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NFC North Betting Tips

By Peter Brooks in Tips & Tricks / Strategies
| September 1, 2017 12:00 am PDT
|

The 2017/18 NFL season is upon us, and live regular season action is so close you can almost taste it. Undoubtedly, the temptation for impatient gamblers will be to wager money on the outcome of preseason games.

But always remember: friends don’t let friends gamble on the outcomes of NFL preseason games. They are more like practices than they are like games, and less predictable than betting on NFL practices (if such a thing were possible).

To help tide you over into the regular season, we’ve assembled a crop of betting tips, organized by division. By reading our insights and following our advice, you’ll be well-equipped to surge into the regular season and make profitable wagers.  Notice we said regular season and not preseason.

In this edition, we focus on the NFC North, and comment on the following gambling storylines:

  • Whether to wager money on individual Packer skill players for offensive awards.
  • Why the Lions are getting gypped by odds-makers and deserve more consideration by gamblers.
  • Mitchell Trubisky’s odds of winning Offensive Rookie of the Year (spoiler: they’re not good).
  • The case for the Packers to be one of the teams in your stable of future and postseason bets.
  • Reasons why you should stay away from gambling on the Vikings early in the regular season.
  • Why we’re intrigued by the Bears’ over in the win total betting, and whether there’s good value.

With these tips, get your fix of NFL gambling and try to stay strong until the regular season arrives. Remember: friends don’t let friends wager on the outcome of NFL preseason games.

Avoid All Individual Packer Players

The Packers under Aaron Rodgers have had a dynamic offense for each of the past several seasons. Last season, for example, Packers #1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson won Comeback Player of the Year for catching the most touchdown passes in the league after missing last year with a torn ACL, and #2 wide receiver Davante Adams ended up tied for second in the league in touchdowns at the same time.

On the one hand, it’s not surprising that the Packers have a lot of offensive players flooding the betting pools for various touchdown and yardage bets.

However, it can be surprising to see the odds that these players get. The reason for this? Traditionally, the Packers’ large fan base is a little overactive when sports gambling which drives the odds out of whack in strange but predictable ways. Specifically, odds can be much lower than you would expect, because a disproportionate amount of action is placed on players who do not deserve it.

The reason that these players don’t deserve the odds that they get has nothing to do with talent or production. As we mentioned, Packer players regularly top the charts at the end of the season.

But the reason why they don’t deserve to top the charts at the beginning of the season (despite the fact that they may land on top in the end) is that it’s darn near impossible to predict where the production is going to come from in Green Bay. The Packers are a spread offense, and Aaron Rodgers prides himself on his ability to get the ball to a variety of different players in every game. The man who gets the production is simply the man who gets open.

Last season, these two players were Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. But before last season started, it was Packers #3 receiver Randall Cobb who was believed to be headed for a banner season. In short, you simply never know where the production is going to come from in Green Bay.

Because it’s hard to predict who will produce in the Packers spread offense, and because the odds are driven down by the Packers’ overactive fan base, avoid betting on individual Packer players.

And remember – this includes Aaron Rodgers. They’ll score in any way they can, with or without him.

Lions a Phenomenal Sleeper

In terms of divisional odds, the NFC North betting is influenced every year by the massive, overactive Packer fan base, which drives down the odds. Generally, what this means is that one of the other three teams in the division often receives a corresponding boost, making their odds much more valuable than they otherwise would have been.

In 2017/18, we like capitalizing on this boost in the odds by laying money on the Detroit Lions.

We believe that it is obvious why the Lions are a good pick this season. The team won 9 games and made the playoffs last season despite having a leaky offensive line that forced their offense to become one-dimensional. Their 2nd-year GM from New England immediately remedied this in the offseason, going out and nabbing two of the top offensive line free agents, tackle Ricky Wagner and guard T. J. Lang.

Despite this obvious and immediate improvement (not to mention the fact that the team has an easier schedule in 2017/18 than it did in 2016/17), the gambling public seems to be thinking the opposite about Detroit.

The Lions started out getting even odds to win more than 8 games. Then, the gambling public pushed the betting down to -105 in the early portion of the offseason, showing confidence in Detroit. Subsequently, however, their odds surged back up to +150, demonstrating a complete reversal of public opinion.

We believe there is good value at +150 for the Lions to win over 8 games, and we’re intrigued by the potential value of their odds at +300 to make the playoffs and +600 to win the division. Both the Lions and the Vikings are unlikely to win the division (the Packers will likely win), but we believe it is absolute nonsense that the Lions are getting worse odds than the Vikings to take the division from Green Bay.

In fact, if the Lions somehow surge and come out of nowhere to win 11 games, we wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Caldwell ends up pulling off Coach of the Year (a great sleeper pick in itself at +5000).

The Vikings may have a flashy new rookie running back.  They may have a “new-look” offense with no Adrian Peterson. It may take another full offseason for Sam Bradford to become comfortable with the scheme.  But the fact remains that the issues the team had last year are not going to go away.

