• Deej

NFC North Preview and Prediction

Time for more football! Welcome to Happy Hour Sports, the best place to get sports and sports betting insight after the workday. I am on a mission to breakdown each division in the NFC. Today I, Deej, am tackling the NFC North. Last week I broke down the NFC West and offered some of my best bets, check it out here.. My counterparts (@AndyHHSports and @RickHHSports) will be providing their breakdowns of the AFC, and college Power 5 here at Happy Hour Sports as well, so be on the lookout for all those articles. We are committed to providing you with the best possible content around the sports we love, so please like, share, follow and all that good stuff with the links at the top (or bottom on mobile) of the page. So, without further ado, let's get into the NFC North!


To reiterate, my goal here is to lay out the foundation of each division, what has happened over the offseason, and how I think the year will play out for each team. I will also provide some of my best bets for the season and where I think we can make some money, because who does not want that (scroll to the end of each team if you’re just here for picks).

Team

Record

Packers

13-4

Vikings

8-9

Bears

6-11

Lions

3-13-1

Above are the 2021 Final Standings for the NFC North. In the NFC North, we have the Davante Adams-less Packers, who signed Aaron Rodgers to another contract. We have the new head coach Kevin O’Connel attempting to take the Vikings to the promised land. Then come the Bears who are looking for Justin Fields to finally turn the corner. And finally, we have the Lions who are happy that Matthew Stafford was able to win his Championship.


There was not much competition in the NFC North last year with MVP Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams wrecking havoc. However, the whole storyline has shifted this offseason. The NFC North is destined to be a fun division to keep an eye on this year. There are a ton of ways to make money in this division as well as enjoy the games. Keep reading to find out what to look for:

 

Green Bay Packers:

2021 Record: 13-4

2021 Outcome: Loss to 49ers in Playoffs

2022 Win Total: 11, -110

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Davante Adams, WR

  • Whitney Mercilus, LB

  • Chandon Sullivan, CB

  • Marquez Valdez-Scantling, WR

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Jarran Reed, DT

  • Pat O’Donnel, P

  • Sammy Watkins, WR

  • Christian Watson, WR

The main headline for the Packers this year is obviously how will they bounce back from the loss of arguably the best receiver in the league. However, in addition to that, they also lost their 3rd best receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling. We know 2021 MVP Aaron Rodgers is capable of putting the team on his back (the Packers just paid him to do that this offseason), but how will he be able to do it?

Photo by: Jeffrey Phelps/AP


The Packers have won at least 13 games in 3 straight seasons, they have the reigning MVP and have a stellar defense. Matt LeFleur has shown he can dominate this division pretty easily and Aaron Rodgers has thrown 37 TDs per year while they have cruised to 3 division titles in LeFleur’s 3 years. That is a pretty perfect track record. This offseason has added some hiccups, though.


In order to fill the Davante Adams-sized hole in the Packers Offense, Brian Gutekunst picked up Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson, a rookie receiver from North Dakota State (yes Carson Wentz’ college). With the resigning of Robert Tonyan and the strong backfield, these may be all of the weapons Rodgers and the Packers need to survive. However, another piece to the puzzle of the Packers success is also missing now, the offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett took a head coaching job with the Broncos this offseason, so the Packers promoted their offensive line coach to run the offense this year. It seems as quick as holes keep popping up for the Packers, they are able to repair them just as fast.


Everyone on the offense is going to need to step up this year, including Allen Lazard and Aaron Jones. These two are great players in their own right, but Lazard likely significantly benefited from the attention Davante Adams drew. With Davante off to Sin City, I expect Aaron Jones to see an elevated work load. Compared to games where Davante was present, in games where Davante was not on the field, Jones saw an extra 2 receptions and 30 receiving yards per game! The offense will need to use Jones as a workhorse this year, and I think he can prove he deserves to be that type of running back.


On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers have lost a few key players. Whitney Mercilus, who retired, and Chandon Sullivan, who signed with the Vikings. The loss of Sullivan, a nickel corner, would typically hurt a stellar defense; however, the Packers are lucky enough to still boast one of the best secondaries in the league. Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage still rock the safety positions and the Packers’ cornerbacks include a healthy Jaire Alexander. They also added some stellar rookies like Quay Walker, out of UGA, to further improve this defense. All in all, expect this defense to be a force and make sure to take them in your fantasy drafts.


The Packers have the 22nd hardest schedule in the NFL this year if you look at last year's records. So, the total of 11 wins may not be all that high. Aaron Rodgers will still be in the upper echelon of Quarterbacks, and is still by far the best in his division. In this NFL, that is mainly what matters. If the new role players can get open and the defense stays healthy, the Packers should not have any problem taking this division, again.


