Futures Betting Primer for the 2018 NFL Season – NFC North

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NFL Future Bets NFC North - Packers vs Vikings

With the 2018 NFL regular season fast approaching – the first game of the year kicks off on Thursday, September 6 – it’s time for bettors to take a serious look at the futures betting market.

Anything can happen in one game, but over the course of a grueling 16-game campaign, the cream tends to rise to the top in this league. With that in mind, savvy bettors can take advantage of futures betting by pouncing on divisional title odds*, Super Bowl championship prospects, and a few fun proposition wagers based on player performance.

To help you sharpen your futures betting skills, we’ll be covering all eight of the NFL’s divisions, beginning with the NFC North.

*All odds and lines included in this page were provided by online sportsbook Bovada on August 12th, 2018.

Odds to Win NFC North & Super Bowl 53

Team Odds to Win NFC North as of 8/12/18 Odds to Win Super Bowl 53 as of 8/12/18
Minnesota Vikings +125 +1200
Green Bay Packers +140 +1100
Detroit Lions +650 +6500
Chicago Bears +800 +8000

In the closest divisional race of the year, the Vikings look to defend last year’s NFC North title as slim favorites over the Packers. And indeed, if not for LB Anthony Barr breaking QB Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone midseason, effectively ending the Packers’ season, it very well could’ve been Green Bay atop the standings by year’s end. Rodgers is back and ready to roll through, so the bookmakers have Minnesota and Green Bay neck and neck. As for the also-rans, the Lions have QB Matthew Stafford but little else, just like every year for the last decade. And in Chicago, the Bears are still rebuilding with QB Mitch Trubisky at the helm. The capsules below offer full guides to each of the four NFC North contenders:

Minnesota Vikings

Odds: (+125) to win NFC North – (+1200) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 13-3
  • NFC North Champions
  • Lost 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship

Key Additions:

  • QB Kirk Cousins
  • DT Sheldon Richardson
  • WR Kendall Wright
  • QB Trevor Siemian
  • WR Michael Floyd

Key Departures:

  • QB Case Keenum
  • QB Teddy Bridgewater
  • RB Jerrick McKinnon
  • WR Michael Floyd

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • CB Mike Hughes, UCF (#30 overall)
  • OT Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh (#62 overall)
  • DE Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State (#102 overall)
  • TE Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan (#157 overall)
  • K Daniel Carlson, Auburn (#167 overall)

Key Quote:

You have to pace yourself a little bit.
Because I feel a little behind the eight ball and am learning the offense, I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath, and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks before Week One.
I’ll definitely get away, relax, and also just stay in it every day for a few minutes so I don’t lose what I’ve gained.

– QB Kirk Cousins, on adjusting to a new team for the first time after signing an $86 million contract over the offseason

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep.9 vs San Francisco 49ers
2 Sep. 16 @ Green Bay Packers
3 Sep. 23 vs Buffalo Bills
4 Sep.27 @Los Angeles Rams
5 Oct.7 @ Philadelphia Eagles
6 Oct. 14 vs Arizona Cardinals
7 Oct. 21 @ New York Jets
8 Oct. 28 vs New Orleans Saints
9 Nov. 4 vs Detroit Lions
11 Nov. 18 @ Chicago Bears
12 Nov. 25 vs Green Bay Packers
13 Dec. 2 @ New England Patriots
14 Dec.10 @ Seattle Seahawks
15 Dec. 16 vs Miami Dolphins
16 Dec. 23 @ Detroit Lions
17 Dec. 30 vs Chicago Bears

*(Opponents Went 133-123 in 2017 = T-8thMost DifficultSchedule)*

Last season saw the Vikings play three quarterbacks, but none that HC Mike Zimmer truly wanted.

Sam Bradford got the nod to start the season, with 2016’s starter Teddy Bridgewater still recovering from a devastating torn ACL. And he lit it up too, compiling one of the best stat lines of Bradford’s career in Week 1.

But he never saw the field again for Minnesota, as third-stringer turned starter Case Keenum took the reins and put on a show for the next 16 weeks. Keenum guided a high-flying aerial attack to a 13-3 record and the NFC North crown, before orchestrating the “Minneapolis Miracle” to stun the Saints in the Divisional round.

