Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ramblings and Gambling Series: Regular Season Over Under – NFC North

Next up in our series, the NFC North! Minnesota will attempt to make another run with Favre after coming up just short last year, but a strong preseason from Green Bay is making this division look like a two horse race. Chicago and Detroit are ill-equipped to face the weaponry that Green Bay and Minnesota can bring to bear. The NFC North also ended up with one of the toughest schedules in football, but it doesn’t mean we can just put the entire division down for an under.

Ramblings and Gambling:

By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA

NFC North

NFC North Non-Division Opponents: 

Chicago Bears Over/Under: 8.0
Pick: Under

The arrival of Mike Martz has made Chicago’s players trendy fantasy targets, but I’m not convinced fantasy production will translate to wins for the Bears. The NFC North is going to be a tough division this year, with Minnesota and Green Bay both looking like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Lions have also improved substantially this off-season. The Bears, however, were hindered by a lack of draft picks. Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor were key free agent signings, and the Bears could have a defense resembling their 2006 season. The offense, though, is pinning its hopes on a young group of receivers, interception prone Jay Cutler, and mad scientist Mike Martz. It remains to be seen how effective they will be.
There are simply too many tough opponents on this schedule to see Chicago coming up with 8 wins. Within the division, they are clearly overmatched by the Packers and Vikings. Detroit boasts an improved offense and may even be able to challenge the Bears for third in the division. Consequently, I have a hard time seeing the Bears do better than 2-4 or 3-3 in the division. As if that weren’t bad enough, the non-division schedule for Chicago is murderous. Both the AFC and NFC East have three teams that will likely be favored against the Bears, and unless the Chicago defense is rock solid this season, they will have a difficult time keeping up; the offense is young and developing, but not there yet. 8-8 seems more like a stretch goal than a realistic one for this team. Take the under.

Detroit Lions Over/Under: 5.0
Pick: Over

It’s hard not to like Detroit after such a positive off-season. Key additions include Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Nate Burleson, and Tony Scheffler. Shoring up the d-line and adding some offensive weaponry should definitely help the Lions pick up a few of more wins this year. Stafford should also improve this year, and will a have a lot more weaponry at his disposal. Jahvid Best has looked absolutely electric in preseason action so far, and the addition of Burleson and Scheffler will help break Calvin Johnson loose.
While their own division is tough, they can squeak out at least one win (Chicago, perhaps?) and have winnable games against STL, WAS, TB, and BUF. I also get the feeling that this will be a team that gives us a few “any given Sunday” games this year, and pulls down an upset or two. This is a young team with promise, and while they might not be primed for a winning season just yet, they’re ready to come out of the cellar. They should be between 5-7 wins, and I’m taking the over.

Green Bay Packers Over/Under: 9.5
Pick: Over

A trendy Super Bowl pick with an O/U of 9.5? I am confused by the line on this one. Green Bay finished last season with the top-ranked run defense and 5th ranked pass defense. On the offensive side on the ball, they were ranked 7th passing and 14th rushing. This team is loaded with young players on the rise (Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews) and they shored up the offensive line through the draft, which was one of their biggest problems last year. So far in the preseason, the first team offense is averaging 8.4 yards per play. It’s only the preseason, but that is a very impressive number, and shows what kind of potential this offense has this year. In a division where they are going to be fighting Minnesota for the title, four wins or better seems like a given.
Facing the NFC and AFC East, I would anticipate 4 wins at the absolute minimum, and the Packers certainly have a chance against the tougher opponents from those divisions as well. They also get a nice bonus with SF and ATL on the schedule as their as their “wild card” opponents. As long as Green Bay stays healthy this year, they will have no trouble getting 10 or more wins, and this is one of the easier picks this season.

Minnesota Vikings Over/Under: 9.5
Pick: Over

This line seems low to me. Yes, I realize Brett Favre is old, and yes, I realize Sidney Rice will miss a substantial portion of the season. Those still aren’t reasons the Vikings cannot replicate their performance from last season. They still have one of the top defensive units in football, and their offense, which may suffer from the loss of Rice, will still be in the top half of the league. Do not let all of the Chicken Littles out there cause you to over-react.
Having a strong defense and running games means Minnesota can compete with anyone. While the schedule is tough, the only real threat within the division is Green Bay, and I can’t see the Vikings finishing worse than 4-2. That leaves us with 6 more wins to find. They could conceivable get 6 wins out of the NFC and AFC East, though it would be a challenge. 5-3 is more realistic, and fortunately for Minnesota, one of their “wild card” opponents, Arizona, presents a great chance for another win.
It definitely could be close for this team, and if they have injuries to any key offensive player at this point, they very well may have trouble making the over. This isn’t an easy pick, and I will probably stay away, but I would bet on the over.

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