DJ’s Best Bet: I wish there was an Aaron Jones Receiving future, but there’s not. I will likely take it in the first few games. Anyway, Packers o10.5 Wins, -160 | FanDuel

Packers Projected Record: 12-5

 

Minnesota Vikings:

2021 Record: 8–9

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 9.5, +105

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Xavier Woods, S

  • Tyler Conklin, TE

  • Anthony Barr, LB

  • Michael Pierce, DT

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Jordan Hicks, LB

  • Za’Darius Smith, LB

  • Lewis Cine ( R), S

  • Josh Sokol, C

The Minnesota Vikings in 2021 defined mediocrity. They gave up 25.1 points per game, ninth worst in the NFL, and scored 25 points per game, which was fourteenth in the NFL. Rightly so, they fired Mike Zimmer and their GM, so in 2022 they look to turn the corner. In the final year of Kirk Cousins’ contract, can the Vikings break through in the NFC North? Keep reading to find out:


Photo by: Getty Images


The Vikings enter 2022 majorly speaking the same team on paper as 2021, but a lot has changed behind the scenes. The firing of Mike Zimmer and hiring of Kevin O’Connell is, in my opinion, likely a bright spot for the organization. O’Connell is hot off a Super Bowl Parade and is looking to revamp the weapons the Vikings have at their disposal. And for any of my readers that enjoy fantasy football, remember that O’Connell’s star receiver, Cooper Kupp, had the best year of his career last year (aka draft Justin Jefferson).


There is no question that the Vikings offense should be able to be a top 10 offense in the NFL with the stars they have. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen are just a few of them. However, they ranked middle of the pack last season in points per game. The causation there, in my opinion, had to be Mike Zimmer. Cousins is not the best quarterback in the league, or even top 5, but he is a solid starter that can win teams games. The Vikings need O’Connell to come in and revamp this offense to act similarly to the 2021 Rams. The similarities are there: Jefferson can be the dynamic star receiver (like Kupp), if healthy, Thielen can be the downhill pass catcher (like Odell), and Kirk does not have the arm strength of Stafford, but they have similar playstyles. The major difference to me between the two offenses is that Dalvin Cook is a top 5 running back in the league.


Cook needs to stay healthy and dominate like he has in the past to keep this team afloat. He was 5th last year in rushing yards, even after missing 4 games of the season. An improved coach and playbook will turn this offense into something we have yet to see, and I am so excited for it. The offensive line, while still in the middle tier of the league, has also improved to help Cook and Kirk thrive. The Vikings will desperately need their newly drafted LT, Christian Darrisaw, to positively impact this team if they are going to crack the Packers 3 straight division titles, though.


Defensively, things are a different story for the Vikings. In addition to the front office and head coaching changes, the Vikings have brought in a new defensive coordinator in Ed Donatell. While the offense of the Vikings huddled around mediocrity, the defense plummeted to the bottom of the league. The last two years under Zimmer saw the Vikings at 30th and 27th in the NFL for defensive rankings. Now in 2022, they have lost one of their safeties Xavier Woods, but thankfully they still have Harrison Smith. Seriously, Smith is a beast, all you Madden players will know that. Jordan Hicks, a strong LB from the Cardinals, and some other key adds might break the trend for this defense. The Vikings also focused on improving this defense in the 2022 NFL Draft.


Considering everything, it’s hard for me to picture this offense and improved defense as a worse than .500 team this year. I like the new hires, I like the pickups, and I think Kirk has something to prove if he wants to keep getting paid. They rank 20th for strength of schedule this year and their win total is plus money for 9.5. If you can find a book that offers 9, kudos to you; I love that play. However, I am going to go with a prop play for the Vikings because I think their offense will turn some heads. Also, although I do like all of the moves, I am not sure they have enough time to make it all work and I think they just miss the playoffs.

DJ’s Best Bet: Justin Jefferson o1350.5 Receiving Yards, -112 | FanDuel

Vikings Projected Record: 9-8, miss playoffs

 

Detroit Lions:

2021 Record: 3-13-1

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 6.5, -125

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Trey Flowers, LB

  • Aldrick Rosas, K

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • DJ Chark, WR

  • Jameson Williams ( R), WR

  • Mike Hughes, CB

  • Aiden Hutchinson ( R), DE

There is not a place to go other than up for the Detroit Lions in 2022. After a disappointing season watching their former, beloved Quarterback hoist the Lombardi Trophy, the Lions look to find something in the tank to alleviate their chronic wounds. What is in store for the Lions this year? Keep reading to find out:

Photo by: USATSI


It is year 2 for Dan Campbell, and things do not look as bad for the lions, I hope. Year 1 started off about as poorly as possible, but the Lions were not playing as bad as their record would show. They did not win a game until week 12 last year when they upset the Vikings. Maybe shockingly, the Lions were one of the best teams to bet on, at 11-6, proving they were better than most thought. I see this year as a year where the tide begins to turn, because the team has the players to make it happen. Oh yeah, and the Lions are the Hard Knocks team this year, which excites me even more.


