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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Football returns to the 2015 calendar Sunday night when the Minnesota Vikings take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. You longtime NOTEBOOK readers know that we always tag our divisional previews to early Preseason action. So, we start off the new campaign with a look at the NFC North…home of the Vikings.

Minnesota finished third in its four-team division last season. But, they have a legitimate chance to step forward with the return of Adrian Peterson and the promise of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Let’s run the numbers to see if they can climb the ladder in 2015…

 

2014 NFC NORTH DIVISION STANDINGS

Green Bay: 12-4 (+14 turnovers, #14 rated schedule)

Detroit: 11-5 (+7 turnovers, #21 rated schedule)

Minnesota: 7-9 (-1 turnovers, #22 rated schedule)

Chicago: 5-11 (-5 turnovers, #11 rated schedule)

Notebook: Green Bay was clearly the best of the lot. They went 12-4 against a schedule that ranked near league average. Plus, they got the best of it in the risk/reward area thanks to veteran superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Don’t fall into the “analytics” trap of thinking turnovers are random. People who write that aren’t paying attention! Turnovers are strongly influenced by the composure of the quarterback, and the aggressiveness of the defense. Detroit finally jumped to 11 wins because more conservative coach Jim Caldwell cut down on the prior regime’s risky madness! Great sign for the Vikings that Bridgewater was near break-even as a rookie. Note that Chicago has a new head coach this season…as John Fox relocated here after getting axed in Denver. Big upgrade! This could be a very nice division this year…so it’s great we can put it on your radar first.

 

2014 YARDS-PER-PLAY

Green Bay: 6.2 on offense, 5.3 on defense

Detroit: 5.2 on offense, 4.9 on defense

Minnesota: 5.1 on offense, 5.4 on defense

Chicago: 5.2 on offense, 6.0 on defense

Notebook: You can see why the Packers were so dominant at almost +1.0 yards-per-play better than their opponents. Detroit was a legit playoff team given what we’ve seen so far. Minnesota has a chance to jump up to at least 5.7 or 5.8 on offense this year if Peterson and Bridgewater stay healthy (possibly higher). But, knocking a few fractions off on defense will be vital too. Can Fox fix the Bears defense quickly? That’s the category Chicago fans should be watching most closely.

 

2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS

Green Bay: 47% on offense, 40% on defense

Detroit: 39% on offense, 37% on defense

Minnesota: 39% on offense, 42% on defense

Chicago: 38% on offense, 42% on defense

Notebook: Not much new here. Everything confirms what we’ve already read. In terms of our emphasis on the Vikings…Bridgewater will likely move the chains at a better rate because young quarterbacks learn how important this skill is. It’s a great indicator stat for the learning curve of all young quarterbacks. Big strikes against the veteran signal callers in Detroit and Chicago that they couldn’t reach 40% last season.

 

2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS

Green Bay 11

Detroit 8.5

Minnesota 8

Chicago 6.5

Frankly, Green Bay is a 12-13 win team if they stay healthy. If you’re betting Over 11, you’re betting on their key players staying healthy. Detroit may have hit its “Caldwell ceiling” last year because conservative play only takes you so far in the NFL. The market is aware of that and has priced in some skepticism. Minnesota is seen as improving…but you could make the case that the market isn’t giving young Bridgewater enough credit for how quickly he’s swimming with the sharks. Chicago is a very interesting case…because they’re coming from having a head coach who was clearly in way over his head…to having one who’s a proven winner in the NFL. How quickly can Fox get things turned around?

That gives you plenty to think about as you watch the Hall of Fame game Sunday night. For those of you who are fans of Pittsburgh and/or the AFC North, we’ll be covering that division on August 20 to get you ready for the Buffalo/Cleveland game that will be televised that night on ESPN. We’ll run through all eight divisions on the first eight days of Preseason football. One down, seven to go!

JIM HURLEY will have his HOF selection posted on game day. You can build your bankrolls Saturday and Sunday in baseball before the NFL opener kicks off. Hopefully you’ve been doing that all summer long! Purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office Saturday and Sunday before the first baseball games start, or weekdays during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

This report will stay up all weekend…then we’ll resume daily activity Monday here in the NOTEBOOK…

Monday: MLB Series Preview…Washington Nationals at LA Dodgers

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview…probably Houston Astros at SF Giants.

Thursday: AFC East Preview to get you ready for New England hosting Green Bay

Friday: NFC West Preview to get you ready for Seattle hosting Denver

Saturday: AFC South preview to get you ready for Houston hosting S. Francisco

Sunday: NFC East preview to get you ready for Philadelphia hosting Indianapolis

The DOLLARS OF AUGUST will turn over several times between now and the Super Bowl. Don’t wait until the regular season when fortune-building should start now! Keep getting the best plays on the board from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

 

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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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