plagued him. He has carried the ball just two times in the first three preseason games. One of these two rushes ended up as an 85-yard touchdown run. He is explosive and can also catch the ball well out of the backfield.
I also like how Minnesota solidified its offensive line by drafting Garrett Bradbury in the first round. Still, the OL play is one of the few question marks regarding this team.
Overall, I do like their chances of winning this division.
c) Green Bay Packers outlook
The relationship between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy was not good at all. I read reports about how they basically never spoke to each other. Rodgers will probably be very motivated to show McCarthy was responsible for the disappointing 6-9-1 record last season.
However, I’m a bit wary of teams working with new coaches, new schemes, new game plans. Continuity is an important key to success in the NFL. Matt LaFleur may or may not turn out to be a good head coach, but it takes time to adapt to changes.
Also, Rodgers is not surrounded by as much talent as he used to be. Randall Cobb is gone, so Green Bay will need Valdes-Scantling to step up his game as the number two guy behind Davante Adams.
Tight end Jimmy Graham was a big disappointment last year with just two TD receptions. Now at age 32, can he really step up his game?
At least they have some continuity on the offensive line, with four returning starters. That’s good news for Aaron Rodgers.
I also like what I saw from running back Aaron Jones. He is a good back, but has missed time in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. He must stay healthy because the Packers are far from being loaded at this position…
The defense was average at best in 2018. They need to rush the passer more efficiently. They lost Clay Matthews, whose play was declining anyway, but signed linebackers Preston Smith from Washington and Za’Darius Smith from Baltimore.
I like the signing of safety Adrian Amos, who has been a consistent contributor with the Bears.
Also remember that the Packers released Mike Daniels, who was a solid defensive lineman.
I did not like the Packers’ two first round selections, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage, as I thought there were better alternatives available. Time will tell whether the Packers made good picks or not.
Overall, the talent level around Aaron Rodgers is below average, and there are question marks surrounding Green Bay’s defense. I would have considered betting them to win the division if their odds had been higher, but since they are close to Chicago’s and Minnesota’s, I am staying away from them.
d) Detroit Lions outlook
Matthew Stafford is entering his 11th season with the Lions. He consistently gets decent stats, but he is not a game-changer and is not viewed as a winner.
The talent around him is okay, albeit not great. It will be interesting to see how stud rookie TE T.J. Hockenson does in his first season in the NFL; he has looked great in camp thus far. He and Jesse James should be a solid tight end duo.
The Lions signed defensive linemen Mike Daniels from Green Bay and Trey Flowers from New England. Detroit did a good job against the run last year, and it should continue to be the case in 2019. However, the pass defense is likely to be a liability. In today’s NFL where passing gets more importance, it will end up costing Detroit many wins.
In conclusion, the Lions don’t stand much of a chance to win this very tough division, where the other three teams are playoff contenders.
5. Final Pick – 2019 NFC North champion
I am writing off the Lions right off the bat. They are an average team with not that much potential upside. Matthew Stafford won’t suddenly transform himself into Tom Brady. We know what to expect from him, which is decent but not spectacular play.
The remaining three teams have odds that are fairly similar, so it goes down to determining which team is the best in the group.
My pick goes to the Vikings at +225 odds (i.e. 3.25 in decimal format). They have a well-balanced attack and a defense that finished in the top 10 in terms of points allowed in each of the past four years.
Meanwhile, I expect the Bears to come back to reality and the Packers to go through some bumps after hiring a new coach and fielding a team with average talent on both sides of the ball.
Enjoy the season and good luck with your plays!