Fast forward to 2018, however, and that trio of QBs have all departed for greener pastures. Bridgewater is battling for a job with the Jets, Bradford is the starter in Arizona, and Keenum headed to Denver to enjoy his late-career resurgence.

As for the Vikings, enter Kirk Cousins.

The most highly sought free agent quarterback of the last few seasons, Cousins couldn’t escape the franchise tag in Washington until the most recent offseason. And after building his market value to the max, Cousins signed a huge $86 million deal to take over Minnesota’s stacked offense.

He’ll have WR Stefon Diggs and WR Adam Thielen on the outside, while TE Kyle Rudolph will man the flat. Throw in RB Dalvin Cook and RB Latavius Murray in the backfield, and Cousins has a cornucopia of weapons at his disposal.

And he won’t necessarily need to score 30 points per game to win either, what with the Vikings’ top-tier defense doing its thing. Minnesota surrendered just 252 points all season in 2017, by far the best mark in football, with players like LB Anthony Barr and DE Everson Griffen making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.

Just ask Aaron Rodgers, who was brutalized and battered by Barr in Week 6 on a violent, yet legal collision. It was just one of the hundreds of hard hits doled out by Vikings defenders last year, but Barr’s collision broke Rodgers’ collarbone, ending his season in the process.

Rodgers will be back under center for Green Bay in 2018, and while the Pack is ranked quite closely in terms of NFC North odds, Minnesota gets the nod at (+125).

From a bettor’s perspective, both teams are worth a wager, but as the Packers schedule in the next section makes clear, they face the steepest uphill climb of any team in the league. With that in mind, taking the Vikes to claim the North yet again is a reasonable play. And if they do, why not double up with a (+1200) flier on them to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history?

After all, Minnesota did play its way into the NFC Championship game with Keenum leading the charge. Cousins is a clear upgrade at QB, and with much of the roster returning for a second hurrah, if Minnesota can make its fifth Super Bowl ever, this just might be the year they win it all.

Speaking of wins, the Win Total of 10 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under) looks to be a bit light given Minnesota reeled off 13 victories last year. A pretty tough schedule doesn’t do them any favors, but unless Cousins becomes a true bust, the Vikings should be able to eclipse that number rather easily.

Green Bay Packers

Odds: (+145) to win NFC North – (+1100) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 7-9
  • Missed the Playoffs

Key Additions:

  • TE Jimmy Graham
  • DE Muhammed Wilkerson
  • CB Tramon Williams

Key Departures:

  • WR Jordy Nelson
  • S Morgan Burnett
  • LB Joe Thomas

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville(#18 overall)
  • CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (#45 overall)
  • LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt (#88 overall)
  • WR J’Mon Moore, Missouri (#133 overall)
  • OL Cole Madison, Washington (#138 overall)

Key Quote:

I’d love to play to 40. I just think that number means a lot.
Obviously, Tom [Brady] is kind of rewriting the book. Brett [Favre] had a good season when he turned 40. My goal is be able to move like I do or close to how I do and still be able to do that at 40 … just because nobody’s been able to do that and still move around the same.
Steve Young’s career was cut short in his late thirties. John [Elway], the same – he didn’t really move the same as when he was younger. So to be able to move the same way at 38, 39, 40 would be cool. That’s my aim.

– QB Aaron Rodgers, on his plans to play until age 40, despite suffering a season-ending collarbone injury last year

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep.9 vs Chicago Bears
2 Sep. 16 vs Minnesota Vikings
3 Sep. 23 @ Washington Redskins
4 Sep.30 vs Buffalo Bills
5 Oct.7 @ Detroit Lions
6 Oct. 15 vs San Francisco 49ers
8 Oct. 28 @ Los Angeles Rams
9 Nov. 4 @ New England Patriots
10 Nov. 11 vs Miami Dolphins
11 Nov. 15 @ Seattle Seahawks
12 Nov. 25 @ Minnesota Vikings
13 Dec. 2 vs Arizona Cardinals
14 Dec. 9 vs Atlanta Falcons
15 Dec. 16 @ Chicago Bears
16 Dec. 23 @ New York Jets
17 Dec. 30 vs Detroit Lions

*(Opponents Went 138-118 in 2017 = 1stMost DifficultSchedule)*

It’s already been mentioned on this page, but Rodgers’ return from injury is the only story in town for Green Bay.

