What would you rather do on a Saturday morning than wake up early and read weekly picks and power rankings involving 32 teams that basically are of equal strength and ability to beat, lose to or tie anyone on any given Sunday, Monday, Saturday, Thursday (and some day, when the revenue ceiling needs to be extended to a gazillion bazillion dollars, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well)?
CRAIG'S NFL POWER RANKINGS
BEST OF THE BUNCH
1. Seahawks (10-1)
Why: Now that the Broncos have two losses, including a blown 24-0 lead against the Patriots last week, the Seahawks are the obvious No. 1 team. So obvious, in fact, that you might want to put some money on the Saints this week. Remember, nothing in the NFL is ever as good or as bad as it seems. Seattle, right now, is the best team in the league, riding a six-game winning streak and coming off a bye. They have some issues in the secondary, but they also have the deepest secondary in the league. Note to the rest of the NFC: You better catch ‘em during the regular season because this team will be especially tough to beat at CenturyLink Stadium in the playoffs.
2. Patriots (8-3); 3. Broncos (9-2); 4. Panthers (8-3); 5. Saints (9-2); 6. 49ers (7-4); 7. Cardinals (7-4); 8. Chargers (5-6); 9. Chiefs (9-2); 10. Eagles (6-5); 11. Rams (5-6); 12. Bengals (7-4); 13. Lions (7-5); 14. Ravens (6-6); 15. Cowboys (7-5); 16. Giants (4-7); 17. Colts (7-4); 18. Steelers (5-7); 19. Bills (4-7); 20. Buccaneers (3-8); 21. Titans (5-6); 22. Dolphins (5-6); 23. Bears (6-5); 24. Raiders (4-8); 25. Jets (5-6); 26. Packers (5-6-1); 27. Browns (4-7).
28. Vikings 2-8-1 (Last week: 28): The Vikings had trouble describing how a tie against Green Bay should feel. Four days later, the Lions helped them locate the correct feeling (lousy) by beating the Packers by 30 while outgaining them in total yards, 561-126.
THE REST OF THE REST
29. Jaguars (2-9); 30. Redskins (3-8); 31. Falcons (2-9).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Texans (2-9): Houston was 9-2 last year when the Vikings showed up in town and beat them 23-6. Since that game, the Texans are 3-11. They’ve lost nine straight. And the ninth loss last week came against Jacksonville. So, yeah, that pretty much deserves at least one week at the bottom of the steaming heap of bad teams.
Bears plus-1 at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 28, Bears 17.
Yeah, it’s always risky to pick against Josh McCown when he’s playing the Vikings. He’s 2-0 with a somewhat memorable season-ending, game-winning, knock-the-Vikings-out-of-the-playoffs touchdown pass to Nate Poole as a member of the lowly Cardinals in 2003 (See: “Noooooooooooo!”). But Adrian Peterson looks to have put his hamstring and groin issues behind him. The Vikings rediscovered their running game against a terrible run defense in Green Bay a week ago. And now they face an even more horrendous run defense – ranked No. 32 ½ in a 32-team league – that’s beat up and allowing close to 200 yards per game the past five weeks. The feeling here is the Vikings are still playing hard enough to punish a beat-up Bears defense while controlling the game.
Last week: Vikings plus-4 at Packers: The pick: Vikings 24, Packers 21. The final: Vikings 26, Packers 26. Record: 6-4-1, 5-6 vs. the spread.
Saints plus-4 ½ at Seahawks: Saints 38, Seahawks 35.
Why?: Big Monday Night Football stage with giant playoff implications. The assumption is the Seahawks can’t lose at home in this situation. Assumptions are a bad thing when trying to make any sense of the NFL. Look for Drew Brees and a much, much, much-improved Saints defense to make the biggest statement of the year to date in the NFC.
Last week: Panthers minus-4 ½ at Dolphins: The pick: Dolphins 27, Panthers 24. The final: Panthers 20, Dolphins 16. Record: 4-8.
Titans plus-3 ½ at Colts: Colts by 6.
Broncos minus-5 at Chiefs: Broncos by 7.
Jaguars plus-7 at Browns: Browns by 3.
Buccaneers plus-7 ½ at Panthers: Panthers by 3.
Cardinals plus-3 at Eagles: Cardinals by 7.
Dolphins plus-2 at Jets: Dolphins by 3.
Falcons plus-3 ½ vs. Bills in Toronto: Bills by 7.
Rams plus-8 at 49ers: 49ers by 3.
Patriots minus-7 ½ at Texans: Patriots by 14.
Bengals plus-1 at Chargers: Bengals by 3.
Giants minus-1 ½ at Redskins: Redskins by 3.
Record: Last week: 5-7-1; 7-6 vs. the spread. Overall: 93-71-1; 73-87-4 vs. the spread.