Sam Bradford set an NFL record last year with a 71.6% completion percentage, surpassing the mark set by Drew Brees at 71.2%. However, it’s not widely advertised that Bradford’s record stands despite the fact that his average yards per completion ended up at 7.0. To give some perspective, the next three most accurate seasons in NFL history all ended up with at least a full yard more per attempt.

In short, Bradford and the Vikings need to realize that the short passing game is doomed in an NFL that is now littered with super fast hybrid defensive backs who play up in the box and sub in constantly.

The Lions have made huge improvements on the offensive line, and it is nonsense that the Vikings should be favored over the Lions.

Detroit is the second-best option to win the NFC North, after Green Bay, and their win total over/under offers great value at +150 over 8 games.

Mitch Trubisky for Offensive Rookie of the Year

From our view, the Bears seemed to be doing everything right – until August of 2017.

Of course, no one would say that the Chicago Bears’ organization hoped to win only 3 games in the 2016/17 season. But we feel it would be fair to say that they expected as much. Over the last three seasons, savvy Bears GM Ryan Pace has been slowly and steadily rebuilding the team in the right way, acquiring young, talented players through the draft and eschewing big-name free agent pickups.

Pace then followed the NFL Franchise Rebuilding Blueprint to the letter this past offseason, shipping out the poisonous Jay Cutler to fully turn over a new leaf and start a fresh new chapter in the organization’s history.

Bringing in Mike Glennon in free agency, Pace gave the fans a player to be excited about; a player to rally around. Then, by trading away a frustrating amount of draft selections to make a desperate gamble for Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd overall pick, Pace went all in on the young man, giving the fans hope that Trubisky would ultimately become the quarterback of the future.

Once again, this is textbook franchise-rebuilding. The fans need someone they can believe in, otherwise, they’ll chew off the GM’s head. However, a franchise quarterback needs time to learn an NFL scheme and gain NFL experience outside of the pressure-cooker that is being a 16-game starting quarterback in the NFL. This is why you need the rookie franchise savior to sit on the bench behind a competent starter.

So, once again, we feel that over the course of the past few offseasons, the Bears were doing everything right – until August of 2017. All signs seemed positive – Mike Glennon was installed as the starter, and even threw a pick-6 on his first drive as a Bear, making fans feel right at home – as if Jay Cutler had never left – and solidifying his roster spot for the next 5 years.

But then, Chicago named Mitch Trubisky the starter for their next preseason game, putting into question everything that they had built thus far. If Trubisky became the starter going into the season, the whole structure that Ryan Pace had built could come crashing down.

At precisely this point, Mitch Trubisky’s odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year received a huge bump – all the way from +1600 (near the back of the pack) to +1000 (the third-best odds in the pool). The gambling public believed that if Trubisky was named the 16-game starter in Chicago, he would stand a fair chance of winning the award.

Trubisky came out looking very good in this start. However, Mike Glennon responded in kind, playing significantly better on his end. Importantly, the official word from the organization was that Glennon remains the regular season starter, and that starting Trubisky was simply a gambit intended to increase the competition between the two young quarterbacks, and bring out the best in them.

The point is this: We believe that savvy Bears GM Ryan Pace is too intelligent to risk jeopardizing the investment he made in Mitch Trubisky by starting him in his rookie season.

Despite Trubisky starting a preseason game, we believe that Glennon will be the regular season starter. So make sure that you don’t waste any capital wagering on Mitch Trubisky for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Add the Packers to Your Future Bets

Above we discussed the reason why the Packers’ individual players should be avoided in terms of future bets. One of the two primary reasons we discussed was that Green Bay has so many offensive weapons that it’s darn near impossible to predict where the production will come from.

However, it’s important to note that even though it’s unclear which individual players will shine, the fact remains that the team’s offense is still expected to be good, and the team itself should be in the running to compete for a Super Bowl once again.

In other words, even though we recommend avoiding the individual players, we definitely recommend betting on the team itself and adding the Green Bay Packers to your stable of future bets.

The Packers have become a well-oiled machine in the Aaron Rodgers era, with their streak of 9 consecutive playoff appearances matched by only the New England Patriots. Every season, the Packers are considered a favorite in the Super Bowl betting. Most of this is well-deserved, and only a small portion of it is because the large Green Bay fan base bets on their team with too little reservation.

So the Packers have proven themselves to be one of the most bankable teams in the game in the long term. And in the short term, 2017/18 looks particularly good for Aaron Rodgers’ team. Despite losing last year’s star tight end Jared Cook in free agency, the Packers responded by bringing in recent Super Bowl champion Martellus Bennett and local hero Lance Kendricks to fill the void at tight end.

The Packers spent a good portion of their early-round draft capital shoring up a defensive secondary unit that had been the team’s Achilles heel in 2016/17, and brought back a former draft pick free agent in Davon House to provide some additional veteran leadership for that group.

And finally, the team addressed its only major hole (caused by the departure of Pro Bowl right guard T. J. Lang in free agency) by bringing in an established veteran and perennial Pro Bowler in the Saints’ Jahri Evans. With this move, Packers GM Ted Thompson guaranteed yet another year of spectacular offensive line play.

In addition, the advanced statistics tell us that there was no bluster about the Packers’ 10 wins last season, and we also see that the Packers schedule does not increase or decrease in difficulty. There’s no reason to believe that the Packers should be worse this season, and plenty of reason they should be better.

The biggest reason Green Bay struggled so much during November of last season was not the fact that they had injuries – every team has injuries. The reason they struggled was that they had terrible positional luck with injuries. Instead of being spread out across multiple units, the Packers lost their top three running backs and their top five cornerbacks.

Assuming that lightning won’t strike twice in the same place, the Packers should be much more equipped to handle the constant threat of injury in 2017/18 than they were last season.

In summary, the Green Bay Packers are among the better options for all postseason bets, including Super Bowl, NFC Championship, and NFC North winner.

Go ahead and add Green Bay into the mix when you’re betting futures.

Vikings a Stayaway in the Early Going

The two biggest changes that the Vikings made over the course of the offseason were to revamp their backfield and to build a scheme around Sam Bradford.

In the backfield, the Vikings parted ways with Adrian Peterson and his gargantuan contract, acquired serviceable free agent Latavius Murray from Oakland, and brought in exciting rookie running back Dalvin Cook (who is currently getting +5000 to win most rushing yards and +900 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year).

In terms of offensive scheme, the Vikings aren’t really changing much of anything. But given the fact that Sam Bradford came in for the injured Teddy Bridgewater less than a week before the team’s first regular season game last year, a whole offseason to learn the Vikings’ scheme and a whole preseason to develop chemistry with the Vikings’ receivers will undoubtedly help.

However, while all of this may seem to indicate that the team should be better in 2017/18 than they were in 2016/17 (and while they may well be better), it’s important to note that these changes also mean that the Minnesota Vikings are built to perform in the preseason.

Think about it: the Vikings are eager to see practice snaps from both starting quarterback Sam Bradford and putative starting running back Dalvin Cook. This means that both players are likely to stay in preseason games longer than they would otherwise, ending up matched up against the other team’s scrubs and making themselves look better.

In addition, the offense that the Vikings have constructed around Sam Bradford – the short passing game – could just have easily been constructed intentionally to perform well in the preseason, when defensive players cycle in and out almost every play, and the dink-and-dunk approach works to perfection.

All of this combines to put interested gamblers in serious danger of overestimating the Viking’s true capabilities. It must be remembered that last season, despite being the last remaining undefeated team at 5–0, the Vikings ended up winning only 3 of their remaining 11 games, in large part because their offense became predictable and teams figured out how to stop their short passing game.

There certainly are legitimate signs that the Vikings could be much improved in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17.

But we recommend staying away from betting on the Vikings for the first month of the regular season.

Let’s wait and see if the improvements are real, or if it’s just flash in the pan.

Bears +105 to Win Over 5.5 Games

Above, in discussing Mitch Trubisky’s odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, we made the case that Chicago Bears’ GM Ryan Pace (now entering his fourth season with the team) has done a phenomenal job in the early stages of rebuilding a franchise that had become the laughingstock of the NFL under Jay Cutler.

Over the last three offseasons, the Bears have consistently gotten younger, which made for a rather flummoxing product on the field for Bears fans (with inexperienced players making a host of mistakes), but which simultaneously meant a huge investment of live game action for a young corps of players who could blossom into competent NFL starters.

Right on cue, Ryan Pace effectively began a new chapter in the team’s history by making a complete change at quarterback, bringing in a new set of faces to serve as Face of the Franchise. Jay Cutler was let go, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley were sent to San Francisco, Mike Glennon was brought in from Tampa Bay, Mitch Trubisky was drafted at great cost with the 2nd overall pick in the draft, and the butt-fumbler himself, Mark Sanchez, was brought in as another veteran backup to help coach up the young man.

In this context, the Bears have two main things going for them. First, simple improvement with age. When a team is very young, and it retains its young players, (assuming those young players are quality) they will undoubtedly improve simply with experience. Second, improvement with attitude. By bringing in a new crop of quarterbacks, Ryan Pace completely changed the culture of the team, giving the players a new banner to fight under, and reinvesting the fan base into a completely new identity.

Both factors give us confidence that even if it would be impossible for the Bears to jump from a 3-win season to a winning season, they’re still headed for dramatic improvement. After all, the statistics tell us that the Bears played more like a 5-win team last season anyway, and their strength of schedule remains the same as last season, with the 12th-easiest crop of opponents in the league.

With positive odds for the over (indicating that few gamblers know what we know about the Bears) and a conservative win total at 5.5 (we think it possible that the Bears could win 7 games), in our estimation the Bears’ over is one of our best future bets of the 2017/18 season. Their odds to win over 5.5 games started at +110, then went all the way up to +135, and are now back down to +105.

Monitor the Bears’ win total over/under odds, and pounce on the over once it slides back up towards +150.

When Mike Glennon is named the official starter, the gambling public will jump ship. But stay the course: regardless of who plays QB, the Bears will be better in 2017/18.

No matter how the 2017/18 season plays out, we’ve given you food for thought for betting on the NFC North this year.  And remember: friends don’t let friends wager on the outcome of NFL preseason games.

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