A wonderful NFL season continues into week 4 this week as we start to weed out the contenders from the pretenders. In a highly entertaining season so far, this week we'll look at three games involving the Minnesota Vikings taking on the New Orleans Saints, the Buffalo Bills clash with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns […]
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NFL Division Previews: NFC North
1. Green Bay Packer, -300
With arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, the Packers are the odds-on favourite to win the NFC North for fifth consecutive year. After losing in the NFC Championship game in 2014, the Packers enter 2015 with essentially the same roster. The Packers aren’t just favourites to win the North but are a hot pick to win it all in 2015. The key to the Packers success over the past 5 years has been quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been a rock for the Packers, winning two MVP awards and guiding the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2010.
The Packers have surrounded Rodgers with an excellent offense. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are top 10 wide receivers and Eddie Lacy is a top 5 running back. The defense for the Packers is middle-of-the-pack, but has enough talent and big play capability to make the Packers legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
2. Minnesota Vikings, +600
After only playing one game in 2014, former MVP running back makes his return in 2015 with fresh legs and a chip on his shoulder. The Vikings were a pleasant surprise in 2014, finishing 7-9 and showing a competiveness down the stretch. With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater entering his second season with a better offense and a young and developing defense, the Vikings will be in wild card hunt in 2015.
The Vikings have been building through the draft over the past few seasons and haven’t needed to spend too much or be too busy in the offseason. The Vikings added Mike Wallace through trade for more depth at wide receivers and help make the offense more balanced.
3. Detroit Lions, +600
After the Lions made the playoffs for only the second time in the last 15 years, the team had an unproductive and unsuccessful offseason. The loss of Ndamukong Suh (and to a lesser extent the loss of defensive tackle Nick Fairley) greatly hurts the Lions defense, which ranked in top 5 in rushing yards allowed and points allowed. The Lions traded for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but there are question marks around whether or not he is a good fit in Detroit’s system.
The offense in Detroit is solid, but not spectacular. Wide receivers Golden Tate had a career year in his first season as a Lion and Calvin Johnson, when healthy, is arguably the best receiver in the game. Quarterback Matt Stafford has one of strongest arms in the NFL, but has struggled with his completion percentage and consistency in his career. For the Lions to get back into the playoffs the team will need Stafford to polish up his play and have someone step up at tight end (most likely 2014 first round pick Eric Ebron).
4. Chicago Bears, +1200
After a disastrous 2014, the Bears cleaned house firing head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery. Hiring former Denver Broncos heads coach John Fox should help the Bears turn around happen sooner than later. The key to the Bears improving and making it back to the playoffs in 2015 (unlikely but not impossible), will be how Fox works with quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler needs to work on his reads, relying too much on his check down option in 2014, failing to get the ball down the field. Turnovers were also a large issue for Cutler, who had 24 in 2014.
Cutler’s improvement will be necessary as Chicago’s defensive unit is lacking all-stars and depth. The Bears finished nearly dead last in both yards allowed and points allowed. The team did not add much to improve its anemic defense, signing solid players (but not game changers) in safety Antrel Rolle and defensive end Pernell McPhee. The Bears will try and stay competitive while Cutler is still in his prime, but his erratic play and the Bears terrible defense will keep them at the bottom of the division in 2015.
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