The Minnesota Vikings won the NFC North last year but only come in as slight favorites to the Packers due to Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury.
The Vikings benefited from a pretty weak schedule last year including playing the Packers without Aaron Rodgers twice, and won 13 games.
Five of these games were by one score or less, and then they won in the playoffs on a miracle play before getting blown out in the NFC Championship
In the offseason they signed QB Kirk Cousins to a big contract with the belief that he will be able to improve the team trying to take the next step towards super bowl contention.
Although I believe this year will be a step backwards for the Vikings.
Kirk Cousins is an average QB and not much of a difference from what they had last year in Case Keenum. He has yet to win a playoff game, and has not won more than 9 games in the regular season.
The Vikings tragically lost offensive line coach Tony Sparano in the offseason, and the o-line has yet to play together this pre-season.
Although the Vikings had a good defense last year, they were exposed in the NFC Championship and shown let up big plays.
They have a much tougher schedule this year and will have to deal with a healthy Aaron Rodgers again.
Following the success of last season and the signing of Kirk Cousins in the off-season, the Vikings come into this year with high expectations, that I believe they will fall short of.
On the other end of the NFC North is the Detroit Lions.
The Lions have a reputation for not being a great team, and come into this year with low expectations to match.
The Lions are trying to change the culture and fired head coach Jim Caldwell after back to back 9-7 seasons and hired defensive mastermind Matt Patricia to replace him.
They also signed LeGarrette Blount to try to bring a championship atmosphere. Blount was the leading rusher on each of the last two teams to win the Super Bowl. Blount is hard to bring down and his tough running style is a great asset for any offense as he is able to run effectively between the tackles which keeps the clock moving and keeps his team’s defense off the field.
It has been shown by the Eagles last year and the Patriots in year’s past that the best NFL backfields have multiple players that can affect the offense in different ways. The Lions bring Blount in to a backfield with Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and rookie Kerryon Johnson. This committee should help to improve the Lions running game which has been an issue recently.
The Lions have a strong passing game, led by QB Matt Stafford and WRs Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay. Their new weapons at running back should help to balance their offense and give their defense more rest.
Matt Patricia is known for getting the best out of the talent he has defensively by preparing players well to put them in the position to make plays. The coaching change to Matt Patricia should be the spark that helps improve a defensive unit that has talent but has not played well.
In summation I am taking the Lions over 7 wins, the Lions to make the playoffs, and the Lions to win the division. Also I am taking the Vikings under 10 wins, and the Vikings to miss the playoffs.
Lions over 7.5 wins -125
Lions make the playoffs YES +250
Lions win NFC North +650
Vikings under 10 wins -105
Vikings make the playoffs NO +185