2022 Season Reviews: NFC North

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2022 Season Reviews: NFC North

I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time this summer breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective for the 2022 season. It’s a good way for me to put a bow on the season that just finished while also getting a leg up on my early research for the 2023 season.

NFC North Reviews

1. Minnesota Vikings

  • Record (ATS): 13-4 (7-9-1)

  • Postseason Record: 0-1 (0-1)

  • Season Win Total: Over 9

  • One-possession Record: 11-0 (0-1 postseason)

  • Division Odds: +240

  • Playoff Odds: -130

  • Over/Under record: 11-6

  • PPG: 24.9 (8th)

  • PPG Allowed: 25.1 (t-28th)

  • Average Scoring Margin: -.2 (15th)

  • Turnover Differential: +2 (t-12th)

Season Review

The Vikings kept defying the odds in their first season under HC Kevin O’Connell after back-to-back losing seasons to end Mike Zimmer’s eight-year tenure. They finished with a perfect 11-0 record in one-possession games in the regular season, which propelled them to win their first NFC North title (+240 odds) since 2017 by a whopping four games. They also easily passed their season win total of 9.5 with a 13-4 record and their only two victories by multiple possessions came in the season opener and season finale. One of those tight victories included the largest comeback in NFL history when they erased a 33-point halftime deficit against the Colts in Week 15. Minnesota became the first team in NFL history with 12+ victories to allow more points than it scored in the regular season, finishing with a -3 point differential. Their luck in one-possession games finally ran up in a seven-point loss to the Giants in the Wild Card Round.

Justin Jefferson continued to one-up himself at just 23 years old, pacing the NFL with 128 catches (+900 odds) and 1809 receiving yards (+800), which gives him the most catches (324) and receiving yards (4825) through three seasons. Minnesota’s porous defense helped to propel Jefferson’s huge season by allowing the second-most passing YPG (266.9) and the third-most YPA (7.4). Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took the reins of player control after Rick Spielman’s 10-year run as GM, and he made a splashy in-season move by acquiring T.J. Hockenson. He averaged 3.7/56.4 receiving per game with three touchdowns in seven games for the Lions before averaging 6.4/58.9 receiving per game with three scores in his final 11 games with the Vikings.

What to look for this off-season

The Vikings will be everyone’s favorite regression candidates next season with their unrepeatable one-possession record and a first-place schedule. They’re also getting old across the board with Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, and Eric Kendricks among those getting long in the tooth. Kirk Cousins will also be entering the final year of his current contract at 35 years old, and it’s time for the Vikings to come up with a plan for the future after hitting their ceiling with him at quarterback. It certainly doesn’t help that Spielman whiffed on Kellen Mond with the 66th overall pick in 2021. They have limited avenues to get ready for life without Cousins, though, since they have just four picks this spring after the Hockenson trade — they’re likely to pick up two late-round compensatory selections. The Vikings also have a bottom-10 cap situation, but they at least don’t have many priority free agents outside of potentially C Garrett Bradbury and CB Patrick Peterson. Jefferson is clearly deserving of a major pay raise and he could be the next star receiver who gets the next bag of cash entering his fourth season.

2. Detroit Lions

  • Record (ATS): 9-8 (12-5)
  • Season Win Total: Over 6.5
  • One-possession Record: 4-5
  • Playoff Odds: -450
  • Over/Under record: 10-7
  • PPG: 26.6 (5th)
  • PPG Allowed: 25.1 (t-28th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: +1.5 (9th)
  • Turnover Differential: +7 (t-4th)

Season Review

The Lions appeared headed toward their fifth consecutive season after a dreadful 1-6 start, but they righted the ship to become the team that no NFC division winner wanted to see in the Wild Card Round. They closed the season with an 8-2 run to fall just short of the playoffs (-450) with the Seahawks owning the head-to-head advantage for the final NFC playoff spot because of their victory over Detroit in Week 4. The Lions still posted a six-win improvement in Dan Campbell’s second season and finished with their first winning season since 2017, and they did it with the league’s youngest roster. Detroit didn’t win the NFC North but it boasted the best division record at 5-1, which included a victory over the Packers to eliminate their rivals from playoff contention in the final game of the NFL’s regular season.

Detroit continued to load up on assets when it looked its season was dead in the water at the trade deadline, landing a pair of Day Two picks in 2023-24 from the Vikings in exchange for 2019 eighth-overall pick T.J. Hockenson. The rare intradivision trade worked out for both sides with Hockenson’s career finally taking off in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Lions caught fire after the move with Jared Goff throwing for 17 TDs to just one INT in the final 10 games. Goff had a career renaissance behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and with budding coaching star Ben Johnson calling plays. Goff ended up with 29 touchdown passes and it felt like Hard Knock’s star Jamaal Williams finished off every other scoring opportunity with a league-best 17 rushing TDs (+10000 odds). The Lions played in plenty of shootouts with their defense allowing the most yards per play (6.2) and yards per game (392.4), but second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson lived up to expectations with 9.5 sacks and three INTs.

