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NFC North Notebook
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Chicago Bears

2013 record: 8-8
Postseason: No playoffs
Off YPG: 382 (8th)
Def YPG: 395 (30th)
Off PPG: 27.8 (2nd)
Def PPG: 29.9 (30th)

2014 Total Win Analysis - LVH Total Win Opening Line: 8

Chicago’s total win line opened at 8 and we took the OVER. The Bears won 8 games last year with arguably the worst defense in the NFL. We’ve been hearing from Chicago camp that they expect their stop unit to be much improved this season. The offense was among the more potent in the NFL scoring nearly 28 points (2nd in the NFL) under first year head coach Marc Trestman who came in as an offensive guru. We expect the offense to again be very good and possibly better with a year of Trestman’s system under their belt. QB Jay Cutler missed 5 games due to injury last season yet they still won 8 games. If we get a full season, or close to it, from Cutler, the Bears should improve offensively. They do have a fairly tough start to the season with 5 of their first 8 games away from home. However, after their bye week in early November, they close with 5 of their final 8 games at home. All of their final 5 home games in November & December are against warm weather teams or dome teams (New Orleans, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, & Tampa). That should favor Chicago as the weather could be rough that late in the season. Six of Chicago’s eight losses last season were one score finals (8-points or less) so they were in almost all of their setbacks. We look for their defense to improve greatly which pushes Chicago OVER 8 wins.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 4-11-1, 12-4
-- Chicago has THE WORST spread record in the NFL since 2007 coming in at 48-62-4 ATS (43.6%).
-- Bears are just 7-19-1 ATS their last 27 games dating back to early 2012.
-- Since November 22nd of 2010, the Bears have gone OVER the total 36 times and UNDER the total just 20 times.
-- Chicago went OVER the total in 12 of their 16 games last year and they averaged almost 58 total points per game.
-- Since the start of the 2008 season, Chicago & Green Bay have gone UNDER the total 11 times and OVER just twice.
-- The Bears have had 23 Overs & 7 Unders the last 30 times they’ve been tabbed a favorite.

Player & Team Notes

-- Chicago was dead last in the NFL last year allowing their opponents to gain 6.2 yards per play. That was after finishing 3rd in the NFL in that category in 2012 allowing only 4.9 YPP.
-- The Bears lost DE Julius Peppers (118.5 career sacks) to the Packers but added former Viking DE Jared Allen (128.5 career sacks).
-- In 2013, Chicago led the NFL in defensive touchdowns per game for the third straight season. Last year they averaged 0.4 defensive TD’s per game tying them with KC for the best mark in the league.
-- The Bears have more players over the age of 30 (21 of them) than any other team in football.
-- Chicago’s offensive line did a MUCH better job of protecting Jay Cutler last season. After finishing near the bottom of the NFL in sacks allowed per game the previous 3 seasons (2.8, 3.1, and 3.4), the Bears allowed only 1.9 sacks per game last year which was 3rd fewest in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings

2013 Record: 5-10-1
Postseason: No playoffs
Off YPG: 344 (13th)
Def YPG: 399 (31st)
Off PPG: 24.4 (15th)
Def PPG: 30 (32nd)

2014 Total Win Analysis - LVH Total Win Opening Line: 6

Minnesota should be better than its 5-10-1 campaign a year ago. A new coaching staff and a rookie 1st round quarterback signal a new start in Minneapolis. However, the talent and depth of the roster isn't up to par with the rest of the division and a brutal schedule means that it will likely be another rebuilding year for the Vikings. We are leaning towards the UNDER here. With five 1st round picks in the last two years combined, there's a lot of young talent on this team, but there's still problem areas (quarterbacks, secondary, linebackers) and lack of depth that will hurt this team in 2014. Minnesota's first six games of 2014 are: @St. Louis, vs. New England, @New Orleans, vs. Atlanta, @Green Bay, and vs. Detroit. The Vikings would be extremely lucky to come away with a 2-4 record through that slate. The rest of the schedule is more forgiving, but still consists of difficult games @Buffalo, @Tampa Bay, @Chicago, vs. Green Bay, vs. Carolina, and @Detroit. The way it stands right now, it would take a near miraculous season for the Vikings to come away with seven wins. Take the UNDER.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 9-7, 12-4
-- Among the worst in the NFL on the road over the past 10 years. The Vikes are just 39-50-3 ATS (43.8%) in away games since 2003 - 30th in the NFL.
-- Ranked dead last in the NFL with just 3-11-1 ATS (21.4%) record as a favorite since 2011.
-- Conversely, the Vikes are 20-12-2 ATS (62.5%) as an underdog since 2011, the 3rd best mark in the NFL - including an 8-2-1 ATS record as a home underdog.
-- Minnesota was a consistently strong 'OVER' team in 2013 with 12 of 16 games finishing 'OVER' the total.
-- Minnesota is 11-4-3 ATS in the last 18 games against the Detroit Lions. Eight of the last 12 meetings have finished 'OVER' the total.
-- Just 4-10-1 SU & 5-10 ATS in the last 15 vs. the Green Bay Packers. That includes a 2-6 ATS record at Lambeau Field. Also, 10 of the last 13 matchups have finished 'OVER' the total.
-- The Vikes are just 1-10 SU & 2-9 ATS in the last 11 road games at Chicago, getting outscored by an average of 10.9 PPG in those 11 meetings.

