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    Lions' 2023 NFC North odds: Proven model, sportsbooks optimistic on Detroit's division chances after defensive additions in free agency

    Could the Lions win the NFC North for the first time in three decades?
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    The longest division title drought in the NFL belongs to the Detroit Lions – the only team in the NFC to never reach a Super Bowl. The Lions haven't won the NFC North since 1993, when it was still the Central. However, both the SportsLine Projection Model and Caesars Sportsbook now solidly favor Detroit in the North this coming season after the addition of some good defenders in free agency, led by former Eagles safety CJ Gardner-Johnson.

    Gardner-Johnson and the Lions agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million Monday after he reportedly turned down a multiyear offer from Philadelphia at the beginning of free agency. When Gardner-Johnson turned it down, with him and his agent clearly reading the market incorrectly, the Eagles then shifted their attention to re-signing cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darius Slay.

    After playing nickel corner for his first three seasons in the NFL with New Orleans, Gardner-Johnson switched to safety in Philly and played well. Last year, his first in Philadelphia, he finished the regular season tied for the most interceptions in the NFL (six) despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney. He became the only Eagle since the 1970 merger to record interceptions in five consecutive games. The 25-year-old also had 67 tackles and a sack.

    Gardner-Johnson has long-established ties to Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former defensive backs coach in New Orleans. The Lions have overhauled arguably the NFL's worst secondary with new additions in Gardner-Johnson, Cameron Sutton (three picks last year with Pittsburgh) and Emmanuel Moseley (one INT in 2022 with San Francisco).

    In 2022, the Lions ranked last in the NFL in total defense (392.4 yards per game), third-worst in allowing 245.8 passing yards per game and had just 12 total interceptions. Despite that, the team improved from 3-13 in 2021 to 9-9 and just missed a wild card spot, thanks to an offense that was one of the NFC's best. League rushing touchdown champion Jamaal Williams left in free agency, but the Lions replaced him with former Bear David Montgomery.

    All oddsmakers are assuming Aaron Rodgers will be traded to the Jets, so Detroit is the +155 favorite in the NFC North at Caesars, with defending champion Minnesota next at +290. The SportsLine Projection Model has improved the Lions by a half-win since free agency started in large part due to the secondary overhaul.

    The sportsbooks don't have win totals posted yet, but they should be coming any day now.

    DETROIT                    WIN     WIN%      DIVISION    PLAYOFF    CONF  CHAMP
    Before Free Agency9.354.70%40.00%62.50%4.60%1.50%
    w/ New Secondary9.958.20%51.00%73.50%6.80%2.80%
    Difference0.63.50%11.00%11.00%2.20%1.30%

    So which 2023 Fantasy baseball busts, breakouts, and sleepers should you target or fade in your drafts? Visit SportsLine's Fantasy baseball cheat sheets now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Joey Votto's disappointing season, and find out. 

    Matt SeveranceSeverance Pays

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