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The NFL is back and that means NFL DFS and sports betting is back! We’ve got a full series of previews for each division to ready you for the upcoming season.

The NFC North features two of the premier quarterbacks in the conference now that Kirk Cousins has joined the Minnesota Vikings, a team that went 13-3 last season. Meanwhile, the other quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, returns from an injury-riddled season to once again lead the Packers into contention.

As you’d expect, these two teams are the favorites to win the conference. The Vikings having a slight edge, while the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears pull up the rear of the division. Matthew Stafford and Mitch Trubisky will each seek to take the next step in their respective careers. Trubisky is attempting to prove himself a franchise quarterback, and Stafford is attempting to prove himself a Super Bowl-capable quarterback. Let’s take a closer look at each team’s chances this year and the fantasy implications of their offseason moves.

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Green Bay Packers

Season Win Total: 10
Conference Odds: 8/1
Super Bowl Odds: 14/1
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Key player additions

Jimmy Graham
Muhammad Wilkerson
Tramon Williams
Marcedes Lewis

Key player losses

Jordy Nelson
Morgan Burnett
Damarious Randall

Draft picks

Jaire Alexander, CB
Josh Jackson, CB
Oren Burks, LB
J’Mon Moore, WR
Cole Madison, G
JK Scott, P
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
James Looney, DE
Hunter Bradley, LS
Kendall Donnerson, LB

DFS relevant players

Aaron Rodgers
Randall Cobb
Davante Adams
Jimmy Graham
Aaron Jones
Jamaal Williams

Ty Montgomery
One, maybe two of the rookie WR

Parting thoughts

Aaron Rodgers returns after injury derailed his 2017 campaign, and he has a new weapon in town. With the loss of Jordy Nelson, the Packers compensated by bringing in veteran tight end Jimmy Graham. The former Saints and Seahawks standout had 122 catches and 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he joins forces with arguably football’s best QB in Rodgers. The Green Bay superstar has a battered offensive line, but he’s just one year removed from his 4,428-yard, 40-touchdown season in 2016.

The upside is still very much there. And Randall Cobb is also still there, as the veteran was apparently the preferred choice over Nelson. Cobb managed 653 yards and four touchdowns last season, but he’s always been a better player with Rodgers on the field. He stands to benefit from Rodgers’ presence and Nelson’s departure, as does Davante Adams, who has 22 touchdowns combined over the past two seasons and is the top wideout in Green Bay at this point. Keep an eye on how the preseason plays out, as at least one of the rookie wideouts will likely play himself into a decent role with the best QB in the game.

The rushing game still is a bit of a mess in Green Bay. Aaron Jones is suspended for the first two games, paving the way for a timeshare between Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. The latter played just eight games last season, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry but with six total touchdowns. Williams, the truer downfield runner, managed just 3.6 yards per carry last season but flashed potential, including a 100-yard, one-touchdown game against Tampa Bay last December. The more senior Montgomery will likely be more trustworthy, and he is an end-zone hawk. Williams is still raw but could break out in 2018, while Jones’ season is surrounding in mystery. The Packers won’t force him into rotation unless the current setup falls short.

A 10-game over/under is a feat for a team coming off a 7-9 season, but Rodgers makes a massive difference, especially over Brett Hundley. The Packers are primed to once again contend in the NFC North and potentially beyond.

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Detroit Lions

2018 Win O/U: 7.5
Conference Odds: 20/1
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1
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Key player additions

Devon Kennard

Christian Jones
DeShawn Shead
LeGarrette Blount
Luke Willson

Key player losses

DJ Hayden
Eric Ebron
Haloti Ngata
Tahir Whitehead

Draft picks

Frank Ragnow, C
Kerryon Johnson, RB
Tracy Walker, S
Da’Shawn Hand, DE
Tyrell Crosby, T
Nick Bawden, FB

DFS relevant players

Matthew Stafford
Kerryon Johnson
LeGarrette Blount
Marvin Jones
Golden Tate
Kenny Golladay
Luke Willson

Parting thoughts

The Lions spent another offseason not really making great strides. Their notable offensive haul in free agency was LeGarrette Blount, who had 766 rushing yards and just two rushing touchdowns with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. But second-round pick Kerryon Johnson is poised to take over this rushing attack in time. At 6’0 and 205 pounds, Johnson could add some size but is still extremely athletic for the position. He’s expected to get the starting gig and should have immediate opportunity to produce. The Lions have failed miserably at drafting their next big running back, but Johnson has the potential. That said, Blount looks to be the goal line back, so he will carry some value and take some away from Johnson.

But the main cog in this offense will remain Matthew Stafford, who has been a model of consistency from a yardage standpoint, never falling below 4,000 in any of the past seven seasons. That has allowed this Lions team to at least compete when Stafford is on the field. Yet his limited touchdown upside always seem to lower the ceiling on this offense. He’s thrown for fewer than 30 touchdowns in six of the last seven seasons. He’ll have much better odds of eclipsing that mark if Kenny Golladay can make the jump after a respectable rookie campaign in which he grabbed three touchdowns and earned 477 yards.

