Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Week 17 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under Lions Updated: December 29, 2013 - 7:43 AM

What would you rather do on a Sunday 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. 49ers (11-4)
Why:
They’ve won a league-best five straight, including a victory over the Seahawks, heading into today’s game at Arizona. ... Which, um, we predict later on that the Cardinals will win. (Hey, nobody said the NFL is supposed to make sense).

THE REST

2. Cardinals (10-5); 3. Panthers (11-4); 4. Chargers (8-7); 5. Broncos (12-3); 6. Seahawks (12-3); 7. Patriots (11-4); 8. Colts (10-5); 9. Bengals (10-5); 10. Chiefs (11-4); 11. Saints (10-5); 12. Eagles (9-6);  13. Steelers (7-8); 14. Ravens (8-7); 15. Bills (6-9); 16. Dolphins (8-7); 17. Rams (7-8); 18. Cowboys (8-7); 19. Giants (6-9); 20. Titans (6-9); 21. Jets (7-8); 22. Bears (8-7); 23. Packers (7-7-1); 24. Lions (7-8); 25. Falcons (4-11).

THE VIKINGS
26. Vikings 4-10-1 (Last week: 20):
Financially, the Vikings are giddy about leaving the Metrodome. As for what it means competitively, well, we’ll have to wait and see. The Vikings are 166-92 (.643) at the Dome. And even in a season as miserable as this one has been, the Vikings have won three straight at the Metrodome and can make it four in a row with a win over the Lions today.

THE REST

27. Redskins (3-12); 28. Buccaneers (4-11); 29. Browns (4-11); 30. Jaguars (4-11); 31. Raiders (4-11).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Texans (2-13):
Just a mere 105 days ago, the Texans were 2-0 and considered a Super Bowl contender with a franchise quarterback, a strong defense and stability at head coach. Yeah, things tend to change quickly in the NFL.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Lions plus-2 ½ at Vikings: Vikings 34, Lions 31.
Why?:
.The Lions were 6-3 with a clear path to the NFC North title thanks to injuries in Chicago and one major injury (Aaron Rodgers) in Green Bay. Then, as they typically do, the Lions underachieved. They’ve lost five of six, including a home game against the Giants a week ago. Now, out of the playoffs, they have to travel in Week 17. Either team could win or lose, win big or be blown out. The guess here is with the home team.

Last week: Vikings plus-8 at Bengals: The pick: Vikings 27, Bengals 24. The final: Bengals 42, Vikings 14. Record: 8-6-1, 6-9 vs. the spread.

UPSET SPECIAL
Eagles minus-6 ½ at Cowboys. The pick: Cowboys 41, Eagles 38.
Why?:
Yeah, the Cowboys have an historically awful defense. Yeah, Tony Romo (back surgery) is done for the season. But, in typical illogical NFL fashion, this will be the Week 17 play-in game the Cowboys finally win after falling short multiple times in recent years.

Last week: Cowboys minus-3 at Redskins. The pick: Redskins 41, Cowboys 38. The final: Cowboys 24, Redskins 23. Record: 4-12.

THE REST
Panthers minus-6 at Falcons: Panthers by 3.
Packers minus-3 at Bears: Packers by 7.
Texans plus-7 ½ at Titans: Titans by 10.
Browns plus-7 at Steelers: Steelers by 14.
Redskins plus-3 ½ at Giants: Giants by 7.
Ravens plus-6 ½ at Bengals: Bengals by 3.
Jaguars plus-10 ½ at Colts: Colts by 3.
Jets plus-5 ½ at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7.
Bills plus-7 ½ at Patriots: Patriots by 6.
Buccaneers plus-12 at Saints: Saints by 14.
Broncos minus-11 at Raiders: Broncos by 7.
49ers minus-1 at Cardinals: Cardinals by 7.
Chiefs plus-10 at Chargers: Chargers by 7.
Rams plus-11 ½ at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7.

Record: Last week: 10-6; 15-1 vs. the spread. Overall: 132-90-1; 108-110-4 vs. the spread.

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San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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Poll: How will the Vikings do Thursday in Green Bay?

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