The NFL has wrapped up training camp and Labor Day Monday means Week 1 is upon us. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans kick off the 2020 NFL season on Thursday, and then we get a full slate on Sunday and Monday to get the season underway.
This is a different kind of year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no in-person workouts during the spring offseason program and the entire preseason game schedule was canceled. It makes assessing each team a little more difficult heading into a season that may or may not play to a full completion.
It will be particularly difficult to figure out which teams will over- or under-perform expectations. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie.
Below are DraftKings Sportsbook win totals for the four teams in the NFC North. A year ago, the Packers held off the Vikings, finishing 13-3 to Minnesota’s 10-6. The Bears followed at 8-8 while the Lions finished in the cellar at 3-12-1.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 7.5 wins for the Bears, the payout is -130 (you bet $130 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +107 (you bet $100 to win $107). That means the over is the favorite.
Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not.
We took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter.
Minnesota Vikings: 9 (+123, -150) — Daily Norseman
Why over: The Vikings are a well rounded team, with a competent quarterback, strong group of running backs, a proven No. 1 receiver and capable defense. Consistency has kept them in the thick of the playoff race lately and that’s what they’re hoping for once again this year. They’ll need some young players to step up defensively, but adding Yannick Ngakoue to a defensive line that lost some key players is a great move that could get them over the hump. — Chet Gresham
Why under: The Vikings took some hits this offseason, as they lost WR Stefon Diggs, DT Linval Joseph, CB Trae Waynes, DE Everson Griffen and DT Michael Pierce. Those are significant losses that the team hasn’t done much to counter. Their depth has taken a hit and if they have any bad injury luck, they will be severely hampered. — Chet Gresham
Green Bay Packers: 8.5 (-143, +116) — Acme Packing Company
Why over: The Packers went 13-3 with a rookie head coach last year and returns 17 or 18 starters, depending on how you define the base personnel. Though they may have overachieved with that record relative to their point differential, a second-year improvement within Matt LaFleur’s offense and development of some young playmakers on both sides of the ball should be enough to keep them around double-digit wins. Oh, and that Aaron Rodgers guy showed he still has it in crunch time during last year’s Divisional Playoff win.
Why under: Perhaps no team has been due for a bigger regression than this Packers squad, which went 8-1 in one-score games a year ago. Taking that to a .500 record doesn’t get you under the 8.5 number, but consider that the defense also overperformed on third downs and was high up on the interceptions leaderboard, a stat that has lots of variance year-to-year. And sure, Rodgers can still pull magic out of a hat, but his numbers have been “merely” good for three years — not at Rodgers level — and the team basically gave him no new receiving weapons in a draft that seemingly had talented wideouts in ample supply. A little slippage on defense and less-favorable results in close games could make this a .500 team.
Detroit Lions: 6.5 (-155, +127) — Pride of Detroit
Why over: Health was a problem for the Lions last season, as they started 3-3-1 with Matthew Stafford playing well, but went 0-8 after Stafford was injured. In those three losses, one was a close game where they lost by four-points to the Chiefs and another was a one-point loss in Green Bay. Add in a dynamic pass catcher like D’Andre Swift out of the backfield and a healthy Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson, and the over looks good. — Chet Gresham
Why under: I’m much more bullish on the over, but the history of Stafford and the Lions hasn’t given Lions fans much hope and hitting seven wins is never a given. Defensively, the Lions still aren’t the most talented group in the league, making each win tough, even if the offense is clicking. — Chet Gresham
Chicago Bears: 7.5 (-130, +107) — Windy City Gridiron
Why over: Considering the Bears went 8-8 in 2019 with one of the worst offenses in the NFL, and some of the worst quarterback play as well, there’s no way this team falls even further back again. Nick Foles isn’t an all-star, but he can efficiently run the offense to complement their top 10 defense.
Why under: If Foles falters or is hurt, and if Mitchell Trubisky proves to be the same guy as a year ago, then expecting the defense to pull this team to another .500 season will be a recipe for disaster. Like most teams in the NFL, the Bears will only go as far as the quarterback takes them.
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