Ahead of Golladay, Marvin Jones and Golden Tate will lead the starting unit. They combined for 14 touchdowns last year, though Jones dragged in nine of them. They both eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving. That number should be safe, as the 4,000+ yards Stafford should throw have to go somewhere. Still, this offense seems to have stalled, unless the rookie Johnson breaks out in his first professional campaign.

Where the Lions win total lands this season looks to depend on how much progress the Bears make in 2018. Running down Detroit’s schedule, they’ll likely need a sweep of their in-conference foe to get to 8+ wins.

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Minnesota Vikings

Season Win Total: 10
Conference Odds: 11/2
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1
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Key player additions

Kirk Cousins
Kendall Wright
Sheldon Richardson
Trevor Siemian

Key player losses

Jarius Wright
Tramaine Brock
Jerick McKinnon
Teddy Bridgewater
Sam Bradford
Case Keenum

Draft picks

Mike Hughes, CB
Brian O’Neill, OT
Jalyn Holmes, DE
Tyler Conklin, TE
Daniel Carlson, K
Colby Gossett, G
Ade Aruna, DE
Devante Downs, LB

DFS relevant players

Kirk Cousins
Adam Thielen
Dalvin Cook
Stefon Diggs
Kendall Wright
Latavius Murray
Kyle Rudolph

Parting thoughts

It’s the age of Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. And this new era comes with big expectations. After a 13-3 season, the Vikings are tasking the well-compensated Cousins with taking them to the next level, i.e., the Super Bowl. The Vikings have an elite defense, which they have drafted and built over seasons. That takes a ton of pressure off this offense and should allow Cousins a bit of a buffer. But he’ll be expected to win, something he can do in Minnesota, especially if he throws for 4,917 yards like he did in 2016.

The QB change immediately upgrades Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, two players who thrived last season with worse talent under center. Last season, Thielen had 91 catches for 1276 yards and four touchdowns, while Diggs grabbed 64 balls for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Don’t expect any change in workload as it’s entirely plausible Thielen remains the yardage monster, with Diggs taking on more of the scoring. The third wideout, Kendall Wright, provides another source of production, but his role will likely be limited.

Meanwhile, the running game takes a big stride forward even after losing Jerick McKinnon. Dalvin Cook returning from injury is set to pick up where he left off, earning 4.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns in under four games. He’ll be a week-to-week play in this offense, as will Kyle Rudolph. The tight end has seven and eight touchdowns over the past two seasons, and Cousins excelled with Jordan Reed in Washington. This offense is expected to match the ability of their defense and compete for a championship. Behind Cousins, they have the pieces to do it.

The season win total set at 10 is interesting as it’s right on where we see the Vikings landing. Best case, they can go 12-4. A few things go sideways, perhaps an injury or two, and we could see as low as 8-8. The 10/1 Super Bowl odds might be better left alone and bet in-season after a couple losses.

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Chicago Bears

Season Win Total: 6.5
Conference Odds: 50/1
Super Bowl Odds: 100/1
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Key player additions

Aaron Lynch
Chase Daniel
Taylor Gabriel
Allen Robinson
Cody Parkey
Trey Burton
Benny Cunningham

Key player losses

Kendall Wright
Mitch Unrein
Josh Sitton
Cameron Meredith

Draft picks

Roquan Smith, LB
James Daniels, C
Anthony Miller, WR
Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB
Billy Nichols, DT
Kylie Fits, LB
Javon Wims, WR

DFS relevant players

Mitch Trubisky
Tarik Cohen
Allen Robinson
Taylor Gabriel
Jordan Howard
Trey Burton

Parting thoughts

The Bears are the unlucky team on the bottom of the barrel in a really tough division. The Vikings are coming off a 13-3 year, and they got better with Kirk Cousins at QB. The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, and the Lions didn’t get worse year over year.

Chicago is still in rebuild mode, and that means Trubisky will get plenty of action, just as he did last season, when he completed 59% of passes for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Bears did acquire once elite Allen Robinson in an attempt to give Trubisky weapons, and former Eagle Trey Burton can’t hurt. Robinson has failed to capture the 2015 magic that saw him reel in 80 balls for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, but at only 24 years old, he was worth a gamble and could find success in this pass-first offense.

Burton, meanwhile, has never even played one third of the snaps in a season four years into his career. Still, he managed five touchdowns last year. No longer buried behind Zach Ertz, he is a sneaky fantasy option who has scoring potential and a competent quarterback. Taylor Gabriel rounds out the receiving corp, but he’s a GPP stab at best having never turned the corner professionally in Atlanta.

The running game arguably took a step backward from last season (but really, the whole offense was terrible under Fox), as Jordan Howard can’t play in passing schemes, making their offense more predictable. Still, Howard had 1,313 yards last season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and adding six scores. He’ll be the lead back, while Benny Cunningham and Tarik Cohen should expect to get plenty of work in passing sets. Both are far better equipped to catch passes out of the backfield, and both pack big play potential. Their usage will always make them difficult to defend in DFS, however.

The Bears will be a trendy betting option this season and the 6.5 game win total seems lofty. The offense will definitely take steps forward, but they’ll have to pull at least a couple of upsets to hit the over. And they’re at least a couple of years away from being in the conversation as a real title contender, so don’t waste your money there.

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