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NFC North Division Winners: Are the Lions Getting Overhyped?

NFL Fantasy



Nick Makowitz

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Now more than ever, the fantasy and betting landscapes are providing a year-round experience for fans, especially when it comes to the NFL. With the advent of best ball and growth of dynasty leagues – plus the explosion of legal sports betting options – casual fantasy players and bettors are no longer waiting until the late summer to catch up and get involved.


Still, summer brings with it an enhanced focus on NFL content. Talk shows, podcasts and Twitter timelines are zeroing in on the upcoming season, fantasy drafts and competitions are ubiquitous, and sportsbooks are taking bets on futures like division, conference and Super Bowl champions.

Throughout June and July, I’ll attempt to satisfy your craving for NFL content by previewing every division. I’ll cover key division storylines, provide a breakdown for each team and give out my pick to win each division.

(Check out the division previews so far: AFC East | NFC East | AFC North)

NFC North Preview

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings ran away with the NFC North, going 13-4 despite finding themselves in close games almost every week. The preseason hype train that was the Detroit Lions rolled to a 9-8 mark thanks to its explosive offense. The Packers stumbled to a third-place finish in the division in what proved to be Aaron Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay, and the Chicago Bears went 3-14, “earning” the first overall pick in the draft under quarterback Justin Fields, who did show serious signs of development.

Entering 2023, the Lions’ hype train has gained even more steam as Detroit is favored to win the NFC North (+145). Following the upstart Lions are last year’s champs, the Vikings (+270), Jordan Love and the Packers (+350) and the rebuilding Chicago Bears (+500). Is the Lions hype too much? Can either Jordan Love or Justin Fields take a leap to be the best quarterback in the division, or could the Vikings still be the team to beat?

Detroit Lions

(FanDuel Sportsbook division title odds: +145)

During their breakout season, the Lions averaged a ridiculous 33 points per game at home and graded out as PFF’s seventh-best offense overall. Unfortunately, the offense struggled away from home (19 points per game) and the defense struggled everywhere (29th per PFF). This season, the offense should continue to hum with Jared Goff under center, especially with receiver Jameson Williams fully healthy. Williams will complement Amon-Ra St. Brown (when available—Williams is suspended for the first six games) and a new duo of running backs – David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs – as they all operate behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

After deploying one of the league’s worst secondaries last season, Detroit acquired a handful of veteran defensive backs in Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to help solve the problem. If the secondary can at least be serviceable, the Lions have a chance to control the division. If not, it may not matter how good the offense is, but I suspect the defense will improve enough to hold its own and help Detroit get back to the playoffs.

Justin Jefferson Minnesota Vikings Fantasy Football NFC North Division Odds

Minnesota Vikings

(FanDuel odds: +270)

The Vikings’ 2022 season was filled with perceived disrespect from oddsmakers as they were often underdogs or only slight favorites despite ending the season 13-4. It was justified though, as Minnesota somehow managed a negative point differential with that record. Now, they’ll have to duplicate 2022’s good fortune without Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Patrick Peterson.

With Justin Jefferson leading the way and rookie Jordan Addison expected to play a significant role opposite him, the offense should still be the team’s strength. The defense allowed over 25 points per game last season – third most in the league – and that won’t be an option again if Minnesota hopes to hold off the Lions from taking over the NFC North. The Vikings seem like a high-floor, low-upside team entering 2023. They won’t be competing for a Super Bowl, but they won’t be a bottom-dweller.

Green Bay Packers

(FanDuel odds: +350)

2022 turned out to be Aaron Rodgers’ last season with the Packers, and it was one of his most underwhelming, as Green Bay finished below .500 for the first time since 2018. Davante Adams was noticeably missing from a receiving corps that played inconsistent football from the jump last season, so the Packers leaned heavily on their two-headed backfield monster of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.

They’ll likely lean on their ground game again this season as Jordan Love transitions from being the seldom-used backup to the starting quarterback. On the outside, he’ll have a talented pair of second-year wideouts in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to throw to. I’m a believer in Jordan Love and think he can get a lot out of the Packers’ offense this season, but will it be more than Rodgers? And will the defense improve enough to make up for that gap between Love and his predecessor? Probably not.

Chicago Bears

(FanDuel odds: +420)

Justin Fields Chicago Bears Fantasy Football NFC North Division Odds

From 10,000 feet, the Bears look a little like last year’s Lions. The personnel, strengths and weaknesses don’t perfectly align, but they figure to be much-improved and a blast to watch. With an electrifying young quarterback in Justin Fields, a trio of playmaking wide receivers and a patched up offensive line, they could be a team that finds itself in shootouts all season long. 

Chicago acquired DJ Moore this offseason in an effort to accelerate Fields’ development, a route that a handful of other teams have taken with their own young QBs. If Fields takes the next step like Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts did when they got legitimate No. 1 receivers, Chicago could challenge for the NFC North title. If he doesn’t, or if the defense is still a massive liability, the Bears could again be closer to the number one pick than the playoffs.


The Pick: Detroit Lions

I hate picking the favorite in a division with this much uncertainty, especially when it’s the Lions, and especially when everyone is on board with it. Still, the Lions addressed a few concerns in the offseason and seemingly took a step forward while the Vikings and Packers took steps back on paper. With the most reliable offense in the division and what should be an improved defense, I’ll take Detroit to win their first division title in 30 years.

Wild Card: Chicago Bears

With Justin Fields at the helm, the Bears’ floor is near where it was last season, but their ceiling is an NFC North title in a division that is seemingly wide open. If he can develop and become a more consistent passer, especially with an improved offensive line and receiving corps, the Bears’ offense could be as dynamic as Detroit’s. If the defense can improve from league-worst to even below-average, the team could take a big step forward.

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