Welcome to Bet Labs 2017 NFL preview series where we will look at all eight of the league’s divisions. As part of the preview, we will highlight each team’s chances of winning their respective division and take a look at their season win total.

To create our projections we simulated the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times using team projections and adjusting for Strength of Schedule.

Previous division previews: NFC East, AFC East, today the NFC North.

Green Bay Packers

2016 Record: 10-6

Home Games: SEA, CIN, NO, BAL, TB

Away Games: ATL, DAL, PIT, CLE, CAR

Once again the Packers were the Kings of the North in 2016. Green Bay won the division for a fifth time in six years by going 10-6. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFC North and until that changes it’s hard to predict any team other than the Cheeseheads to win.

The Packers signed Martellus Bennett to give Rodgers another weapon and used the draft to improve the secondary (the team’s biggest weakness). There are still questions with the offensive line and running game but we project the team to win another 10 games (occurs 20.6% of the time). The ten wins would be the eighth double-digit win season for Green Bay in the last nine years.

Green Bay’s win total is listed at 10.5. There is 42.8% chance the team will win 11 or more games and a 57.2% chance the Pack finishes 10-6 or worse. There is value betting on the UNDER (-125).

Detroit Lions

2016 Record: 9-7

Home Games: AZ, ATL, CAR, PIT, CLE

Away Games: NYG, NO, BAL, TB, CIN

The Lions snuck into the playoffs last year with a 9-7 record and were promptly defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Detroit finished the season on a four game losing streak in which the defense allowed 377.5 yards and 29 points per game.

In the offseason the team focused on strengthening the defense by adding linebacker Paul Worrilow, defense end Cornelius Washington, corner DJ Hayden, tackle Akeem Spence and drafting Jarrad Davis with their first pick. An improved defense will help but there are underlying statistics that don’t look good for Detroit.

The Lions won zero games against playoff teams last year. The team finished with a negative point differential (indicative of a losing team) and Matthew Stafford engineered eight fourth quarter game-winning drives, tying a record for most in a season (that isn’t repeatable).

According to our simulations the Lions take a step back in 2017 by going 7-9 (occurs 20.3% of the time). The Vegas win total is 8 games. There is a 62.5% chance the team wins eight or fewer games giving value to taking the UNDER (-150).


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Minnesota Vikings

2016 Record: 8-8

Home Games: NO, TB, BAL, LAR, CIN

Away Games: PIT, CLE, WAS, ATL, CAR

The 2016 season was a roller coaster of emotions for Vikings fans. First the team lost Pro Bowl quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a severe knee injury and then face of the franchise Adrian Peterson went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2. Minnesota was able to trade for former first overall pick Sam Bradford and the early returns looked promising. The Purple and Gold started the season 5-0 but won just three more games the rest of the season. The Vikes became just the sixth team to win its first five games of the season and miss the playoffs.

Bradford will start again this year after setting a career high with 3,877 passing yards and establishing a new NFL record for completion percentage. However, the offense ranked 28th in total yards and was bottom ten in points per game. The defense also took a step back last year ranking in the middle of the pack in DVOA.

The team made moves to improve the offensive line and the running game. The Vikings are hoping the defense looks more like the 2015 version than what we saw last year but Bradford is a known quantity and most teams with an average quarterback don’t make the playoffs.

After 10,000 simulations of the 2017 season, Minnesota’s average record is 8-8, which occurs 20.4% of the time.

The season win total for the Vikes is 8.5. There is a 54.9% chance the team wins eight or fewer games giving slight value to the UNDER (-115).

Chicago Bears

2016 Record: 3-13

Home Games: ATL, PIT, CAR, SF, CLE

Away Games: TB, BAL, NO, PHI, CIN

Injuries once again doomed the Bears’ season. An NFL-high 19 players were on the injured reserve list by the end of the season and Chicago started the year 0-3 for the second consecutive season. The combination of Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley led the team to a 3-13 record, the worst mark for the franchise since 1978.

The Bears enter 2017 in rebuild mode. The team signed Mike Glennon to be a stopgap at quarterback after releasing longtime starter Jay Cutler. Chicago then traded up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky who they hope is the franchise quarterback of the future. Da Bears have questions at the most important position on the field and were below average in offense and defense efficiency last season. The question is how bad will this year be?

There is just a 14.1% chance the team finishes .500 or better. The most likely result is a five win season (20.9% of the time), which would be an improvement on last year’ campaign.

The oddsmakers have set the team’ win total at 5.5 games. There is a 49.2% chance the team wins six or more games and at +135 odds there is value on the OVER.

NFC North Division Odds

The Packers have flaws but the NFC North is theirs to lose. After 10,000 simulations, Green Bay wins the division for a sixth time in seven years. Yet, at -225 odds there is no value on the Cheeseheads.

TeamOddsProjected Chance (%)
Packers-22565.2
Vikings+35020.7
Lions+68512
Bears+33002.3

Check back tomorrow when we review the AFC North.