With him breaking the huddle in their first five games of 2017, the Packers stormed out to a 4-1 mark. But without the wizard behind the curtain, Green Bay’s generally lackluster roster was exposed, as the Pack only won three more games all year.

Clearly, then, Rodgers is the engine that drives this train. And if he can stay upright and healthy for the full schedule, his presence alone makes Green Bay a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Bettors can get a glimpse of Rodgers’ impact in the Super Bowl odds, as Green Bay is actually slightly better at (+1100) than Minnesota, despite the latter winning six more games.

When wagering on the Packers, bettors will obviously be focused on Rodgers, but they should be sizing up LT David Bakhtiari. As the man tasked with protecting Rodgers’ blind side, Bakhtiari plays perhaps the second-most important role on the team.

Unfortunately for him, Rodgers, and Packer backers, Bakhtiari suffered an ankle injury during a recent scrimmage. It was only diagnosed as a sprain, so Green Bay avoided disaster thus far, but any further damage to Bakhtiari would spell doom for an already limited Packers offensive line.

HC Mike McCarthy is playing it cautious with Bakhtiari through the preseason, but bettors should keep a close eye on his progress when assessing Packers futures. With him healthy and ready to wall off Rodgers’ blind side, those (+145) odds on the North title are quite juicy. As is the (+1100) number on Rodgers to win a second Super Bowl.

And for folks betting Win Totals, the line of 10 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under) appears to be extremely fair. After all, the Packers went 10-6 in 2016 when Rodgers last played a full season.

Detroit Lions

Odds: (+650) to win NFC North – (+6500) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 9-7
  • Missed the Playoffs

Key Additions:

  • RB LaGarrette Blount
  • C Wesley Johnson
  • TE Levine Toilolo
  • TE Luke Willson
  • LB Jonathan Freeny
  • DT Sylvester Williams

Key Departures:

  • TE Eric Ebron
  • DT Haloti Ngata
  • TE Darren Fells
  • DT Akeem Spence

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas (#20 overall)
  • RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn (#43 overall)
  • S Tracy Walker, Louisiana (#82 overall)
  • DE Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama (#114 overall)
  • OL Tyrell Crosby, Oregon (#153 overall)

Key Quote:

As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation.
I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done.
My priorities remain the same – to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher, and man that I can possibly be.

– HC Matt Patricia, on allegations of sexual assault resurfacing mere months after the Lions hired him away from the Patriots

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep. 10 vs New York Jets
2 Sep. 16 @ San Francisco 49ers
3 Sep. 23 vs New England Patriots
4 Sep.30 @ Dallas Cowboys
5 Oct.7 vs Green Bay Packers
7 Oct. 21 @ Miami Dolphins
8 Oct. 28 vs Seattle Seahawks
9 Nov. 4 @ Minnesota Vikings
10 Nov. 11 @Chicago Bears
11 Nov. 18 vs Carolina Panthers
12 Nov. 22 vs Chicago Bears
13 Dec. 2 vs Los Angeles Rams
14 Dec. 9 @ Arizona Cardinals
15 Dec. 16 @ Buffalo Bills
16 Dec. 23 vs Minnesota Vikings
17 Dec. 30 @ Green Bay Packers

*(Opponents Went 137-119 in 2017 = T-2ndMost DifficultSchedule)*

For bettors and fans alike, the one word that defines this Lions team is “frustrating.”

Last season saw Detroit beat up on the league’s doormats early on, then notch an impressive 14-7 win over the eventual North champion Vikings – in Minnesota no less. But the same team was blown out by the Saints in a 52-38 laugher that was never really that close.

And with a chance to secure a playoff spot in Week 16, the Lions stumbled badly in a 26-17 loss to the hapless Bengals.

