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NFL odds: Previewing the NFC North

Photo: Robert Beck/SI

The Green Bay Packers narrowly claimed the NFC North title last December, but they start the 2014 season firmly in control of the NFL betting odds.

The Packers looked solid early in 2013 until quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in a 27-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9. Without Rodgers, Green Bay endured a five-game losing streak before battling back to finish the season at 8-7-1.

But in 2014, the Packers, who kick off the season visiting the Super-Bowl champion Seahawks, are pegged as 4/5 favorites to repeat as NFC North champs. Much of Green Bay's success will hinge on the health of Rodgers, who trails only Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning in NFL MVP props betting with odds of 6/1.

The line on Green Bay’s TOTAL wins in 2014 is set at 10.5, with a moneyline of 20/23 attached to both the OVER and UNDER.

The Bears remain the Packers' closest competition in the NFC North, with 11/4 odds to win the division this season. Chicago held a narrow lead entering the final two games of the 2013 season, but they fell to 8-8 (and out of the playoffs) after losing their final two games, despite finishing in the top 5 in scoring.

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The Bears enter the new season as a 20/33 bet to win OVER 8.5 games, but will likely need to get at least 10 wins to challenge for a playoff spot.

The Detroit Lions got off to a promising start in 2013, racing to a 6-3 start to find themselves alone atop the NFC North after Week 10. But with just one win in their final seven games, Detroit finished 7-9; their 12th losing season in 13 years.

Entering 2014, the Lions are pegged as a 4/1 bet in NFL futures wagering to win their first division title since capturing the old NFC Central in 1993. To come anywhere close to the NFC North title, the Lions will need QB Matthew Stafford to perform on a more consistent level.

Last season, the 26-year-old looked outstanding early on, tossing 19 touchdowns in the Lions’ first nine games and for over 350 yards on four occasions, but was brutal down the stretch, throwing 12 interceptions in his last seven games, against just 10 touchdowns. Star WR Calvin Johnson didn't catch a touchdown or eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark in Detroit's final three games.

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However, both Stafford and Johnson sit squarely in the middle of the pack in NFL MVP props betting, with Johnson owning odds of 25/1, while Stafford is at 28/1.

The Vikings failed to record a road victory in 2013 en route to a 5-10-1 record and last place in the NFC North. More of the same is expected out of Minnesota this season, who are pegged as 10/1 long shots to win the NFC North.

However, oddsmakers expect the Vikings to improve on their five-win performance in 2013, with odds of 2/3 to eclipse the six-win mark in NFL team props betting. They open at St. Louis as underdogs but are riding a 0-7-1 streak as road underdogs.

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