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 3 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers Updated: September 21, 2013 - 7:13 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 (2-0)
Why:
Because it’s still the regular season and they still have Peyton Manning.

THE REST
2. Seahawks (2-0); 3. 49ers (1-1);  4. Saints (2-0);  5. Bears (2-0);  6. Packers (1-1); 7. Texans (2-0); 8. Patriots (2-0); 9. Falcons (1-1); 10. Bengals (1-1); 11. Chargers (1-1) ; 12. Ravens (1-1); 13. Chiefs (3-0) ; 14. Dolphins (2-0); 15. Bills (1-1); 16. Colts (1-1); 17. Titans (1-1); 18. Raiders (1-1); 19. Cowboys (1-1);  22. Rams (1-1); 21. Cardinals (1-1); 22. Lions (1-1); 23. Eagles (1-2); 24. Jets (1-1); 25. Giants (0-2).

THE VIKINGS
26. Vikings:
Let’s play the “throw-out” game we hear far too often from some people when they discuss NFL games, which often are contests to see which team messes up the fewest number of times. Throw out that Christian Ponder’s pass that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown and he played well. Throw out those two Jay Cutler passes to Martellus Bennett for 39 yards and a touchdown on the last-minute, game-winning drive and the defense played well. Sorry, Roger Goodell says no mulligans in football. That’s three balls in the woods. You’re hitting seven from the tee and the Vikings are still 26th in the power rankings.

THE REST OF THE REST
27. Redskins (0-2); 28. Panthers (0-2); 29. Buccaneers (0-2); 30. Steelers (0-2); 31. Jaguars (0-2).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Browns (0-2):
On paper, the Jaguars are actually worse. But, unlike the Browns, the Jaguars didn’t use that paper to raise as a white flag on the season after two games.  

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Browns plus-6 at Vikings: Vikings 28, Browns 10
Why:
The Browns can’t protect the passer, and that was before they chose to start their inexperienced No. 3 passer and trade their running game to the Colts. The Vikings’ defense should have few problems, although keep an eye on receiver Josh Gordon, who’s coming back from a two-game suspension. If QB Brian Hoyer gets any time at all – doubtful considering it’s only his second start, it’s the Metrodome, where the Vikings’ pass rush is at its best – Gordon could do some damage. Defensively, the Browns aren’t a joke. The front seven on their 3-4 defense will be difficult for the Vikings’ power running game. And that happens QB Christian Ponder will have to play like he did in the second half last week, not like he played when he threw that pick-six in the first half.

Last week: Vikings plus-6 ½ at Bears. The pick: Bears 28, Vikings 14. The final: Bears 31, Vikings 30. Record: 1-1, 0-2 vs. the spread.

UPSET SPECIAL
Packers plus- 2 ½ at Bengals: Packers 35, Bengals 31.
Why?:
Aaron Rodgers and his receivers are on a roll after last week’s rout of the Redskins. Yeah, stopping Cincinnati’s offense will be difficult. Receiver A.J. Green could have another big game, and Cincinnati has two weapons at running back as well. But the guess here is Rodgers will just score his way through any of the team’s defensive difficulties.

Last week: Bengals plus-3 at Bears. The pick: Bengals 24, Bears 21. The final: Bears 24, Bengals 21. Record: 0-1.

THE REST

Chargers plus-3 at Titans: Chargers by 7.

Buccaneers plus-7 at Patriots: Patriots by 3.

Texans minus-2 ½ at Ravens: Ravens by 3.

Rams plus-4 at Cowboys: Cowboys by 7.

Cardinals plus-7 ½ at Saints: Saints by 3.

Lions plus-1 ½ at Redskins: Redskins by 3.

Giants plus-1 at Panthers: Panthers by 7.

Falcons plus-2 at Dolphins: Falcons by 3.

Colts plus-10 ½ at 49ers: 49ers by 7.

Jaguars plus-19 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 14.

Bills plus-2 at Jets: Jets by 3.

Bears minus-2 ½ at Steelers: Steelers by 3.

Raiders plus-15 at Broncos: Broncos by 10.

Record: Last week: 10-5; 8-7 vs. the spread. Overall: 14-16; 10-19-1 vs. the spread.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT