NFC North betting: Action down on Packers, up on Vikings … Wait, what?

Monday, 26 July 2021 14:08 EST

2021 Green Bay Packers bettingMaybe State Farm should have taken out a policy on the 2021 Green Bay Packers’ chances. With Green Bay management and starting QB/insurance pitchman Aaron Rodgers continuing in their game of chicken, the Packers’ odds in the “To Win Super Bowl LVI” proposition bet are steadily lengthening while the handle on the Minnesota Vikings increases.

But if you ask NFLbets, both trends are foolish.

First, there’s the decreasing confidence in the Packers. If the premise regarding The Pack is grounded in the return of Rodgers to the team, why would the front office’s continues recalcitrance to make a trade *increase* Green Bay’s odds? At this point, the smart money (so to speak) is on Rodgers returning to the team in time for the regular season at least.

In addition, the opportunities to get players of immediate impact in exchange for Rodgers must certainly be decreasing daily. Seriously, what’s the best value they could get for Rodgers at this point? A mid-first round draft pick? DeShaun Watson, who’s likely to be spending as much time in attorneys’ offices as in practice?

Then there’s the money coming in on the Vikings. At one representative online sportsbook – for the sake of anonymity, NFLbets will refer to them as “Draft Duel” – the odds table in the “To Win NFC North” prop look like so.

Minnesota Vikings, +125
Green Bay Packers, +175
Chicago Bears, +330
Detroit Lions, +1800

Aside from the fact that those 5/4 odds on the Vikes represent some seriously crummy value, particularly for a 7-9 team that made few significant offseason changes. DT Dalvn Tomlinson and CB Petrick Peterson are fine additions for a defense which ranked 29th in points allowed last season, but can these two alone account for the 2 to 3 more wins that Minnesota will probably need to win this division?

2021 Minnesota Vikings bettingOn the offensive side, the Vikings put up some gaudy-looking numbers, particularly in the running game and especially due to Dalvin Cook going for a ridiculous 1,557 yards on 5.0 yards per carry in 14 games. Rookie WR Justin Jefferson was as impressive as any receiver in the NFL in 2020, and together with Adam Thielen combined for 2,325 yards and 21 TDs; the only more productive tandem was the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill because Mahomes.

Which brings us to the real crux of matters: Kirk Cousins. With all the potential for regression to the mean – e.g. Cook coming off a 300-carry season, Jefferson in his second year, etc. – NFLbets would be most concerned about the Vikings QB.

In Cousins’s first season with Mike Zimmer and Minnesota, Cousins enjoyed his finest season statistically. Though 2019 ended in the postseason for the Vikings and Cousins had Stefon Diggs to throw to, the stats continued in decline – even against a schedule with just four games against playoff teams, including two versus Green Bay. And last season, the Minnesota passing offense dropped to the bottom half of the league as the defense was nonexistent.

Finally, consider the Vikings’ 2020 season: After getting off to a 1-5 start, Minnesota briefly looked impressive on a 5-1 run – albeit including five against eventual non-playoff teams – before stumbling to the exits on a 1-3 streak. NFLbets hasn’t crunched the numbers (to be honest, we can’t imagine how to efficiently do so), but we’d guess the success rate of teams ending the previous season on a downturn is pretty low. Especially without significant changes.

In short, to win this division (again presumably requiring a mark of 9-8 or so), the 2021 Minnesota Vikings will have to get some breaks – and when has this franchise ever gotten a break to go its way…?

So NFLbets is declaring “nope” on both the Packers and the Vikings in a division-winner prop, at least until the outcome of the Rodgers situation is settled. The only decent value, and therefore the best bet here, is to take the Chicago Bears to win the NFC North at +330. We’ve already got the Bears at 10-8 SU in 2021, anyway…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.