NFC North division winner prediction 2022: Favor Packers, fade Vikings, wake up to Lions

If you're betting on the NFC North division for the 2022 season, here's our analysis of team futures bets for the Packers, Vikings, Lions, and Bears.

Calling all NFL bettors! The NFC North division might be on the verge of crowning a new champion. Or maybe not. Last year, the Packers finished on top for the eighth time in 11 years. But the Vikings were better than their record suggests, the Bears looked rudderless, and injuries ravaged the Lions. Here are the NFL betting lines and which team is the best bet heading into 2022.

NFC North divisional winner prediction for 2022

The following analysis is based on DraftKings’ “Team Futures” betting lines, including the odds as of Aug. 22, 2022. These odds could change during the preseason and assuredly will change in-season. For now, they are based on each team’s most likely win-loss record, beginning with the team with the worst odds.

Chicago Bears (+1500)

I discovered and shared this last summer, and I’ll share it again: the Bears are the only current NFL franchise that’s never had a QB throw for 4,000+ yards or had 30+ TDs. And Justin Fields is unlikely to eclipse either mark this year.

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Sure, there are reasons to be hopeful. Presumably, Fields will start games without looking over his shoulder, waiting to get pulled. He’ll develop. He has to. A new head coach and scheme should help. But Byron Pringle and Velus Jones are not the kind of shock additions to catapult this team into the upper 24 in offense. The Bears remain a rebuilding team which should push them to the bottom of the NFC North.

Detroit Lions (+1000)

This year’s Lions are not your uncle’s Lions — although it depends on how old your uncle is. But this Detroit squad could easily finish above .500. Aside from two contests against Chicago, they’ll face the Jets, Giants, Panthers, Jaguars, and Commanders. They’ll get winnable home games against the Vikings, Dolphins, and Seahawks. That’s 10 contests where they should be no worse than “very competitive.” So before poo-pooing these Lions, consider that the stars have aligned for a better-than-expected season.

Also, consider the incredible rash of injuries that hit them last year. D’Andre Swift missed four games. T.J. Hockenson missed five. Entering last season, two of Jared Goff’s top four receivers were Tyrell Williams (out for the season after Week 1) and Quintez Cephus (out for the season after Week 5). Kalif Raymond — who spent years bouncing between the Broncos, Giants, Jets, and Titans — was thrust into the No. 2 WR role.

If the Packers and Vikings suffer a couple of surprising losses — and just as importantly, if the Lions go at least 1-1 vs. each of them — there’s a realistic scenario that has Detroit winning the division at 10-7, or even 11-6 if everyone stays healthy and Jameson Williams eventually helps transform the passing attack into the top-12-caliber receiving corps it just might be. Yes, I’m talking about a few big “what-ifs.” But this team is built for a big rebound, and the schedule favors 9+ wins. Their odds should be +500 or better, not +1000.

Minnesota Vikings (+260)

What a fascinating team. The Vikings were better last year than their 8-9 record suggests. They lost five games by 4 points or less, and they lost by more than 8 points only once (their final loss of the season in Week 17). Their 2022 season will probably come down to how they fare in the final two weeks in Green Bay and Chicago.

Before then, their schedule is manageable enough to muster 7+ victories. Home tilts against Dallas and Indianapolis could go either way. We’ll get a very good sense of this team in the opening four weeks when they face the Packers, Eagles, Lions, and Saints. A 2-2 start should put them on track for the playoff hunt. A 1-3 start would be almost disastrous. Yes, there’s a thin needle to thread in the AFC North.

Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith form a fantastic nucleus. The Vikings have boasted one of the league’s top-heaviest offenses for years. One of the big questions is whether K.J. Osborn or another tertiary receiving option steps up consistently and whether Cook can stay healthy for at least 16 games. At their betting line, the Vikings are a worse bet to win the division than the Lions at +1000.

Green Bay Packers (-190)

There’s nothing safe about picking the Packers to win yet another NFC North title. But they’re positioned to do it — not just because of their -190 betting line. Despite losing all-world receiver Davante Adams, this team remains fairly stacked, thanks in part to some savvy drafting (Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs). They also have one of the best backfield tandems in the league.

I’m anticipating a relatively down year for Aaron Rodgers statistically. But we shouldn’t assume Green Bay can’t win 11+ games, which should be enough to finish No. 1. Their first seven games should produce 4-5 wins, including against the Bears, Giants, and Jets. Any midseason struggles should be overcome in the final two weeks when they play at home against Minnesota and Detroit. If the NFC North hasn’t been decided before then, Green Bay will be in the driver’s seat.

If you bet on the NFC North, I suggest putting 75% of your dedicated investment on the Packers and 25% on the Lions. If the Packers win it, you’ll pick up a nice net profit. If the Lions win it, you’d make a huge net profit.

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