A good offense starts with a good offensive line, and PFF has the Lions ranked as the Number 3 offensive line in football. That is no small feat, coming in higher than the Cowboys and the Bucs. Behind this newly improved and top tier line the Lions run with one of the most electrifying backs in the league, De’Andre Swift, and a not so terrible Jared Goff. It was obvious last year coming into a new system, Goff was not fully prepared to turn the sinking Lions franchise around. However, with a new offensive coordinator in Ben Johnson (who was passing coordinator 2021), and a bit longer to work on the playbook, I have a good feeling the Lions are going to improve, not that that is saying a lot.


Jared Goff also has some new weapons to utilize by the ways of DJ Chark and Jameson Williams. The breakout wideout from the Jaguars and star out of Alabama are significant upgrades to Goff’s previous pass catching duo of Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond. A healthy De’Andre Swift is the key to success this year for the lions, because they have enough weapons now where defenses may get confused on who to cover most. I should say that Jared Goff also needs to improve; a 39.5 QBR will not get the Lions much further than 3 or 4 wins. Note that I am not saying the Lions are going to be competing for a playoff spot, I still think they will fall behind the Packers in this division.


Defensively, the Lions added some important players to their roster. Aiden Hutchinson, the second pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, makes this defensive line a force to be reckoned with. Since 1987, out of almost 2,000 defensive ends, Hutchinson ranks at 19 for his Relative Athletic Score. The athletic freak from the University of Michigan has the ability to impact this team similar to how Nick Bosa or Jadeveon Clowney did when they entered the league. The Lions also improved their secondary, picking up Mike Hughes from the Chiefs. He should provide solid CB play behind Amani Oruwariye. The big question marks for this defense are how well do the injured impact players like Jeff Okudah and Romeo Okwara perform coming off season ending injuries in 2021.


This is shaping up to be one of the best Lions seasons in recent memory, again not that that is saying a lot. Taking into account the upgrades made on both sides of the ball and the fact that the Lions were much better than their record showed last year, I think the Lions can push for 7 wins. They have a relatively easy strength of schedule based on Vegas odds, which also acts in their favor. I'm excited for this team, and I would not be surprised if they finish 2nd in the division.


DJ’s Best Bet: Lions over 6.5 Wins -125| FanDuel

Lions Projected Record: 8-9, miss playoffs

 

Chicago Bears:

2021 Record: 6-11

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 6.5, +125

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Allen Robinson, WR

  • Khalil Mack, LB

  • Andy Dalton, QB

  • Damiere Byrd, WR

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Trevor Sieman, QB

  • Byron Pringle, WR

  • N’Keal Harry, WR

Enter the Chicago Bears, yet another NFL team with significant organizational changes. The Bears moved on from Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace at the end of the 2021 season and are pretty clearly in a rebuild for the 2022 NFL Season. They lost their star receiver Allen Robinson and aging star linebacker Khalil Mack. Lastly, they begin the season with a first year coaching trio at head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator.


Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


The intriguing thing about the Bears to me this season is that they may not be as bad as most people think. My initial thoughts are giving me 2021 Lions vibes where their record will not match how well they played most teams, even though they end up losing. Starting with Justin Fields, this new offense will likely be tailored to him. Although he went 2-8 with 10 TDs and 7 picks as a starter last season, Fields showed some promise. Coming in without a quarterback controversy should give him some more confidence, the issue for the Bears is that there are not really many weapons to give him options.


Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry, and Darnell Mooney are Field’s starting receivers. Hopefully Cole Kmet can pull some coverage away from the receiving core, but I am unsure if it will ultimately matter. The Bears were not able to win many games even when Allen Robinson was on the roster, so they are really going to miss him this season. The running backs for the Bears on the other hand should execute their jobs well. Sadly for them, they will line up behind the 31st ranked offensive line in the league. Significantly different from their division rivals in Detroit. So, while Fields may show the league he is here to stay, I am not sure he and his weapons can do enough to make it count in the win column.


Finally, the defense for the Bears is also not looking too hot. A new defensive coordinator will look to turn things around, but there is a Khalil Mack sized hole that will erode this defense over the 2022 Season. Their defensive line is not great either, so teams will be sure to pound the football and wear this defense down with ease.


My final thoughts for the Bears is that we may see some flashes, but overall they just do not have the power to compete this year. They will push for one of the earlier draft picks, and hopefully Fields can develop enough to lift Chicago fans hopes for 2023.


DJ’s Best Bet: Under 5.5 Wins +130| FanDuel

Bears Projected Record: 4-13

 

So there you have it folks. If you made it to the end of this article, I salute you. Thank you, seriously. I am so excited to continue bringing content to you all and ask that you follow me on twitter @DeejHHSports to share what you think! I am open to all criticism and takes and would love to discuss football with you there. Share the article and follow the accounts because every little bit helps!


Stay tuned for the other divisions, check out the NFC West here, and I will be tackling the NFC South next! Also, my counterparts will be posting daily content you don't want to miss.


Rick Twitter: @RickHHSports

Main Twitter: @HHSportsHQ

Andy Twitter: @AndyHHSports

Deej Twitter: @DeejHHSports

Instagram: @happyhoursportshq

TikTok: @happyhoursports

Facebook: happyhoursportshq


17 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All