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Wins for No. 1 Vikings ... and No. 32 Browns?! Mark Craig's NFL picks

Each Saturday 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.

A funny thing happened on the way to a two-game “Upset Special” winning streak last Sunday. For some reason, Richard Sherman was allowed by render Julio Jones’ right arm inoperable by reaching out and grabbing it before Matt Ryan’s deep ball arrived in the closing minutes.

The Falcons lost 26-24 at Seattle, Sherman went one yellow flag down to the football gods and, from this blog’s perspective, a 10-win week straight-up fell to 9-4. It also went 9-4 against the spread. And someone — no names, please — decided to hop upon the elimination-pool bandwagon that’s been following the Browns from town to town the past month and a half.

But this week, beware of the Browns and the Battle Pillow Fight of Ohio. The always-defeated Browns are the biggest underdogs of the week at 10 1/2 points. But this is the week! Maybe? Guaranteed! Browns 31-30, at Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, this is a tough picking week overall. Nine of 14 games on Sunday-Monday have point spreads of fewer than 3 points. Five are fewer than 2 points. Two are fewer than a point.

Physically, it’s been a tough week as well. In Dallas, Dez Bryant says he sliced his finger cutting carrots for his soup.  In Pittsburgh, doctors cut into Big Ben’s knee. And in Cleveland, the entire team keeps cutting the cheese.

But maybe not this week!



Vikings minus-2 1/2 at Eagles: Vikings 23, Eagles 20

Why?: Initially, my feeling was this would be a typical NFL up-comes-down, down-goes-up outcome. The team streaking in the right direction vs. the team going the other way. The league’s only undefeated team vs. a team that’s lost two straight. But then I watched the Eagles game at Washington. The Eagles gave up 230 yards rushing and couldn’t protect Carson Wentz, particularly from the front side with rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. They also committed 13 penalties for 114 yards, completing the franchise’s first two-game stretch with 110 or more penalty yards since 1952. With this game being in Philly, my initial gut feeling is it’s time for the Vikings to lose and remind fans that teams just don’t dominate every week in this league. But after watching how sloppy the Eagles are, I’ll roll the dice on the team’s that’s better, and better coached. If the Vikings stop the run first, Wentz hasn’t seen the kind of pressure the Vikings will bring to him.

LAST WEEK: Texans plus-6 1/2 at  Vikings: The pick: Vikings 24, Texans 9.  The Result: Vikings 31, Texans 13. Record: 4-1.


Browns plus-10 1/2 at Cincinnati: Browns 31, Bengals 30.

Why?:  First, the Cavs win an NBA title. Then the Indians reach the World Series. What can be more unbelievable than that? The Browns avoiding an 0-7 start to the Hue Jackson/Nerds R Us Front Office Era.

LAST WEEK: Falcons plus-5 1/2 at Seahawks. The pick: Falcons 28, Seahawks 23. The result: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24. Record: 2-3.

Giants minus-2 1/2 at Rams: Rams by 3

Saints plus-6 1/2 at Chiefs: Saints by 7

Redskins plus-1/2 at Lions: Lions by 3

Raiders plus-1 1/2 at Jaguars: Jaguars by 6

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

Ravens plus-1/2 at Jets: Ravens by 10

Bills minus-2 1/2 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7

Chargers plus-6 1/2 at Falcons: Falcons by 7

Buccaneers minus-1 1/2 at 49ers: Buccaneers by 7

Patriots minus-7 1/2 at Steelers: Patriots by 17

Seahawks plus-1 1/2 at Cardinals: Seahawks by 3

Texans plus-7 1/2 at Broncos: Broncos by 10

Record (Last week/Season): 9-4/44-27

Vs. spread (Last week/Season): 9-4/35-36

CRAIG’S LIST: NFL Power Rankings

1, Vikings (5-0)

2, Patriots (5-1)

3, Cowboys (5-1)

4, Seahawks (4-1)

5, Falcons (4-2)

6, Bills (4-2)

7, Redskins (4-2)

8, Chiefs (3-2)

9, Raiders (4-2)

10, Packers (4-2)

11, Texans (4-2)

12, Chargers (2-4)

13, Broncos (4-2)

14, Lions (3-3)

15, Cardinals (3-3)

16, Eagles (3-2)

17, Rams (3-3)

18, Dolphins (2-4)

19, Steelers (4-2)

20, Giants (3-3)

21, Ravens (3-3)

22, Saints (2-3)

23, Titans (3-3)

24, Buccaneers (2-3)

25, Bengals (2-4)

26, Jaguars (2-3)

27, Panthers (1-5)

28, Colts (2-4)

29, Bears (1-6)

30, Jets (1-5)

31, 49ers (1-5)

32, Browns (0-6)

Vikings' Diggs expected to play against Eagles after practicing again

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Eagles after practicing for a third straight day today.

Diggs, who is dealing with a groin injury, was a full participant today after being limited the past two days. He’s officially listed as questionable. The injury sidelined him in the win over the Texans before the bye week.

Top pick Laquon Treadwell (thumb) is also questionable while fellow wide receiver Jarius Wright (ankle) is doubtful for the game in Philadelphia.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and tight end MyCole Pruitt (knee) won’t play. Neither player participated in practice this week, and coach Mike Zimmer indicated yesterday that Floyd won’t be back anytime soon.

Offensive linemen Brandon Fusco, Alex Boone and Jeremiah Sirles will all be available to play against the Eagles despite being listed on the injury report throughout the week. Ditto for outside linebacker Anthony Barr.

12:00 PM, 10/23 (FOX)
Minnesota 5-0
Philadelphia 3-2

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