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 5 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: October 5, 2013 - 7:44 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 (4-0)
Why:
The Broncos are averaging 45 points a game. The Jaguars (31) and Bucs (44) haven’t even scored 45 points in four games.

THE REST
2. Seahawks (4-0);  3. Saints (4-0);  4. Patriots (4-0);  5. Chiefs (4-0);  6. Dolphins (3-1);  7. Colts (3-1);  8. Titans (3-1);  9. 49ers (2-2);  10. Lions (3-1); 11. Bears (3-1); 12. Chargers (2-2);  13. Texans (2-2); 14. Browns (3-2); 15. Ravens (2-2); 16. Bengals (2-2); 17. Packers (1-2); 18. Bills (2-3); 19. Cowboys (2-2); 20. Falcons (1-3); 21. Cardinals (2-2); 22. Jets (2-2).

THE VIKINGS
23. Vikings 1-3 (Last week: 30):
Not turning the ball over against the Steelers was a start offensively for Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder's, um, backup (wink, wink). (Of course, the Steelers are the only team in the league without a takeaway). But the pass defense remains a major concern.

THE REST OF THE REST
24. Panthers (1-2); 25. Redskins (1-3); 26. Raiders (1-3); 27. Rams (1-3); 28. Eagles (1-3); 29. Steelers (0-4); 30. Giants (0-4); 31. Buccaneers (0-4).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Jaguars (0-4):
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger declared Pittsburgh the worst team in the league after last week’s loss. You’re getting there, Ben. But it will take more than that to unseat the Jags.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Bye

Last week: Steelers minus-3 vs. Vikings in London. The pick: Steelers 24, Vikings 17. The final: Vikings 34, Steelers 27. Record: 1-3, 0-4 vs. the spread.

UPSET SPECIAL
Chiefs minus-2 ½ at Titans: Titans 23, Chiefs 20.


Why?: The Chiefs are undefeated and have doubled last year’s win total. But are they good enough to be favored on the road against a team that’s playing a sound style of football and hasn’t turned the ball over during a 3-1 start? As you can probably gather by my Upset Special record thus far, I’m not the guy to ask. But I’ll take another swing and say the Chiefs get their first loss this week.

Last week: Giants plus-4 at Chiefs. The pick: Giants 27, Chiefs 24. The final: Chiefs 31, Giants 7. Record: 0-4.

THE REST

Ravens plus-2 ½ at Dolphins: Dolphins by 3.
Jaguars plus-11 ½ at Rams: Rams by 7.
Patriots pick at Bengals: Bengals by 3.
Seahawks minus-2 ½ at Colts: Colts by 3.
Lions plus-7 at Packers: Packers by 10.
Saints minus-1 at Bears: Saints by 3.
Eagles plus-1 ½ at Giants: Giants by 3.
Panthers minus-2 at Cardinals: Panthers by 7.
Chargers minus-4 ½ at Raiders: Chargers by 7.
Broncos minus-7 ½ at Cowboys: Broncos by 10.
Texans plus-6 at 49ers: 49ers by 3.
Jets plus-10 at Falcons: Falcons by 7.

Record: Last week: 5-9; 3-11 vs. the spread. Overall: 27-32; 18-39-2 vs. the spread.

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