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In need of a colder NFL spot, Vikings go where else? Florida! [NFL Picks & Power Rankings]

Each Saturday Convenient Weekend morning during the NFL season, we'll wake up early, take a hearty cut at predicting the unpredictable league, wince at how it went the week before and ponder the definition of insanity.

There are no NFL layups for injury-riddled road teams that have gone 1-6 overall and 0-4 on the road the past seven games. But there are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have matched the Vikings’ futility and raised the pot to 0-7 overall and 0-3 at home over the past seven games.

That’s how a free-falling Vikings team gets favored by 3 1/2 during a stretch in which it has gone from best record in the NFL to eighth-best record in the NFC.

Who’d have thought the Vikings would need to visit Florida to find a spot that’s been colder than Winter Park the past seven weeks?

Even the 49ers, 1-11 and losers of 11 straight, are favored at home today. Of course, they are playing Bryce Petty and the Drivebreakers.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys, 11-1 and winners of 11 straight, are favored by 3 1/2 on the road against the only team that has beaten them — a Giants team that’s 8-4 and is more desperate for wins. I would have made that my Upset Special, but the Browns are back in action after the league refused to bend on its rule that Cleveland can be guaranteed not to lose only one week per year.

WEEK 14 PICKS

VIKINGS

Vikings minus-3 1/2 at Jaguars: The Pick: Vikings 15, Jaguars 9.

Why?: They’ve gone from the best record in the NFL (5-0) to the eighth-best record in the NFC (6-6). They’ve gone from unbeaten on the road (2-0) to always-beaten on the road (0-4 since the bye). But they’re playing Blake Bortles, who may become a good quarterback some day. But that day isn’t today. Bortles and the Jags will make more mistakes than the Vikings, and that hasn’t been an easy feat the past seven weeks. Give the points and take the Vikings.

Record: 4-6.

UPSET SPECIAL

Bengals minus-5 1/2 at Browns: The Pick: Browns 18, Bengals 17.

Why?: The Browns were off last week, so it was a rare opportunity for me to accurately pick an upset. But the league allows only one week per year in which the Browns are guaranteed not to lose. So I’m back on the Browns-won’t-go-0-16!-although-I-kinda-think-they-will ledge for the Battle of Pillow Fight for Ohio Part II. Whoever the quarterback, coach and GM are this week, they have my shaky unconditional support that they’ll win one game in 2016 before losing 10 to 12 more after the 2017 draft.

LAST WEEK: Eagles minus-1 1/2 at Bengals: The Pick: Bengals 28, Eagles 27. The result: Bengals 32, Eagles 14. Record: 4-8.

Other picks:

Broncos plus-1 1/2 at Titans: Broncos by 3

Texans plus-6 1/2 at Colts: Colts by 3

Steelers minus-1 1/2 at Bills: Steelers by 3

Chargers plus-1/2 at Panthers: Chargers by 10

Redskins plus-1/2 at Eagles: Redskins by 6

Cardinals plus-1/2 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7

Bears plus-8 1/2 at Lions: Lions by 14

Jets plus-1 1/2 at 49ers: Jets by 3

Falcons minus-5 1/2 at Rams: Rams by 7

Seahawks minus-2 1/2 at Packers: Packers by 7

Saints plus-2 1/2 at Buccaneers: Buccaneers by 10

Cowboys minus-3 1/2 at Giants: Giants by 6

Ravens plus-7 1/2 at Patriots: Patriots by 8

Record Last week/season:8-6 / 86-63-2

Vs. spread Last week/season:8-6 / 70-81

CRAIG'S LIST: NFL Power Rankings

1, Patriots (10-2)

2, Cowboys (11-1)

3, Chiefs (10-3)

4, Raiders (10-3)

5, Broncos (8-4)

6, Lions (8-4)

7, Seahawks (8-3-1)

8, Falcons (7-5)

9, Buccaneers (7-5)

10, Ravens (7-5)

11, Steelers (7-5)

12, Giants (8-4)

13, Packers (6-6)

14, Dolphins (7-5)

15, Bills (6-6)

16, Titans (6-6)

17, Colts (6-6)

18, Vikings (6-6)

19, Cardinals (5-6-1)

20, Redskins (6-5-1)

21, Bengals (4-7-1)

22, Eagles (5-7)

23, Chargers (5-7)

24, Texans (6-6)

25, Saints (5-7)

26, Bears (3-9)

27, Panthers (4-8)

28, Rams (4-8)

29, Jaguars (2-10)

30, Jets (3-9)

31, 49ers (1-11)

32, Browns (0-12)

Sherels, Robinson downgraded to out for Vikings in Jacksonville

The Vikings will be without punt returner Marcus Sherels for the fifth time in the last seven games on Sunday in Jacksonville.

Sherels, whose 13.4 yards per return ranks fourth in the NFL, has been downgraded to out, the team announced Saturday. He’s currently dealing with a rib injury that has sidelined him since the Vikings’ Nov. 20 win against Arizona. Receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have filled in to varying results. A Thielen fumbled return contributed to the Vikings’ most recent loss against Dallas.

Sherels has also dealt with ankle and wrist injuries this season, prior to which he had not missed a game in five years.

“Since Sherels hasn’t been in, the punt return game hasn’t been as good,” head coach Mike Zimmer said this week. “We have to correct those things, stop the penalties.”

Linebacker Edmond Robinson (hamstring) was also downgraded from questionable to out on Saturday. They join center Joe Berger (concussion), safety Harrison Smith (ankle) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd among those ruled out against the Jaguars.

12:00 PM (FOX)
Minnesota 6-6
Jacksonville 2-10

NFL Scoreboard

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