What to look for this off-season

The Lions are poised to be the favorites to win the NFC North next season with their steady progress under Campbell combined with the Vikings and Packers getting older in key spots. The Rams won the Super Bowl in their first year with Matthew Stafford, but the Lions are reaping the rewards in the second year of the deal. They own the sixth overall pick despite having their first winning season since 2017 thanks to Los Angeles’ disastrous 2022 campaign. Brad Holmes has done well in his first two drafts and he’ll have a big decision to make early in the draft. The additional ammo from the Hockenson trade could help them move up and get one of the top QB prospects, or do they stay put and bolster a defense that needs major help at all three levels. They could even select one of the lesser QB prospects at No. 6 or on Day Two and see how the next season plays out since Goff is signed through the 2024 season. Either way, Detroit is going to get significantly better through the draft, and they have the cap flexibility to sign a key player or two to improve their shaky defense. They also have key players like Williams, Evan Brown, D.J. Chark, and DeShon Elliott to use some of their cap space on.

3. Green Bay Packers

  • Record (ATS): 8-9 (8-9)
  • Season Win Total: Under 11
  • One-possession Record: 4-5
  • Missed Playoff Odds: +333
  • Over/Under record: 8-9
  • PPG: 21.8 (14th)
  • PPG Allowed: 21.8 (t-17th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -.1 (13th)
  • Turnover Differential: +2 (t-12th)

Season Review

Aaron Rodgers created plenty of drama before the start of the 2022 league year with speculation running rampant that he could demand a trade or retire. He ultimately decided to return on a three-year, $150.8 million contract on March 16, which made him the highest-paid North American athlete on an annual-average-value basis. Green Bay stunned everyone two days later when they traded Davante Adams for 2022 first- and second-round picks, which set the tone for the rest of the year for the Packers. Rodgers came nowhere close to replicating his MVP performances from the 2021-22 seasons, averaging an ugly 6.8 YPA with a 4.8 TD rate and 2.2% INT rate with Green Bay rolling with a mostly young and unproven receiving corps.

The Packers endured the franchise’s worst losing streak since 2008 with a five-game skid, and they sat on the precipice of missing the playoffs with a 1-7 stretch in Weeks 5-12, which dipped them under their season win total of 11. Green Bay then ripped off a four-game winning streak to get back to .500, which had them in control of their postseason destiny in the season finale. They’d ultimately come up short against the Lions in Week 18, which resulted in a losing record and their first missed playoff appearance (+333 odds) since 2018. The Packers at least passed the Bears for the most wins in NFL history with their Week 13 victory over Chicago. The Bears previously held the distinction as the NFL’s winningest team since 1921.

What to look for this off-season

The Packers are heading into another off-season of uncertainty as they await Rodgers’ decision on whether to play in 2023 or to retire. It could be difficult for Rodgers to walk away after a massively disappointing season while also leaving $58 million on the table, but Rodgers has been unpredictable in recent years. Rodgers’ decision will have massive implications for the rest of the roster, including whether the team will pick up Jordan Love’s fifth-year extension or trade him if Rodgers decides to return. Green Bay also has decisions to make on LT David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones who are due $10.1 million and $7.4 million, respectively, if they’re still on the roster at the start of the new league year. The Packers are in one of the tighter cap situations entering 2023 so they could trim some fat regardless, and top free agents like Allen Lazard and DT Jarran Reed could be out of the mix next season. Green Bay’s roster doesn’t have many pressing needs heading into the off-season, but they could build around whoever is at quarterback by drafting depth along their O-line and at receiver.

4. Chicago Bears

  • Record (ATS): 3-14 (5-11-1)
  • Season Win Total: Under 6.5
  • One-possession Record: 1-7
  • Worst Record: +650
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -600
  • Over/Under record: 10-7
  • PPG: 19.2 (23rd)
  • PPG Allowed: 27.2 (32nd)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -8.1 (31st)
  • Turnover Differential: -2 (t-20th)

Season Review

The Bears successfully had an unsuccessful first season under GM Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus. They finished with the league’s worst record (+650), which means they head into the new league year with the first overall pick in addition to the league’s most cap space. Chicago opened the season with a stunning win over the 49ers in a torrential downpour and they sat at 2-1 after three weeks. They eventually went on a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak to end the season, and they failed to win a division game for just the third time in team history. The losing streak also ensured they’d finish with a franchise-worst 14 losses, which was more losses than the lowly Texans who won in dramatic fashion in the season finale to fall out of the top spot. The Bears are officially on the clock with the first overall pick for the first time since 1947.

Justin Fields at least made significant progress from a dismal rookie campaign, joining Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson as just the third quarterback to run for 1000+ yards in a season. Fields’ success as a runner helped the Bears to lead the league in rushing yards (3014) and YPC (5.4). Fields failed to make significant progress as a passer thanks in large part to his terrible receiving corps. Poles tried to remedy the situation by acquiring Chase Claypool, but the deal could go down as one of the worst trades of the season if Claypool flops again in 2023. The Bears gave up the first pick in the second round for 14/140 receiving in seven games from Claypool. Poles at least acquired three picks for Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn from in-season trades, but their defense suffered with league-worst marks in PPG allowed (27.2), pressure (85), and sacks (20).

What to look for this off-season

The Bears are heading into a make-or-break off-season that will set the course of the franchise for potentially the next decade or longer. They have a massive decision to make at quarterback, which will have trick-down effects for the rest of the league. Did the Bears see enough from Fields in 2022 to trade out of the top pick and collect more assets to build around him? Will they stick in the top spot and draft potential star defenders like Will Anderson or Jalen Carter? Or do they fall in love with Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud and trade Fields to another QB-needy team? Every decision the Bears make this off-season will pale in comparison to what they do at the top of the draft. With that said, they enter the off-season with more than double the cap space of the next closest team — $116 million to the Falcons’ $56 million as of Jan. 20. The Bears have massive holes that need to be filled across their entire roster and limited key free agents outside of a player like David Montgomery.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.