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 1 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: September 7, 2013 - 7:08 AM

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. Broncos (1-0)
I'll throw out two of my favorite overused sports phrases: 1, Peyton Manning is on pace for 112 touchdown passes this season. 2, If the season were to end today, the Broncos would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
 
THE REST
2. 49ers. 3. Patriots. 4. Falcons. 5. Seahawks. 6.  Packers. 7. Saints. 8. Giants. 9. Bengals. 10. Ravens (0-1). 11. Colts. 12. Texans. 13. Redskins.
 
THE VIKINGS
14. Vikings: All together now ... "If Christian Ponder (fill in the blank that indicates you don't trust him but have allowed yourself some wiggle room in case he plays well and makes you look like a dufus) the Vikings should be a playoff contender." I'm going to say he'll be good enough to keep the Vikings in the hunt. Stay tuned as to whether he catches anything.
 
THE REST OF THE REST
15. Bears. 16. Cowboys. 17. Steelers. 18. Eagles. 19. Lions. 20. Rams. 21. Chiefs. 22. Dolphins. 23. Bills. 24. Buccaneers. 25. Panthers. 26. Cardinals. 27. Chargers. 28. Browns. 29. Titans. 30. Jaguars. 31. Raiders.
 
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32. Jets: Adrian Peterson isn't the only one who sets lofty goals. The Jets hope to sign fewer than 2,499 quarterbacks this season.
 
THE PICKS
Vikings plus-5 at Lions
Vikings 24, Lions 17
Why: If the Vikings don't let Adrian Peterson hit someone soon, the guy is going to explode. He'll have a big game. And so will the Vikings' defensive line, even without Kevin Williams. Detroit has three new starters on the O-line, including a left tackle who will be getting his first look at Jared Allen. A healthy Jared Allen.
 
UPSET SPECIAL
Bengals plus-3 at Bears: Bengals 24, Bears 21.
Why?: Marc Trestman is a sharp guy who probably will succeed as an NFL head coach. But even favored at home in Week 1, the Bears, I think, will have an adjustment period. For some reason, I just see Jay Cutler not looking real comfortable and happy in a West Coast scheme early on. Two of the riskier teams to put your faith in are the Bengals and Lions. There's talent there but you never really know if they'll be 11-5 or 5-11. But I'll reach on the Bengals this week.
 
THE REST
Patriots minus-9 1/2 at Bills: Patriots by 7.
Titans plus-7 at Steelers: Steelers by 10.
Falcons plus-3 at Saints: Falcons by 6.
Buccaneers minus-3 1/2 at Jets: Buccaneers by 7.
Chiefs minus-4 at Jaguars: Jaguars by 3.

Dolphins pick at Browns: Browns by 3.

Seahawks minus-3 at Panthers: Panthers by 7.
Raiders plus-9 1/2 at Colts: Colts by 14.
Cardinals plus-4 1/2 at Rams: Rams by 7.
Packers plus-4 1/2 at 49ers: 49ers by 7.
Giants plus-3 1/2 at Cowboys: Giants by 7.
Eagles plus-3 1/2 at Redskins: Redskins by 7.
Texans minus-4 at Chargers: Chargers by 7.

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