The Chicago Bears can surprise in the NFC North

The once feared Chicago Bears defense played poorly last season, finishing at No. 30 in the NFL, erasing all the efforts of an explosive offense led by wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and running back Matt Forte, to win the division title. The Bears are currently at +280 to win the NFC North at America’s Bookie.

Though the Bears lost Julius Peppers to the Packers in free agency, they made a solid effort with their signings and in the draft to improve the defense. The Bears signed defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young and drafted cornerback Kyle Fuller, defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, defensive tackle Will Sutton and safety Brock Vereen in the first four rounds.

Chicago has made a gamble with Jay Cutler, as his January extension includes $16 million to be paid in 2016, which is guaranteed against injury. The Bears have put a lot of faith in the health of Cutler, who has not played a full 16 games since 2009.

The team’s chances to win the NFC North rest entirely on their ability to win division games. The Lions and the Packers will be difficult opponents and they will make up a quarter of the Bears’ season. Chicago’s improved defense will be the key to slowing down Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and their potent assortment of weapons like Calvin Johnson.

Below are the complete odds to win the NFC North at America’s Bookie:

Chicago Bears +280

Detroit Lions +310

Green Bay Packers -125

Minnesota Vikings +1750