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 12 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig under Packers Updated: November 24, 2013 - 8:08 AM

What would you rather do on a Sunday 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 (9-1)
Why:
The Chiefs were undefeated and allowing just 12.3 points per game. Then they played Peyton Manning, who, ho-hum, throws for 323 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 94.1 passer rating in a 27-17 victory.  

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

THE VIKINGS
28. Vikings 2-7 (Last week: 22):
The loss in Seattle kind of sums up where the Vikings are as a franchise. They had enough talent to be competitive early on against the best team in the NFC. But when things got tense in the second half, the quarterback fell apart and the team followed.

THE REST OF THE REST
29. Redskins (3-7); 30. Jaguars (1-9); 31. Texans (2-8).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Falcons (2-9):
The Vikings aren’t the only 2012 playoff team doing a face plant. Our bottom two teams – 4-17 this year – were 19-2 at this time a year ago.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Vikings plus-4 at Packers. The pick: Vikings 24, Packers 21.

The Packers are finding out just how easy it is to be average when you go 21 years between quarterbacks who aren’t Hall of Fame-bound. And that newfound running game isn’t quite as effective without Aaron Rodgers on the field. Without Rodgers in the game to play with his favorite toy – the Vikings’ pass defense – the Vikings could control this game with Adrian Peterson. Plus, can’t you just hear fans complaining about how a win over the Packers will hurt next year’s draft selection?


Last week: Vikings plus-12 ½ at Seahawks: The pick: Seahawks 35, Vikings 21. The final: Seahawks 41, Vikings 20. Record: 6-4, 4-6 vs. the spread.

UPSET SPECIAL
Panthers minus-4 ½ at Dolphins: Dolphins 27, Panthers 24.
Why?:
The Dolphins are 2-1 since the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito/bullying fiasco blew up on them. NFL teams have a way of not being distracted when we all predict they’ll be distracted. They also have a way of losing when they’ve won six in a row, like the Panthers have.

Last week: Lions minus-2 ½ at Steelers. The pick: Steelers 28, Lions 21. The final: Steelers 37, Lions 27. Record: 4-7.

THE REST
Bucs plus-9 at Lions: Lions by 10.
Jaguars plus-10 at Texans: Texans by 7.
Chargers plus-4 ½ at Chiefs: Chiefs by 7.
Steelers plus-1 ½ at Browns: Steelers by 7.
Bears plus-1 at Rams: Bears by 7.
Jets plus-3 ½ at Ravens: Ravens by 7.
Titans minus-1 at Raiders: Raiders by 3.
Colts plus-2 ½ at Cardinals: Cardinals by 7.
Cowboys plus-2 ½ at Giants: Giants by 7.
Broncos minus-2 at Patriots: Patriots by 3.
49ers minus-5 ½ at Redskins: 49ers by 7.

Record: Last week: 10-4; 9-3-2 vs. the spread. Overall: 88-64; 66-81-4 vs. the spread.

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