Spark Sports’ NFC North Season Preview

The Vikings went out and added quite a bit to their already dominate team. The Vikes are hoping to gel and ride into the Superbowl.

Odds: 

NFC NORTH DIVISION WINNERS: +125 (Bovada)

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +650 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +1200 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 10 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. San Francisco (-4.5)
Week 2 @ Green Bay (+2.5)
Week 3 vs. Buffalo (-10)
Week 4 @ Los Angeles (Rams) (+3)
Week 5 @ Philadelphia (+3.5)
Week 6 vs. Arizona (-10.5)
Week 7 @ New York (Jets) (-4)
Week 8 vs. New Orleans (-4)
Week 9 vs. Detroit (-7)
Week 10 BYE WEEK
Week 11 @ Chicago (-3)
Week 12 vs. Green Bay (-3)
Week 13 @ New England (+4.5)
Week 14 @ Seattle (-2)
Week 15 vs. Miami (-10)
Week 16 @ Detroit (-6.5)
Week 17 vs. Chicago (N/A)

Schedule Outlook

Trips to Philly, Seattle and New England will all be tough test for the Vikings. They only play two games back to back at home in weeks 8 and 9 before they head into the bye week. The real test will be the first five games. They need to go 4-1 in that stretch to keep pace with the Packers in the division.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Kirk Cousins, Qb Trevor Siemian, WR Kendall Wright, LG Tom Compton, and DT Sheldon Richardson

Subtractions – QB Case Keenum, QB Sam Bradford, QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Jerrick McKinnon, and WR Jarius Wright

Draft – CB Mike Hughes, T Brian O’Neill, DE Jalyn Holmes, TE Tyler Conklin, K Daniel Carlson, G Colby Gossett, DE Ade Aruna, and LB Devante Downs

Offense

Case Keenum took over after injuries to Bridgewater and Bradford happened. He stepped in nicely and propelled the offense. He finished with with the seventh best passer rating and second best QBR. Now they will replace him with Kirk Cousins who finished outside the top ten in both those categories. Cousins has a much better arm and played with almost no weapons in Washington. He could be an MVP candidate with the options around him.

Dalvin Cook looked like the real deal before his season ending injury. If healthy he can be on of the better backs in the league. Latavius Murray is an exprienced back that can help hit the short yardage and give defenses a different look.

Stefon Diggs made one of the most memorable plays in recent football postseason memory. In 14 regular season games he averages 60 yards per game and totaled 8 touchdowns. Adam Thielen ended the season as a Second Team All Pro with 79 ypg and 4 touchdowns. Adding an experienced wideout in Kendall Wright will also help the other two get decent looks. On top of that, the Vikes have one of the better Red Zone threats in Kyle Rudolph who had a career high in tough downs with eight.

Minnesota’s line was pretty rough throughout the year. Pat Elflein made the All Rookie Team. The line didn’t improve much but Kirk is a better quarterback than Keenum and with his weapons wont need as much time as Keenum.

Defense

Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffen is arguably the best line in the league. Griffen made the All Pro Second Team while Hunter was a monster from the other side. Linval Joseph is great at getting up the field and applying pressure on the centers and guards.  Pairing him with Richardson who is still young and not far removed from a eight sack season, this line will be a nightmare for any offensive line.

This linebacking core is also one of the better units. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are two of the best at their positions. They will need to stay healthy and hope that Ben Gedeon can match their level of play.

The Vikings boast a pari of First Team All Pro’s in Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith. On top of those two Andrew Sendejo and Trae Waynes are also some of the better players at their respected position. There depth continues with rookie Mike Hughes and third year pro Mackensie Alexander are still young and in a great position to learn with Terrance Newman being the savvy vet in the mix.

Special Teams

Daniel Carlson was drafted to compete with Kai Forbath for the kicking job. Mike Hughes and Marcus Sherels will assume the return roles. While Ryan Quigley will continue to be a consistent punter for the Vikes.

Outlook

The Vikings dumped all their quarterbacks and picked up a better one in Cousins. Added a healthy Cook to the mix and brought in Richardson to plug in on the d-line. This team was better than the Eagles last year and was embraced. Watch out league the Vikings are arguably the most talented and complete team.

