What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.’
1, Falcons (7-0)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: Proving you no longer have to run the ball and stop the run – at least in the regular season – the Falcons rank 25th in rushing and 24th against the run. Not sure I’d want those numbers in a playoff game against the 49ers.
2. Bears (7-1)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: Charles Tillman said he wouldn’t play against the Texans at home on Sunday. Now, he says he will play. Either way, it should be his choice. The dude’s wife is having a baby and, yes, there’s actually something more important than the NFL. (Start … angry … emails … now). The Bears have 28 takeaways and are plus-16 in the turnover ratio. Is this 1985?
3. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Want to know why Vikings coach Leslie Frazier doesn’t want to even entertain the thought of resting Percy Harvin against the Lions at home on Sunday? Because the next three games are at No. 2 Chicago, at No. 3 Green Bay and home against No. 2 Chicago. As usual, the bodies are falling quickly in Green Bay. And, as usual, GM Ted Thompson has provided the depth to handle it.
30. Eagles (3-5)
Last week: No. 23.
Comment: The Dream Team plays host to America’s Team on Sunday in a game that should remind everyone of the stress that’s caused when your team vastly overrates itself. The loser advances to play the Jets.
31. Jaguars (1-7)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: Jacksonville has had five home games. They’ve lost by 20, 17, 38, 17 and 17. Wow, wow, wow, wow and wow.
32. Chiefs (1-7)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: The Chiefs are 0-4 at home, a league-worst minus-20 in turnover margin and, um, … ah, they just stink all the way around.
2. Bears (7-1)
Last week: No. 3.
3. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 4.
14. Lions (4-4)
Last week: No. 19.
Comment: Detroit back from the dead, thanks to its Jacksonville booster shot. That was the last dose of Vitamin J(aguar) for the NFC North for the next four years. Jacksonville was 0-4 and outscored by 67 points against the NFC North this season. It definitely was all downhill after the Jags managed to blow that three-point lead with 38 seconds left in regulation at the Metrodome in Week 1.
18. Vikings (5-4).
Last week: No. 17.
Comment: So you’re Leslie Frazier and you beat the Lions six weeks ago. But you won because your team returned two kicks for touchdowns to overcome a passing game that netted 100 yards. And now Percy Harvin can barely walk, let alone run 105 yards with the opening kickoff. And the Lions haven’t allowed a kickoff past the 35-yard line or a punt longer than 18 yards the past four games. What do you do? Worry. A lot. If the Vikings lose on Sunday, it could be the trap door that sends them straight to the NFC North basement for a third straight year.
4. Texans (7-1); 5. 49ers (6-2); 6. Steelers (5-3); 7. Giants (6-3); 8. Ravens (6-2); 9. Patriots (5-3); 10. Broncos (5-3); 11. Colts (6-3); 12. Saints (3-5); 13. Buccaneers (4-4); 15. Seahawks (5-4); 16. Dolphins (4-4); 17. Chargers (4-4); 19. Cowboys (3-5); 20. Bengals (3-5); 21. Panthers (2-6); 22. Redskins (3-6); 23. Rams (3-5); 24. Raiders (3-5); 25. Titans (3-6); 26. Bills (3-6); 27. Cardinals (4-5); 28. Browns (2-7); 29. Jets (3-5).
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Peterson, Peterson, Peterson: Adrian Peterson has no air support and his storm-trooping through eight- and nine-man fronts, leading the league in rushing with 957 yards and ranking second in average per carry (5.7). Before they played Peterson, the Seahawks were giving up an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Peterson smacked them with a 10.7-yard average. If QB Christian Ponder ever puts his shoulders back, raises his head, cracks a smile and starts letting the ball fly again, Peterson could go for 2,000 yards.
2, Special teams: Besides booming 35 touchbacks and making 19 of 20 field goal attempts, including 5 of 5 from 50 yards and beyond, rookie Blair Walsh also is keeping the special teams remarkably healthy. Think about it. The Vikings have only had to cover 12 kickoffs. Twelve in nine games. Opponents are averaging only 6.6 yards per punt return with a long of 27.
3, Dome followed by a bye week: The Lions found their running game at Jacksonville last week. But it was Jacksonville. Detroit could, or should, be a good team for the Vikings to play at home the week before a bye. A struggling run defense should be able to handle Detroit’s typically meager running attack. If that’s accomplished, there will be a lot of third-and-long situations. Third-and-long mixed with Jared Allen, the Metrodome and the Lions usually works out in favor of the Vikings. And a win heading into the bye preserves the season a little bit longer.
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Ponder, Ponder, Ponder: The streak of positivity surrounding Ponder at the start of the season has hit a well-deserved stretch of negativity. From this angle, Ponder has stacked four straight stinkers on top of what I’d call five “winning” performances. Although he threw for only 111 yards at Detroit in Week 4, he managed the game well, didn’t throw a pick and made a nice deep throw under pressure late in the game to get a key first down. Even in the loss at Indy in Week 2, he had a “winning” performance because of how he led the team to a tying touchdown late in the game. But the past four games have been bad. And Ponder’s body language suggests he’s been broken. Games like Sunday are when we find out what kind of QB the Vikings really have.
2, Harvin’s ankle: The Vikings can say what they want, but Harvin’s ankle isn’t passing the eyeball test. He’s not playing on Sunday. It’s hard to imagine just how bad the passing game will be without Harvin. That’s why Frazier will cling to the hope that Harvin can play right down to the final second before turning in his game-day inactives.
3, Letroy Guion’s toe:
Stopping the run starts with the tackles not giving ground. Once the line of scrimmage is pushed even a yard or so downfield, everything starts to break down. Linebackers can’t flow, bodies start banging into each other and, well, you saw what happened last week when the Seahawks ran for 195 yards. Going overlooked behind Harvin’s injury this week is nose tackle Letroy Guion’s turf toe. He’s missed practice and is in danger of not playing. That’s not good for a team that’s trying to correct a four-week stretch of poor run defense.
Vikings 28, Lions 21: Just not buying back into the Lions at this point. The Vikings should be able to stop the running game and we all know they can run the ball no matter what. That should give them a lead. And once they stop the run and get a lead, the Lions will be throwing on third-and-long. That’s when the Metrodome and Jared Allen will get to bond at a high decibel level while Matthew Stafford picks rubber pellets out of his teeth. The Vikings are 2-point underdogs.
Record picking Vikings games: 4-3.
BUF plus-11 at NE: Patriots by 14.
NYG minus-4 at CIN: Giants by 7.
SD plus-3 at TB: Bucs by 6.
DEN minus-4 at CAR: Panthers by 3.
TEN plus-6 at MIA: Dolphins by 3.
NYJ plus-6 at SEA: Seahawks by 17.
DAL minus-1 ½ at PHI: Eagles by 3.
STL plus-11 ½ at SF: 49ers by 7.
HOU plus-1 at CHI: Bears by 3.
KC plus-12 ½ at PIT: Steelers by 20.
Overall Record Last Week: 11-2. Vs. Spread: 9-4.
Record Season: 65-40. Vs. Spread: 49-51-3.
ATL minus-2 ½ at NO.
Saints 31, Falcons 28: The Saints obviously will struggle to stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. But Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense can score points. New Orleans is at home and it’s desperation time. The Falcons have a four-game lead in the division and haven’t exactly dominated despite their 8-0 record.
Last week: CAR plus-3 ½ at WAS. Prediction: Panthers 27, Redskins 23. Actual: Panthers 21, Redskins 13.
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