NFL Betting Odds: NFC North Predictions 2019

Date | AuthorDanny Vorgs

Last Updated: 2019-08-11

The tumultuous season of the Green Bay Packers, the late year collapse of the Vikings, and the resurgent season of the Chicago Bears were the main storylines within the NFC North last season. Along with the ever rebuilding Detroit Lions, each of these teams was previewed in detail by BTB writer Corey Pabst and can be found here .

All the NFL previews examined the current spread for the 16 upcoming games for each team this season and applied the metric of expected win percentage to each of these lines to arrive at an implied wins total. This number could then be compared to the posted win total for each team. While we certainly know that a lot can (and will) change for all of these teams between late June and say a mid-December game in Week 15, it is a useful exercise to see how each team compares to one another at this stage assuming ideal circumstances for both teams.

As many readers likely know, I maintain a model for the NFL which creates a spread and total for each game that I rely on heavily in my handicapping and writing here at BTB. Therefore, for this series of articles, we thought it would be useful to apply my model spreads to the current lines and implied win totals listed at CG Technologies. As usual, some of these numbers will be in line with Vegas expectations while others will not. For each team, we’ll try to see why we agree or isolate the possible reasons for our divergence.

 

Green Bay Packers

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of June 26, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Chicago

(Thursday Night)

+4 .34 +.5 .50
2 Minnesota -3.5 .64 -7.5 .78
3 Denver -6.5 .72 -8 .79
4 Philadelphia (Thursday Night) -2 .54 -4.5 .67
5 @ Dallas +4 .34 -1.5 .53
6 Detroit   (Monday Night) -7.5 .78 -7.5 .78
7 Oakland -8.5 .8 -11.5 .88
8 @ Kansas City

(Sunday Night)

+7 .25 +4.5 .33
9 @ LA Chargers +3.5 .36 +2 .46
10 Carolina -5.5 .69 -6.5 .72
11 BYE
12 @ San Francisco pk .50 -2 .54
13 @ NY Giants -3.5 .64 -4.5 .67
14 Washington -9 .81 -10 .84
15 Chicago -3 .59 -6.5 .72
16 @ Minnesota

(Monday Night)

+3 .41 +.5 .50
17 @ Detroit -1.5 .53 +1 .49

Win Total (CG Technologies): 9.5 (Over +110 / Under -130)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 8.94
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 10.20

The NFL model is clearly bullish on this year’s Packers! As a dog of more than 3 points in only one game this season, my metric has them as the team to beat in the NFC North and one of the larger variances between the model and posted win total.

A few reasons why:

Aaron Rodgers: Entering his 12th season, 2018 was not was one of Rodgers’s best years. He had a career low in QBR and was sacked a total of 49 times last year. His poor relationship with long-time HC Mike McCarthy came to a head in 2018 and Matt LaFleur will bring some fresh ideas and a clean slate into the coach’s office. While Rodgers may be beginning to approach the downside of his great career, he still ranked in the upper third of many statistical categories and 5th overall in Pro Football Focus’s QB grades (89.7). Not surprisingly, the QB position is the most heavily weighted within the model and therefore continued solid numbers and potentially a bounce-back season aid in padding the Packers QB number within the model.

Home Field Advantage: Lambeau Field has long been regarded as a difficult place to play and (at least in this case) that notion is fully supported by the numbers. Over the past 10 seasons, GB has won over 26% more games at home than on the road and over 75% of all home games over that span. Additionally, they have only one season (2009) in which their average point differential was greater on the road than at home. This adds up to the Pack having the highest HFA in the NFL according to my metrics. This HFA number is likely a little higher than what the posted number factors in for the Cheese Heads and also boasts their model ratings.

The Defense: The signing of the Smiths (Preston and Za’Darius, not the 80’s band) to play the edge rusher positions should be a major upgrade for this team. Paired with a very good defensive line and 3rd year LB Blake Martinez, the Pack should have a very solid front 7 (10th overall) and an improved ability to limit opponents scoring opportunities.

I believe there is a lot of upside potential for this team in 2019. A bit of a wonky schedule is concerning with 6 of the final 9 on the road however I lean to the over at 9.5. If 9 is available at reasonable juice I’d prefer that play, however, the ability to get out well to begin the year (with 5 of the 1st 7 at home), a revitalized Aaron Rodgers, and an improved defense likely leads this team to the NFC North title.

