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Green Bay Packers might struggle to make the playoffs

Chicago Bears could do better than expected

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is back this week
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It is a big transition from playing American football in college and stepping out onto the big stage of the NFL, as Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky discovered last season.

The pressure is on the former North Carolina QB, mainly because the Bears invested a handful of draft picks to move up just one spot to take him last year, but he had the mobility to suggest he is far from a lost cause and the feeling in Illinois is that he should perform much better this year.

The appointment of Matt Nagy as replacement for veteran head coach John Fox was great news for Trubisky.

Nagy helped develop Alex Smith into an excellent performer in Kansas City and parallels have been drawn between the two. Further inspiration will probably be taken from the way Jared Goff put a poor first season behind him at the Rams to become a top performer last term.

The Bears have added receivers Allen Robinson from Jacksonville and the speedy Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta as well as tight end Trey Burton from Philadelphia, so Trubisky should have better options than he did last year.

Add to that a solid running game and a decent defence, and gaining eight wins is realistic for a team who have had consecutive 5-11 campaigns.

The Bears' NFC North rivals Green Bay will be delighted to have QB Aaron Rodgers back at the helm, but there could be value in backing them not to have a great season.

Minnesota look to have kicked on and they could be even stronger than they were last year under new quarterback Kirk Cousins.

That means they are going to be difficult to see off in the division and the battle for wildcard places looks to be tough on that side of the draw, especially with three excellent teams - Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina - battling it out in the NFC South.

It may prove difficult for the Packers, who have put their prospects in the hands of Rodgers by giving him a whopping contract.

They do not have the strongest defence or much of a rushing attack so it could be that they miss the post-season party even if their star man maintains his fitness.

One new team who could get a playoff invite, however, are San Francisco, who finished like a train last season.

Although the Rams are one of the stronger outfits in NFL, the Niners' other NFC West rivals Arizona and Seattle look on the downgrade.

Kyle Shanahan's first season in the Bay Area looked a bit of a fact-finding mission at times, but they look to have hit the jackpot by trading for former Patriots back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who led them to five victories in their final six games.

San Francisco have spent the last few years upgrading their defence through the draft and this could be the year that their investments pay off and see them to the playoffs.

New York Giants didn't get going at all last season, but quarterback Eli Manning will be greatly assisted this year by the drafting of running back Saquon Barkley.

The number two overall pick should take some of the pressure off as their running game has been a bit of a mess for years and Manning will be delighted to see Odell Beckham available again as he plays behind a stronger offensive line.

Their line of 6.5 wins appears modest and it should be eclipsed after the misery of last year's 3-13 campaign.

Chicago over 7.5 wins
2pts 19-20 Coral, Ladbrokes
Green Bay not to make the playoffs
2pts 163-100 Coral, Ladbrokes
San Francisco to make the playoffs
2pts 7-4 Betfred
New York Giants over 6.5 wins
3pts 5-6 Sky Bet

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Gaining eight wins is realistic for a team who have had consecutive 5-11 campaigns
E.W. Terms
Sky bet