All things considered, it’s extremely tough to know what Detroit brings to the table week in and week out. Sure, they still have top-tier quarterback Matthew Stafford doing his gunslinger thing, but he’ll lack his man target after TE Eric Ebron was signed away in free agency.

The biggest difference between Detroit circa 2017 and this year will be on the sidelines, where Dave Caldwell was ousted as head coach following a disappointing tenure. His replacement, HC Matt Patricia, hails from the “Patriot Way” school, having served as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator during New England’s ongoing dynasty.

But it didn’t take long for scandal to surround Patricia, after allegations of sexual abuse from his time in college surfaced. Patricia was eventually vindicated by a team investigation, but the stain lingers over his arrival. And with local media already covering Patricia’s hard-nosed approach to practice as a negative, things don’t feel quite right in the Motor City at the moment.

Barring a miracle, the Lions won’t be cashing any division or Super Bowl tickets this season, but bettors can take advantage of their Win Total of 7.5 (-130 on Over / EVEN on Under). Detroit has averaged 9 wins in each of the last four years, including 9-7 runs in 2016 and 2017. If that pattern holds up, the Over on 7.5 wins should be a decent play.

Chicago Bears

Odds: (+800) to win NFC North – (+8000) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 5-11
  • Missed the Playoffs

Key Additions:

  • K Cody Parkey
  • CB Sherrick McManis
  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • QB Chase Daniel
  • TE Daniel Brown

Key Departures:

  • WR Kendall Wright
  • DT Mitch Unrein
  • WR Markus Wheaton
  • LB Christian Jones

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • LB Roquan Smith, Georgia (#8 overall)
  • C James Daniels, Iowa (#39 overall)
  • WR Anthony Miller, Memphis (#51 overall)
  • LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Western Kentucky (#115 overall)
  • DT Bilal Nichols, Delaware (#145 overall)

Key Quote:

I’ve been real busy, but I’ve been itching [to start] the whole time.
I’m ready to get back. Excited to see all the guys. Got a couple of more days, so just going to continue to lock in on training and make sure I’m ready to go.
You can definitely feel it. We’re ready to go. It’s all about execution on the field. All the outside excitement is great, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t do what we’ve got to do on the field.

– QB Mitch Trubisky, on the sense of excitement and buzz surrounding the Bears for the first time in several seasons

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep. 9 @ Green Bay Packers
2 Sep. 17 vs Seattle Seahawks
3 Sep. 23 @ Arizona Cardinals
4 Sep.30 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6 Oct. 14 @ Miami Dolphins
7 Oct. 21 vs New England Patriots
8 Oct. 28 vs New York Jets
9 Nov. 4 @ Buffalo Bills
10 Nov. 11 vs Detroit Lions
11 Nov. 18 vs Minnesota Vikings
12 Nov. 22 @ Detroit Lions
13 Dec. 2 @ New York Giants
14 Dec. 9 vs Los Angeles Rams
15 Dec. 16 vs Green Bay Packers
16 Dec. 23 @ San Francisco 49ers
17 Dec. 30 @ Minnesota Vikings

*(Opponents Went 133-123 in 2017 = T-8thMost DifficultSchedule)*

The Bears have Mitch Trubisky entering his first year as the undisputed starter, and with little else to hang their hats on, the second-year starter is the talk of the town.

The only thing is, Trubisky wasn’t exactly a world-beater in his rookie season. He threw for a 59.4 percent clip, putting up 2,193 yards in 12 games, with 7 touchdowns to 7 interceptions.

Those numbers are the definition of pedestrian, and while he gets a pass for playing as a rookie on a poor team, the Bears will need to see improvement from Trubisky if they hope to contend in 2018.

As the odds suggest, however, Chicago is a big longshot in both the North and the Super Bowl chase. Bettors would be wise to shy away from those wagers, but at only 6.5 (-170 on Over / +140 on Under), there could be value in backing a Bears revival. With that said, Chicago hasn’t touched 7 wins in four seasons and counting, so it wouldn’t be a shock to seem them go 6-10 or worse.

Green Bay and Minnesota look to battle it out for the top spot in the division. The team that loses out in the division race stands to have a good chance at a wild card spot.

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