Player & Team Notes

-- Mike Zimmer was hired as the new head coach after spending the previous six as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator. Zimmer brings a much-needed defensive prowess to Minnesota after leading the Bengals to the 3rd, 6th, and 7th ranked overall defense over the past three seasons (never ranked below 15th in six years as Bengals DC).
-- The Vikings need Zimmer to work wonders after ranking 31st in total defense, 31st against the pass, and 32nd in points allowed. Eight of 16 opponents exceeded 30 points and only one was held below 20 points.
-- Teddy Bridgewater was taken with the 32nd pick of the NFL Draft, but he'll likely start the season on the 2nd unit behind Matt Cassell. Cassel completed 60.2% with 11 TD and 9 INT in nine games last year. If Cassell falters through the first five weeks or so, expect to see Bridgewater take over.
-- Let veterans Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Chris Cook, Erin Henderson, Letroy Guion, and Desmond Bishop walk in free agency; further signaling the rebuild in Minnesota.
-- Brought in Linval Joseph to the defensive line to play alongside promising 2nd year DT Shariff Floyd. Brian Robison, Everson Griffin, and rookie Anthony Barr will be counted on to replace the production of departed DE Jared Allen, who accounted for 85.5 sacks in six years as a Viking.
-- There will be no more Metrodome home games. The Vikings will play their home games at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 & 2015 during the construction of new stadium.
-- WR Cordarrelle Patterson ranked 2nd in all-purpose yards as a rookie behind only LeSean McCoy. He will be counted on even more this year as they integrate him into the passing attack after just 469 receiving yards.

Detroit Lions

2013 Record: 7-9
Postseason: No Playoffs
Off YPG: 392 (6th)
Def YPG: 347 (16th)
Off PPG: 24.7 (13th)
Def PPG: 23.5 (15th)

2014 Total Win Analysis - LVH Total Win Opening Line: 8

The NFC North appears to be a three-team race, the favorite being Green Bay with Detroit and Chicago not far behind. All three teams could finish above .500 which is why we are leaning slightly towards the OVER here. Detroit brought in a new head coach, Jim Caldwell, who worked with Peyton Manning for the better part of the last 10 years and with Joe Flacco last year. He's expected to aid QB Matthew Stafford and bring some much needed consistency to this offense, which could be the best in the division. They open the season on MNF at home against the New York Giants and a win could propel them through the next two weeks with tough games at Carolina and vs. Green Bay. The schedule is kind to the Lions after that despite a few two-week stretches (vs. New Orleans & @Atlanta in October, @Arizona & @New England in November, and @Chicago & @Green Bay in December). If the Lions can go at least 3-3 in those six games, they'll position themselves nicely for a playoff berth and a +.500 record.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 6-10, 8-8
-- Detroit is dead last in the NFL with a 25-36-4 ATS record (41%) in road games since 2006.
-- The Lions are 22-33-3 ATS (40%) as a favorite since 2004 - ranked 30th in the NFL over that span.
-- The Lions have been a road favorite just 18 times since 2003. They are just 5-11-2 ATS (31.2%) in those games, ranked 31st in the NFL over that span.
-- They are 3rd worst in the NFL against division foes since 2005, covering just 41.2% of the time (21-30-3 ATS).
-- Detroit is an abysmal 2-14 SU & 4-12 ATS in the last 16 games against the Green Bay Packers. They haven't won back-to-back games against GB since 98-99 (won the last meeting on Thanksgiving last year).
-- Just 6-23 SU & 11-14-4 ATS against Minnesota since the calendar turned to 2000. That includes just 4-11-3 ATS mark over the last 18 games.
-- The one team in the division that Detroit has had ATS success against is the Chicago Bears. Detroit is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 and 7-1 ATS in the last 8 against Chicago.

