Betting the NFC North: Week 1 prop-market value

First off, I’ll let you know that I’m loyal to two teams in the NFL and one is Da Bears. No need to ask why, let’s just roll with it. Between Chicago and the Detroit Lions, this division is half a pile of ... ugly. I love player props but when you are looking at two teams that should have losing seasons, it’s hard to pull many positives. Here’s what I mean.

Chicago Bears

Season win total: UNDER 7.5 (-130), OVER (+100)

Win NFC North: (+575)

Win NFC Championship: (+3300)

Make Playoffs: Yes (+190), No (-230)

Allen Robinson is one of the best wide receivers in the league, yet his quarterbacks have been Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky and post-Super Bowl era Nick Foles. He’s now getting a 2021 first-round draft pick in Justin Fields, who in 2019 led Ohio State to Big Ten title, finished third in voting for the Heisman trophy, was Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and had an undefeated 2020 regular season. That’s about as far my excitement gets for this team.

In three years as head coach, Matt Nagy and this Bears offense has never ranked top 15 in either passing or rushing yards. This Bears offense had never scored 24-plus points in four straight games until Bill Lazor entered the picture.

To close the season last year, the Bears scored 24 points or more in five straight games and Trubisky managed to put together a 68% completion rate in five straight games — something he had not done in his NFL career. In the first 11 games Nagy was calling plays, Trubisky had a 59% completion rate and threw for 6.5 YPA. In the six games Lazor was calling plays, Trubisky had a 74% completion rate and 7.6 YPA.

None of this matters because back in April, Nagy confirmed that he would be the one calling plays again in 2021. In his three years, the Bears offense has ranked 20th, 25th, and 28th (he was play-caller in 2020) in efficiency.

Tie in what could be another poor offensive year while playing the sixth-toughest schedule against passing defenses and this could spell trouble. So as long as Nagy is calling plays, nothing to see here.

Betting Option: UNDER 7.5 wins (-130)

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on during training camp on Aug. 5. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on during training camp on Aug. 5. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Detroit Lions

Season win total: UNDER 5 (-140), OVER (+120)

Win NFC North: (+2000)

Win NFC Championship: (+1000)

Make Playoffs: Yes (+550), No (-900)

I talk about the Lions in my Prop Shop preview so I’ll keep it short. Bad Jared Goff + bad receiving corps + bad defense + mega hard schedule = a really bad season.

Betting Option: UNDER 5 wins (-140)

Green Bay Packers

Season win total: UNDER 10.5 (-130), OVER (+110)

Win NFC North: (-165)

Win NFC Championship: (+650)

Make Playoffs: Yes (-275), No (+225)

Last year, the Packers played seven teams ranked in the bottom 10 of passing defenses and went 7-0 in those games. They played eight teams ranked in the top 16 of passing defenses and went 5-3. This year the Packers schedule gets tougher, facing eight teams in the top 10 of passing defenses and an additional four ranked inside the top 12.

But you’ve got Aaron Rodgers so that’s a big benefit and he’s coming off an absolute tear of a season that resulted in MVP with just under 71% completion rate and a league-leading 48 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions.

If any one man can combat a tough defense, it’s Rodgers. Can he replicate his 2020 success? I’ll lean toward saying no but when your competition within the division is against a rookie quarterback with the Bears and a declining quarterback with the Lions, even with regression, the Packers should still excel. One last strong finish before Rodgers moves on from the Packers?

Betting Option: Packers to win NFC North (-165)

Minnesota Vikings

Season win total: UNDER 9.5 (145), OVER (+120)

Win NFC North: (+250)

Win NFC Championship: (+1800)

Make Playoffs: Yes (+115), No (-140)

I could see the Vikings' season go either way — above or below .500. They won seven games last season and five of those games were against losing teams in the Jaguars, Texans, Panthers and Lions twice. This year they will face better quarterbacks in just the first four weeks in Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield. Midseason they get Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.

It won’t be an easy schedule but one thing Vikings do have going for them is the return of fans in the stands. As a fan of tennis, I know the positive impact this has on players. The same could be said here. Since 2016, Minnesota is 21-9-3 ATS at home. Last year, they went 3-5 ATS with no fans. This could come into play when the Browns, Cowboys, Steelers and Rams head to U.S. Bank Stadium.

Yes, the Vikings have WR Justin Jefferson, who set the NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie at 1,400. Think just how much better this team could be if they just ran less and passed more? Jefferson achieved this record and broke Randy Moss’ record for most receptions by a rookie with the Vikings ranked 27th in passing attempts (eighth in rushing attempts).

If the Vikings want to get back to a winning season, pass more. If the Vikings want to get back to a winning season, improve on defense. They ranked 30th last year in opponent yards per pass attempt, 28th in quarterback sacks, and 29th in opponent points per play.

Betting Option: Real talk, I have no idea how to look at this team from a season-long perspective. Instead, I’ll look ahead to the prop market.

Week 1: Look to Cousins to have a big passing game — play the OVER in passing yards and/or Cousins to have at least two passing touchdowns.

The Vikings play the Cincinnati Bengals, who ranked last in 2020 in opponent passing yards per game, 25th in opponent passing touchdowns, but seventh best in opponent rushing touchdowns.

Last year before the bye, excluding Tyrod Taylor with the Chargers and Carson Wentz with the Eagles, in six games played, the Bengals allowed three quarterbacks to throw for 297 yards or more and allowed all six quarterbacks to have at least two passing touchdowns. The Bengals gave up three passing touchdowns to Philip Rivers of the Colts and five to Mayfield of the Browns. Cousins could look like a stud with both Jefferson and Adam Thielen benefitting.

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