With or without Aaron Rodgers, the folks in the desert didn’t give the Green Bay Packers much of a chance to win the NFC North on 2023.
Before it became clear that Rodgers’ time in Green Bay was over, Fanduel gave the Packers the third-best odds to win the division at +340. Now, with Rodgers expected to be playing for the New York Jets in 2023, Green Bay’s odds are at +410.
What is fascinating, though, is Fanduel believes the Packers will finish last in the NFC North. The last time that happened was 2005, when Green Bay went 4-12. In fact, the Packers have been either first or second in the division 14 of the past 17 years and third just three times (2008, 2017, 2018).
Fanduel currently has Detroit as the divisional frontrunner at +130. The Lions haven’t won the NFC North since 1993.
Minnesota, which won the division by four games in 2022, is picked for second at +310. Chicago, which had the worst record in the NFL last year (3-14) has the third-lowest odds at +320, followed by Green Bay (+410).
Here’s a look at the NFC North, with Rodgers likely to be out of the division for the first time in 19 years.
The Lions haven’t won a divisional crown since 1993, but could be poised to capture their first title in three decades.
Detroit began the 2022 season 1-6 and coach Dan Campbell found himself on the hot seat. But the Lions won eight of their final 10 games, narrowly missed the playoffs and could be one of the NFL’s most dangerous teams in 2023.
Detroit has added cornerbacks Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in free agency. That should immediately help upgrade a defense that ranked last in yards (392.4) and 30 th in points allowed (25.1) in 2022.
Detroit also has the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft, one it acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in the Matthew Stafford trade, and its own first round pick at No. 18. In addition to those picks, the Lions should get a full season out of second-year wideout Jameson Williams, the 12th overall pick in the 2022 draft who missed most of his rookie year with a torn ACL.
The offense ranked fourth in total yards (380.0) last year and fifth in points per game (26.6). And now, the defense should be much improved.
“We like the foundation we have with a young core,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. “We have a culture in place that people can thrive in. I believe that we’re headed in the right direction, but we obviously still have a lot more work to do. That work has long since started. But again, our approach remains the same.”
The Vikings won the division by four games last year, but have just the second-best odds for 2023. That’s largely because Minnesota was 11-0 in one score games during the regular season, before losing a one score game in the playoffs.
Minnesota has lost defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, cornerback Patrick Peterson, linebacker Eric Kendricks and wideout Adam Thielen in free agency. On the flip side, the Vikings added defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and Dean Lowry, tight end Josh Oliver and cornerback Byron Murphy.
Is that enough stay at the top of the division?
Oddsmakers say no.
“There’s no one right way,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said of building his roster. “I think what you want to do, obviously you want to make sure that you build in the draft because the access to the best players – the players with the best ceilings – typically is in the draft, right?
“Free agency does happen, and there are some players that shake free in free agency, but now every team wants that guy. Now that’s a competitive market, and now the prices got a little bit higher. Now in the draft, you have a chance to get them, build them in your building, build the culture with them.”
The Bears are coming off a 3-14 season and had a roster that was lacking everywhere.
But Chicago could be the most improved team in football next year after making several free agency splashes, as well as the NFL’s biggest trade this offseason.
Chicago had more money to spend in free agency than any team in football, and has done just that. The Bears added linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, guard Nate Davis and tight end Robert Tonyan.
Chicago also traded the No. 1 pick in April’s draft to Carolina for Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, the No. 9 pick and a second-round pick this year, a 2024 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2025.
Moore and Tonyan give promising quarterback Justin Fields weapons he didn’t have last season. The defense, which ranked 32 nd in scoring last year, should be improved.
Chicago remains $41 million under the salary cap and could still make a handful of free agency splashes. The Bears also have three picks in the first two rounds of April’s draft.
“When you get pieces to the puzzle and start fitting them in, free agency first and then the draft, certainly that’s going to adjust through the offseason,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’re excited about doing that. We have a lot of good coaches. They do a great job of adjusting. And we’re excited to get that done.”
The Packers are coming off an 8-9 campaign, their first losing season since Matt LaFleur arrived in 2019. Now, Green Bay will have a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2008.
The Packers believe Jordan Love is ready. And Aaron Rodgers was the picture of mediocrity in 2022.
The Packers have taken some lumps in free agency, losing defensive linemen Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed, wideout Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan. Green Bay did re-sign return ace Keisean Nixon and a potential starting safety in Tavarius Moore.
While oddsmakers think the Packers are heading backwards, Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst feels differently.
“I believe in our group, I really do,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “I think every year’s new and this is a hard league but I believe in the players – certainly there’s going to be change within our roster, there’s no doubt about that – but I believe in the organization, how we do things.
“I believe in the process. Sometimes things don’t go your way and you look at it and you’ve got to be able to tweak things, but I believe in the people in this building and I’m excited for 2023.”