I'll be adding more for each conference throughout the week, so check back here for updates.
Under 7.5 (-155) (Bodog): Without question, the most deserving team of an "overrated" tag would be the Minnesota Vikings. Last season they defied the odds and made a December sweep to clinch a playoff berth. Adrian Peterson recovered much faster from his knee reconstruction than anybody expected and maintained an elite level of play throughout the season. I'm not doubting his ability to remain a monster out of the backfield because he certainly could put up great numbers again in 2013, but the law of averages dictates otherwise. Most backs who have the kind of season he does, usually see their numbers dip the following year.
Of course one thing that could prevent that from happening is an improvement in his supporting cast. Greg Jennings was brought in to give Christian Ponder a legitimate weapon outside. Cordarrelle Patterson might turn out to be another draft day gem on the opposite side. Matt Kahil should take another step forward over at left tackle. However, what we're all left wondering is whether or not Ponder can take the next step in his development.
It's too bad we didn't get to see him in the playoffs last season because that could have told us something more about his value in the clutch. Instead, we have to base our projections on what we've seen so far. In short, I'm not a fan. Without an adequate deep ball, Ponder is limited to a short passing game attack that is prone to error. It's always extremely costly to bank on a young franchise QB and miss, and this is what the Vikings could be facing in the not-too-distant-future.
Defensively, things are pretty much the same with the exception of some nice draft day pickups. Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson should mesh well with Chris Cook and soften the blow of the departed Antoine Winfield. Desmond Bishop (if healthy) will fit in nicely alongside the versatile Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway. And Everson Griffen is a rising young player who should benefit from playing on the same front as Jared Allen.
The problem is the Vikings will continue to tread water unless Ponder takes his game to a new level. A good offense and defense only goes so far in this league. Making matters worse, the Vikings face one of the toughest schedules in the entire NFL. When you add it all up, 'under' 7.5 wins is a solid bet, despite the extra juice.
Over 10.5 (-110) (Pinnacle): As was the case with the Houston Texans, the Green Bay Packers just might be the most underrated team in this division. How is that possible you ask? Let's just forget about what happened in the playoffs last year for a moment. When it comes to the NFL, it's all about parity. A remarkable number of teams go up or down their win total by four or more games each season and there is consistent turnover in who makes the playoffs each year. Yet, over the past four years, the Green Bay Packers have remained an elite team with no signs of slowing down.
In fact, no other team in the league had more man games lost due to injury in 2012 and still the Packers finished as a top five team. Of course it helps to have one of the top QB's in the league, but it's really a true credit to the scouting and coaching staffs. To overcome that many injuries means you must have a lot of quality depth.
It is scary that the Packers lost Bryan Bulaga at left tackle to an ACL tear. This is not good news when your offensive line had the third most blown blocks leading to sacks last year. It's also bad news if Marshall Newhouse is the man to replace him. He was a flat out liability. Regardless of how things shake out on the line, it helps to have one of the most dynamic collections of skill players lining up around them. Greg Jennings can talk all the smack he wants to in the media, but Rodgers will do just fine without him when you have names like Nelson, Cobb, and Finley to throw to. Now they've added Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin via the draft. Good luck opposing defenses!
On defense, things are just as bright. It's true that Dom Capers didn't prepare enough for the read-option offense in the playoffs last year, but let's remember how many injuries was dealing with too. That's not to give him an excuse, but Capers is still one of the top defensive minds in all of football. And he has a wealth of pieces to work with again this year.
Datone Jones was added in the middle to compliment Ryan Pickett. B.J. Raji will need to have a rebound season, but they are equipped to deal with whatever comes up the gut. Clay Matthews is as good as they come rushing the passer and Nick Perry might be ready to give them a legit force on the other side. If he can, Capers will have a whole new set of expanded options to play with.
A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones have limitations, but things are extremely secure behind them. Casey Hayward, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Davon House make up one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL. When you throw in Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian, and M.D. Jennings, it's an embarassment of riches.
The injuries will be down this year and the Packers face an average schedule. The only thing preventing them from another division crown and double digit winning season would be an injury to Aaron Rodgers. Even with a line move from 10 to 10.5, I like this organization to stay a top five team.
Read more: NFC North analysis.
Read more: NFC North analysis.
Under 7.5 (-105) (Bodog): The interesting stat that pops out about the 2012 St Louis Rams is their record against the top tier teams. They finished 3-4-1 against playoff teams and snatched wins against the Seahawks and 49ers within the division. The problem for 2013? There are far too many young players at critical positions.