NFL free agency kicks off in earnest in just under two weeks. With the 2021 salary cap expected to fall from last year’s figure by a significant amount, teams have already begun the process of trimming the fat from their rosters in order to reach compliance before the deadline arrives.
But while free agency will produce considerably player movement as always, some teams will look largely the same due to cap restraints. The recently published divisional odds from DraftKings Sportsbook takes those factors into consideration. These odds provide a deeper look into the perceived hierarchy of each division and how much upside certain teams have within them.
For the NFC North, last year’s standings largely inform the odds-on favorite to take home the division crown, though room for change exists below them.
Green Bay Packers: -278
According to DraftKings, no NFC team has a better outlook to win its division than the Packers do of taking home the NFC North crown. The argument seems strong. The Packers have won the division each of the past two seasons, both times with a 13-3 record. Furthermore, they bring back the reigning MVP, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That doesn’t preclude one of Green Bay’s division rivals from wrestling away the division, but it looks like an incredibly difficult challenge at this point in the year.
Minnesota Vikings: +400
After beginning last season favored to win the NFC North or close to it, the Vikings struggled coming out of the gate. That stumble ultimately proved to be their undoing, but the Vikings did make a push back into the playoff picture during the back half of the schedule. That version of the team, along with the rise of 2020 first-round pick Justin Jefferson, provides optimism that Minnesota can compete better in 2021.
Chicago Bears: +650
Though the Bears reached the playoffs this past season, they trail the Packers and Vikings in these divisional odds by a meaningful margin. That reflects the Bears’ quarterback situation, which remains unsettled as free agency approaches. Nick Foles will return to Chicago due to his contract (the team would lose cap space by making him a pre-June 1 release) while Mitch Trubisky’s rookie contract has expired. General manager Ryan Pace seems determined to pursue a veteran option, whether in free agency or a trade. The Bears have few resources with which to acquire a star quarterback, but they did appear on Russell Wilson’s list of acceptable landing spots.
Detroit Lions: +2500
Regardless of one’s opinion on the Lions’ kneecap-biting new head coach Dan Campbell, the team effectively hit the reset button when it dealt longtime starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. While Jared Goff comes to Detroit in the deal, the Lions have begun stockpiling draft picks in hopes of accelerating the rebuilding process. While that doesn’t mean they will play uncompetitive football in 2021, it appears highly unlikely they will contend for the NFC North.
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