Plays

NFC North Champions/Superbowl Champions

This team is above average at every position outside of their line and weak side linebacker. Kirk Cousins is finally surrounded by the best weapons he’s ever had and getting the respect from his team. The defensive line is almost unarguable for any team. This team seems like a lock to win the division and at least hedge into the second round of playoffs.


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Once Aaron Rodgers got hurt, the Packers playoff chances fell out. The Packers are Aaron Rodgers.

Odds: 

NFC NORTH DIVISION WINNERS: +140 (Bovada)

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +650 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +1100 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 10 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. Chicago (-8.5)
Week 2 vs. Minnesota (-2.5)
Week 3 @ Washington (-3)
Week 4 vs. Buffalo (-9.5)
Week 5 @ Detroit (-1)
Week 6 vs. San Francisco (-4)
Week 7 BYE WEEK
Week 8 @ Los Angeles (Rams) (+3)
Week 9 @ New England (+6)
Week 10 vs. Miami (-10.5)
Week 11 @ Seattle (-1)
Week 12 @ Minnesota (+3)
Week 13 vs. Arizona (-11)
Week 14 vs. Atlanta (-3.5)
Week 15 @ Chicago (-3)
Week 16 @ New York (Jets) (-6)
Week 17 vs. Detroit (N/A)

Schedule Outlook

Back to back weeks on the road against the Rams then across country to the Patriots will be a tough test. Seattle and Atlanta in the second half are also problem games. in the first six weeks the Pack needs to be 5-1 to keep pace in the division.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB DeShone Kizer, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Marcedes Lewis, DE Muhammad WIlkerson, and CB Tramon Williams

Subtractions – WR Jodry Nelson, TE Richard Rodgers, G Jahri Evans, and CB Morgan Burnett

Draft – CB Jaire Alexander, CB Josh Jackson, LB Oren Burks, WR J’Mon Moore, T Cole Madison, P JK Scott, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, DE James Looney, LS Hunter Bradley, and LB Kendall Donnerson

Offense

Once Rodgers was hurt, the Pack couldn’t move the ball. The wheels fell off the bus and this team crashed. He is unquestionable the lifeblood of this team. If he goes this team goes. He may be the most important player of any team.

Jamaal Williams is taking the lead role. In games last year when he had 15 or more touches (7), he averaged 70 yard per game and had 3 touchdowns. Converted wideout Ty Montgomery can catch out of the backfield and he a useful option. Once back from suspension, Aaron Jones should see a split in carries with Williams in his four games with 10 or more touches he averaged 86.5 yards per game and added 3 touchdowns.

Losing Jordy Nelson should have much effect on the passing game this season. He took a huge dip in his career norm and Geronimo Allison started coming ou at the end of the year. Devante Adams and Randall Cobb are solid veterans and will be catalyst for Rodgers. Adding Jimmy Graham will be a huge factor in the Red Zone. Drafting J’Mon Moore who was electric in college and St. Brown to compete could be fun additions to this passing games.

The Packers have a strong offensive line but that is if they remain healthy. Last season 14 different players started and that isn’t promising when your star quarterback is coming off and injury. Blindside tackle David Bakhtiari was a Second Team All Pro. The rest of the unit is above average but health is key here.

Defense

The addition of Wilkerson should be a huge boost if he can return to form of his ten sack days. The defensive line needs to drastically improve, there was little to no pressure from the group outside of Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels.

Blake Martinez returns to what could be a strong linebacking core. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry need to continue to apply pressure from their positions as they have in the past. Oren Burks could be a legitimate weakside in this league. He can play in the pass coverage and has great closing speed. The Packers desperately need another strong player in this unit.

The secondary last year was flat out bad, giving up the third most yards per attempt and second most passing touchdowns. Green Bay took Alexander and Johnson in the first two rounds to help this team. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is better than his last season show but was exposed by the lack of help. The corner position is deep now and could be one of the more steady parts of this team.

Special Teams

Mason Crosby is starting to age but he can still kick with the best of them. Trevor Davis is currently slotted as the guy to take all returns and did a great job of it last year amassing over 1100 total return yards.

Outlook

This team’s season will rely entirely on the health of QB1. If this ship is moving its because of him.