 

Detroit Lions

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of June 26, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Arizona -1 .51 -1.5 .53
2 LA Chargers +4 .34 -.5 .50
3 @ Philadelphia +8 .21 +5.5 .31
4 Kansas City +7 .25 +2.5 .45
5 BYE
6 @ Green Bay

(Monday Night)

+7.5 .22 +7.5 .22
7 Minnesota +1.5 .47 -2 .54
8 NY Giants -3 .59 -4.5 .67
9 @ Oakland +3 .41 -3.5 .64
10 @ Chicago +8 .21 +3.5 .36
11 Dallas +2.5 .45 -1.5 .53
12 @ Washington +2 .46 -1.5 .53
13 Chicago

(Thanksgiving)

+3.5 .36 -1 .51
14 @ Minnesota +8 .21 +3.5 .36
15 Tampa Bay -2.5 .55 -6 .71
16 @ Denver +4.5 .33 +2 .46
17 Green Bay +1 .40 -1 .51

Win Total (CG Technologies): 7 (Over +120 / Under -140)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 6.06
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 7.83

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the preseason NFL model is its high regard for the Detroit Lions. After meekly going just 6-10 last season and with little offseason buzz, I did a double take and needed to recheck the numbers to be sure that there wasn’t some sort of miscalculation with Detroit. Yet, the model sees this Lions team as a .500 group. So why the high grade and do I agree?

Firstly, one of the largest components of a team’s overall grade is its defensive line. For a 4-3 team like the Lions, the top 5 or 6 defensive line players in terms of expected snaps are incorporated into the overall team grade and collectively hold a weight of about 15-20%. Coming from New England, HC Matt Patricia has certainly emphasized the D-line as this Lions team may have one of the most under the radar units we’ve seen in quite a while. Most fans would be familiar with DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison and newly signed free agent DE Trey Flowers however the rest of the expected starting line grades out quite highly. Young interior defenders A’Shawn Robinson and De’Shawn Hand are not household names however both earned elite scores from PFF last season. Both players did only see just over 400 snaps each last season and the surrounding talent at the linebacker position is average at best however the potential is certainly there for this defensive line to make their impact felt this season. Paired with the dependable, high-level play of Darius Slay, newly signed CB Justin Coleman as well as quality veteran S Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson should make the secondary solid as well.

If this Lions defense can play to its potential, it could be a surprise top 5 unit. Given that upside, simply professional play by the offense may be enough to lift this team to 8 wins. The offensive line is a concern however with a good QB in Matt Stafford and an impressive array of skill-position talent, the offense is certainly capable of pulling off a .500 season or better. In what may be the surprise team of the year in the NFC, take the Lions over 7 wins in 2019 and maybe look to sprinkle the “yes” for a playoff berth as well.

 

Minnesota Vikings

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of June 26, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Atlanta -4.5 .67 -2.5 .55
2 @ Green Bay +3.5 .36 +7.5 .22
3 Oakland -7 .75 -9.5 .81
4 @ Chicago +3.5 .36 +3.5 .36
5 @ NY Giants -3 .59 -1.5 .53
6 Philadelphia -2.5 .55 -2 .54
7 @ Detroit -1.5 .53 +2 .46
8 Washington (Thursday Night) -7.5 .78 -7.5 .78
9 @ Kansas City +7 .25 +7.5 .22
10 @ Dallas +3 .41 +1.5 .47
11 Denver -6 .71 -5.5 .69
12 BYE
13 @ Seattle +3 .41 +3.5 .36
14 Detroit -8 .79 -3.5 .64
15 @ LA Chargers +3.5 .36 +4.5 .33
16 Green Bay -3 .59 -.5 .50
17 Chicago -3 .59 -2.5 .55

Win Total (CG Technologies): 9 (Over -120 / Under +100)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 8.70
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 8.01

After very disappointing endings to the past two seasons, the Minnesota Vikings did little to shake things up roster-wise this past offseason. Last season’s big free agency signing, QB Kirk Cousins, will be back to lead the offense with a host of talent at the skill positions. The defense, for its part, should also continue to be the strength of the team as the majority of last year’s unit, which ranked 4th in Defensive DVOA and is currently a top 10 unit according to the model is for the most part back.

The team’s main deficiency for the previous two seasons has been its offensive line. This was addressed via free agency as the Vikings signed Titans G Josh Klein and drafted C Garrett Bradberry in the 1st round. Bradberry has the makings of a Day 1 plug-and-play starter however it is likely that he may see some growing pains early on. Klein had some good years in Tennessee however last season’s PFF grade of 58.0 was the lowest of his career. T Riley Reiff appears to be the best of a still underwhelming unit, however, if Klein returns to form and Bradberry quickly acclimates to the NFL there is reason for optimism.

