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 4 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: September 28, 2013 - 2:39 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 (3-0)
Why:
Eagles coach Chip Kelly should get a look what a real up-tempo NFL offense looks like when Philly travels to Denver this week. Peyton Manning wouldn’t win any foot races, but his brain plays the game faster than anybody, maybe ever.

THE REST
Craig’s Week 4 NFL Power Rankings

2. Seahawks (3-0); 3. Saints (3-0); 4. Bears (3-0); 5. Patriots (3-0); 6. Bengals (2-1); 7. Ravens (2-1); 8. Chiefs (3-0) ; 9. Dolphins (3-0); 10. Colts (2-1); 11. 49ers (2-2); 12. Packers (1-2); 13. Texans (2-1); 14. Titans (2-1); 15. Cowboys (2-1); 16. Jets (2-1); 17. Bills (1-2); 18. Falcons (1-2); 19. Chargers (1-2); 20. Panthers (1-2); 21. Lions (2-1); 22. Raiders (1-2); 23. Rams (1-3); 24. Cardinals (1-2); 25. Browns (1-2); 26. Eagles (1-2); 27. Buccaneers (0-3); 28. Redskins (0-3); 29. Steelers (0-3).

THE VIKINGS
30. Vikings (Last week: 26):
A loss. At home. To the Browns. And the Browns were debuting their No. 3 QB four days after trading running back Trent Richardson. I think ranking the Vikings 30th might be looking at the glass half full.

THE REST OF THE REST
31. Giants (0-3).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Jaguars (0-3):
The Browns were trying, on paper, to tank the season. The players and coaches wouldn’t follow along. In Jacksonville, the Jags have all they need, on the field, to accomplish consistent losing.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Steelers minus-3 vs. Vikings at London
Steelers 24, Vikings 17
Why:
As you know, picking Vikings games hasn’t been a strength here. But, like our undistinguished Little League career, we’ll go down swinging. The change at quarterback because of Christian Ponder’s fractured rib will result in Matt Cassel at least temporarily sparking the offense. But 0-3 or not, give me Ben Roethlisberger, especially against a beat-up Vikings secondary.

Last week: Browns plus-6 at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 28, Browns 10. The final: Browns 31, Vikings 27. Record: 1-2, 0-3 vs. the spread.

UPSET SPECIAL
Giants plus-4 at Chiefs. Giants 27, Chiefs 24.
Why?:
We’ve studied this game thoroughly. For days upon days. Broken down film of the last 63 ½ games for each team and every meeting going back to the late ‘60s. But we’ll put all of that aside and go with the NFL’s tried-and-true recipe for popularity: Whatever goes up will come down quickly, and vice versa.

Last week: Packers plus-2 ½ at Bengals. The pick: Packers 35, Bengals 31. The final: Bengals 34, Packers 30. Record: 0-3.

THE REST

Seahawks minus-2 ½ at Texans: Titans by 3.

Bengals minus-4 at Browns: Bengals by 7.

Colts minus-7 ½ at Jaguars: Colts by 3.

Bears plus-3 at Lions: Bears by 3.

Ravens minus-3 at Bills: Ravens by 7.

Cardinals plus-2 ½ at Buccaneers: Buccaneers by 3.

Jets plus-3 ½ at Titans: Titans by 6.

Cowboys minus-2 at Chargers: Chargers by 3.

Redskins minus-3 ½ at Raiders: Raiders by 7.

Eagles plus-10 ½ at Broncos: Broncos by 7.

Patriots plus-2 at Falcons: Falcons by 3.

Dolphins plus-6 ½ at Saints: Saints by 7.

Record: Last week: 8-7; 5-9-1 vs. the spread. Overall: 22-23; 15-28-2 vs. the spread.

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