Plays

LEAN Under 10

There is more value in this team not getting 10 wins. There is a good chance the division could give them three loses alone and back to back weeks on a cross country road trip in L.A. and New England looks daunting. Arizona, San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle aren’t push overs either. The run game is still lacking a true guy, the defense is still shaky even with the new additions, the Packers are a public favorite, fade the Packers.


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*Note: This article was written before Khalil Mack trade*

Matt Nagy takes the driver seat for the Chicago Bears this season. Adding some weapons for Mitch Trubisky, Chicago looks to get back into the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Odds: 

NFC NORTH DIVISION WINNERS: +800 (Bovada)

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +3300 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +8000 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 5.5 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 @ Green Bay (+8.5)
Week 9 @ Buffalo (+1.5)
Week 2 vs. Seattle (PK)
Week 10 vs. Detroit (-1)
Week 3 @ Arizona (+1)
Week 11 vs. Minnesota (+3)
Week 4 vs. Tampa Bay ( -2.5)
Week 12 @ Detroit (+5)
Week 5 BYE WEEK
Week 13 @ New York (Giants) (+3.5)
Week 6 @ Miami (+1.5)
Week 14 vs. Los Angeles (Rams) (+2.5)
Week 7 vs. New England (+5)
Week 15 vs. Packers (+3)
Week 8 vs. New York (Jets) (-4.5)
Week 16 vs. San Francisco (+6)
Week 17 @ Minnesota (N/A)

Schedule Outlook

The Bears have an easier schedule than last year. The Packers and Vikings are  both going to be some of their toughest games. three times throughout the year they will be back to back at home which will be a nice change of pace for the Bears.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Chase Daniels, WR Allen Robinson, Wr Taylor Gabriel, TE Trey Burton, LB Aaron Lynch and K Cody Parkey

Subtractions – QB Mike Glennon, WR Cameron Meredith, WR Kendall Wright, G Josh Sitton, G Tom Compton, Lb Christian Jones, and LB Pernell McPhee

Draft – LB Roquan Smith, C James Daniels, WR Anthony Miller, LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, DT Bilal Nichols, DE Kylie Fitts, and WR Javon Wims

Offense

Mitch took over after four games last year. He show some bright spots but mostly was a mixed bag. He will have a few more guys to rely on this year and he kept most games within reason. John Fox wasn’t a fan of letting the Bears see what Mitch can bring.

Jordan Howard passed 1000 yards for the second time in two years, as well as added nine touchdowns. Tarik Cohen was a versatile player out of the backfield or in the slot.. Cohen can catch and run the ball causing mismatch problems. This is one of the better pairings in the league in terms of change of pace.

The Bears added arguably the most wide out help in the league. Allen Robinson is two years removed from sharing a league leading 15 touchdowns in a season. Coming off his ACL tear form week 1 last year, Robinson has a lot to prove. Taylor Gabriel’s talent was over shadowed by the players around him. Used primarily in the slot, Gabriel will look to become a steady option for Trubisky. Along with them, Trey Burton comes over from the Eagles where he gives Mitch a young tightend to grow with. Anthony Miller was drafted in the second round and will also have some high expectations our of Memphis.

Kyle Long, Charles Leno and Cody Whitehair all are solid lineman and give Mitch a chance to survey the field. James Daniels will likely be the starting left guard moving over from the center position in college. This unit should be a strong plus for the team.

Defense

Akiem Hicks has been a machine for the Bears. The other players he has been with, not so much. Eddie Goldman and Johnathon Bullard are serviceable but their next step should be upgrading this line.

Roquan Smith is an instant leader to this group. He should have a huge presence in the middle of the field. Paired with Danny Trevathan, this duo should be a solid tandem. On the outsides. Aaron Lynch started  his career with some exciting promise, the Bears hope he can regain some of the promise. Leonard Flyod another highly drafted linebacker, has yet to stay on the field a full season but has looked great when he is, as an edge rusher.

The secondary last year was solid. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are above average corners that play well into the teams scheme. Adran Amos had a strong year and Eddie Jackson had two pick sixes. This team has a stout secondary that can go against any opposition

Special Teams

Cody Parkey comes from the Colts where he had a strong season. Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel will most likely handle the return duties for the Bears this season. Patrick O’Donnell is one of the better punts and should allow the defense to not start in their own territory.

Outlook

Chicago improved this off season, in the draft and free agents. It may take them another year to become a playoff team but with the weapons around Mitch and a strong defense, they should surprise a few teams.

Plays

Over 5.5

This team isn’t favored in may games but they aren’t much of a dog either. They are vastly improved and the coaching staff is as well. Nagy is a tactician and should give Mitch a playbook that fits his style. The Bears will take a step forward.


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Matt Nagy takes the driver seat for the Chicago Bears this season. Adding some weapons for Mitch Trubisky, Chicago looks to get back into the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Odds: 

NFC NORTH DIVISION WINNERS: +650 (Bovada)

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +2500 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +6500 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 6.5 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. New York (Jets) (-6)
Week 2 @ San Francisco (+3.5)
Week 3 vs. New England (+4)
Week 4 @ Dallas (+4)
Week 5 vs. Green Bay (+1)
Week 6 BYE WEEK
Week 7 @ Miami (+1)
Week 8 vs. Seattle (-1.5)
Week 9 @ Minnesota (+7)
Week 10 @ Chicago (+1)
Week 11 vs. Carolina (-2.5)
Week 12 vs. Chicago (-5)
Week 13 vs. Los Angeles (Rams) (+2)
Week 14 @ Arizona (+1)
Week 15 @ Buffalo (PK)
Week 16 vs. Vikings (+6.5)
Week 17 @ Green Bay (N/A)

Schedule Outlook

49er’s, Patriots, Cowboys, Seahawks, Panthers, and Rams will all be tough games. On top of that a back to back week of Arizona to Buffalo trip will be a lot of travel. Not to mention the Packers and the Vikings are two favorites this season.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Matt Cassel, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Luke Wilson, T Kenny Wiggins, DT Sylvester Williams, LB Devon Kennard, and LB Christian Jones

Subtractions – TE Eric Ebron, DT Haloti Ngata, DE Brandon Copeland, Tahir Whitehead, and S Tavon Wilson

Draft – C Frank Ragnow, RB Kerryon Johnson, S Tracy Walker, DE Da’Shawn Hand, T Tyrell Crosby, and FB Nick Bawden

Offense

Matthew Stafford has one of the best arms in the league, there is no question of that. He’s not had a great run game around him so the balance on offense is tough. His wide outs are solid and the Lions added a recieving tightend. With an improved run game it should help Stafford find balance.

The Lions had little run support for Stafford last season, so they brought in LeGarrette Blount and draft Kerryon Johnson. Both should allow the Lions to have some what of a ground game. With Theo Riddick, the running backs are a more complete group.

The wideout group is lead by Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, two above average receivers. Both can create space in the passing game and Kenny Golladay had a solid season as a rookie. Luke Wilson will help provide yards from the tight end spot, but the help there is still lacking.

Ricky Wagner is the only player that is above average on the line. This unit is one of the worst in the league and the only improvement was drafting Ragnow to play guard. They were the bottom ten in sacks allowed. Stafford is about to get hit a lot.

Defense

Ezekiel Ansah was franchise tag and he will be the an unstoppable force. A’Shawn Robinson and Sylvester Williams are serviceable at best in the middle. While Anthony Zettel is an above average player opposite of Ansah.

Bringing in Devon Kennard is a decent linebacker. Jarrad Davis was All Rookie last season but Jalen Reeves-Maybin is one of the worst weakside linebackers. This group is pretty rough and needs someone to step up.

Darius Slay is a lock down corner and was All Pro First Team. Teez Tabor looked good when he filled in as a rookie. Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs are servicable but can be beat with strong QB play.

Special Teams

Matt Prater is one of the best kickers still. Jamal Agnew was All Rookie and All Pro First team at the return spot.

Outlook

The Lions needed a change. They brought in Matt Patricia to head coach but he doesn’t have the best team to work with. Detroit still needs a lot to change this teams playoff hopes and the division doesn’t help.

Plays

Under 6.5

The Lions aren’t a good team even with Stafford, this team needs a lot of help. The defense isn’t great the o-line is disastrous and above that the schedule looks rough. Take the Under here.


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