With a capable QB, excellent talent at the RB and WR positions, as well as a stout defense, many are looking for a bounce-back season from the Vikings. Yet the model sees this team as about an 8-8 outfit despite being buoyed by one of the strongest HFA in the NFL. I’m going to fade the 2019 optimism on the Vikings. Laying -120 for 9 wins seems like a price just a tad too high for this team. I’ll side with the model, fade Captain Kirk, and take the under 9 wins at even (+100) money.

 

Chicago Bears

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of June 26, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Green Bay -4 .66 -.5 .5
2 @ Denver +1 .49 +1 .49
3 @ Washington (Monday Night) -2.5 .55 -2.5 .55
4 Minnesota -3.5 .64 -3.5 .64
5 Oakland (London) -6 .71 -6 .71
6 BYE
7 New Orleans -1 .51 +2.5 .45
8 LA Chargers -3 .59 -.5 .5
9 @ Philadelphia +3 .41 +4.5 .33
10 Detroit -8 .79 -3.5 .64
11 @ LA Rams +5.5 .31 +4.5 .33
12 NY Giants -10 .84 -5.5 .69
13 @ Detroit (Thanksgiving) -3.5 .64 +1 .49
14 Dallas -4 .66 -2.5 .55
15 @ Green Bay +3 .41 +6.5 .28
16 Kansas City -1 .51 -1.5 .53
17 @ Minnesota +3 .41 +2.5 .45

Win Total (CG Technologies): 9.5 (Over +115 / Under -135)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 9.13
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 8.13

The Chicago Bears were a team I was a year early on in 2017. They had a lot of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball in place but a rookie quarterback and a ton of injuries held them to just 5 wins that year. Last season everything fell into place for the Monsters of the Midway. 2018 saw QB Mitchell Trubisky take a step forward in many statistical categories, injury luck regressed to the mean, and the addition of Edge LB Kalil Mack help propel the Bears to the NFC North title. This year, however, the NFL model believes the betting market is a bit too high on the Bears as the implied CG Technologies wins and the model’s implied wins differ by exactly one game. Let’s look at why.

In what could be called the “anti-Aaron Rodgers effect”, Chicago’s grade is most hurt by Trubisky. While it is true that he did improve in many ways compared to his rookie year, his PFF score actually ticked down a bit (66.4 to 63.6) last season. Whether this slight decline is due to a higher percentage of safer throws in HC Matt Nagy’s offense or a greater percentage of inaccurate “big time” throws would require greater investigation however the point remains that at least according to one well-regarded metric, Trubisky’s improvement in traditional statistics may not be all that it appears. Being a bottom third-ranked QB in a model that solely weights the QB position nearly as much as a team’s front seven will certainly put a cap on said team’s grade and this is clearly the case with the Bears.

With the core of their defense back in 2019, this unit is the clear strength of the Bears. Some minor reshuffling occurred in the secondary this offseason as S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix replaces Adrian Amos and CB Buster Skrine steps in for Bryce Callahan however the linebackers and defensive line remain unchanged from a season ago. The loss of the highly regarded DC Vic Fangio to Denver, however, may be bigger than any personal changes. The Bear defense was #1 by a healthy margin in Defensive DVOA in 2018 however the loss of Fangio and the fact that defensive efficiency sees greater variance from season to season then does offense would suggest that some regression on this side of the ball can be expected. Despite these concerns, Chicago’s D rightfully ranks 1st overall according to the model.

Last season the Chicago Bears earned 12.23 Pythagorean win which fell right in line with their 2018 win total of 12. Yet last year they played a 4th place schedule in a down year for their division. This season, they will deal with higher expectations, tougher competition, and the loss of a talented defensive coordinator. Throw in an iffy QB and the hangover of the devastating “Double Doink” playoff loss and I don’t see this team going over the posted total. Lay the juice and take the Bears under the 9.5 wins for this season.

 

Final Thoughts

While I’m still combing through the numbers in preparation for 2019 it appears that the NFC North will likely come out as the strongest division in the NFL (a buddy who bases his model weights on the salary cap also drew similar conclusions). Therefore it is entirely possible from my perspective to see all four teams from this division winning 7 or 8 games this season. While this could result in these division foes knocking one another out of playoff contention and having only one representative in the NFC playoffs come January, I believe there is some value on nearly all of them (Chicago excluded) in making the playoffs. I’d consider taking a shot on Detroit (+500), Minnesota (+120) and, Green Bay (-110) to make the playoffs and a taste of Green Bay for the division (+195) and Super Bowl (+2000) as well.

(Editor’s note: As the division previews get posted throughout the week, we’ll link to them at the bottom of the page. Read Danny’s thoughts on the AFC EAST, AFC NORTH, AFC SOUTH, AFC WEST, NFC EAST, NFC SOUTH, and NFC WEST by clicking the appropriate link.)

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