Player & Team Notes

-- This team will look a lot different this year after cutting notable veterans Louis Delmas, Nate Burleson, Willie Young, Jason Fox, and David Akers among others.
-- Brought in Golden Tate from Seattle (64 rec, 898 yards, 5 TD in 2013) and drafted TE Eric Ebron in the 1st round to help stretch the field and take some pressure off of Calvin Johnson, who dominated despite not having much help in the receiving corps (84 rec, 1,492 yards, and 12 TD in 2013).
-- Detroit had just 33 sacks in 2013, ranking 28th in the NFL. With Suh, Fairley, and Ansah on the defensive line, the Lions expect much more from this pass-rush.
-- Matthew Stafford ranked 3rd in the NFL with 4,650 passing yards, which is good; but the 58.5% completion percentage and the 19 interceptions are a major cause for concern. With new weapons in the passing attack and a more conservative offensive approach under Jim Caldwell, expect Stafford's numbers to improve.
-- The defensive and offensive statistical ratings suggest that Detroit should've been a playoff team last year, but the lack of discipline played a role in their demise. In addition to Stafford's 19 INT's, the Lions coughed up 15 fumbles in 2013, leading to a -12 turnover differential - ranking 30th in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers

2013 Record:8-7-1
Postseason: L 23-26 vs. San Francisco in Wild Card Round
Off YPG: 400 (3rd)
Def YPG: 372 (25th)
Off PPG: 26.1 (8th)
Def PPG: 26.8 (24th)

2014 Total Win Analysis - LVH Total Win Opening Line: 10

The Packers played seven games without star QB Aaron Rodgers in 2013 and still got to eight wins, so 10 wins in 2014 with a healthy Rodgers should be a shoo in, right? Well, GB benefited from a weak slate in 2013. Division foes Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit all had down year and they caught the weak NFC East and AFC North. Green Bay faces a difficult schedule in 2014, but there are still a few breaks that make it manageable. Three of the first four weeks have them traveling to Seattle, Detroit, and Chicago. And they have a road trip to New Orleans in week eight to round out the first half of the season. The final eight games are a bit kinder. They host Chicago, Philadelphia, New England, Atlanta, and Detroit and have reasonable road games at Minnesota, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay among their final eight games. Despite catching few breaks on the schedule, the NFC North is one of the better divisions in football and there are simply too many heavyweights on the slate to envision this team winning more than 10 games.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 7-9, 9-7
-- Green Bay is the best spread team overall since 2007 with a 73-47-3 ATS record, good for 60.8% covers.
-- They are 2nd in the NFL with 20-13-1 (60.6%) record as an underdog since 2007
-- GB is 1st in the NFL against AFC squads since 2007 with a 20-9 ATS mark (69%). This year they get the AFC East.
-- The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field has been one of the best home field advantages in the NFL as GB is 4th best at home since 2009 with a 26-15-2 ATS record (63.4%).
-- They rank 2nd in the NFL 42-26-1 ATS as a favorite since 2009 (61.8%).
-- The Packers are 14-2 SU & 12-4 ATS in the last 16 games against the Detroit Lions. They haven't lost back-to-back games to the Lions since 98-99 (lost the last meeting on Thanksgiving last year).
-- GB is 7-1-1 SU & 6-3 ATS in the last nine meetings with Minnesota. The 'OVER' is 10-3 in the last 13 matchups with the Vikings, averaging 52.4 total PPG over those games.
-- 10-3 SU & ATS in the last 13 against Chicago. The 'UNDER' is 11-2 in those 13 games, averaging just 39 PPG in those games.

Player & Team Notes

-- Acquired DE/OLB Julius Peppers in free agency via Chicago. Peppers has 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons and will play opposite of Clay Matthews - giving GB two of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL.
-- Let WR James Jones walk in free agency. Jones has had over 600 receiving yards in four straight seasons and has 29 TD over that span. Drafted three receivers (Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederris, and Jeff Janis) to fill the void.
-- RB Eddie Lacy gives this offense a power-running attack that they haven't seen since the Ahman Green days. Lacy ranked 8th in the NFL with 1,178 yards (4.1 YPC) and his 11 TD ranked 3rd.
-- Green Bay's pass defense ranked 27th in TD allowed and 26th in INT. Stronger play from the safety positions (got rid of abysmal MD Jennings and drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the 1st round) as well as a revamped pass rush should help GB improve.
-- They also ranked 25th against the run, allowing 4.6 YPC on 125 YPG. The 16 rushing touchdowns allowed were ranked 25th in the NFL as well.

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