What would you rather do on a Saturday morning afternoon than wake up early late 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. Patriots (8-0)
Last week: Patriots.
Why:The Patriots are undefeated and winning games by a league-high average of 16.6 points per game. Look out, '72 Dolphins.
2. Panthers (8-0); 3. Bengals (8-0); 4. Colts (4-5); 5. Broncos (7-1); 6. Packers (6-2); 7. Cardinals (6-2); 8. Seahawks (4-4).
(Note: Yes, the Colts are No. 4 this week. Here's my only rule on NFL power rankings, which, frankly, are meaningless anyway and probably not a fireable offense if they offend someone, as some have suggested: A team cannot be ranked ahead of a team IT JUST LOST TO THE PREVIOUS WEEK. PERIOD! These power rankings are more of a one-week snapshot of power, not a season summary, which would short circuit the human brain to calculate because of the intermingled roller-coaster rides through the hills and valleys of parity/mediocrity. In this particular case, I still like the Broncos a lot. So to the person who asked me how I could rank the Colts ahead of the Broncos, I will only say, BECAUSE THEY BEAT THE BRONCOS ON SUNDAY! And to the same person who said, "That doesn't prove anything," I will only say, "Yeah, it kind of does. At least this week.")
9, VIKINGS (6-2). (Last week: 10).
Why: First, they couldn’t win on the road in the division. They beat Detroit. Then they couldn’t win at Chicago. They won at Soldier Field. Then they couldn't beat a team with a winning record. They beat a 4-3 Rams team. Now, they haven't won on the West Coast since 2007 and were humiliated in San Francisco in Week 1. They decided to leave Friday, a day early, and this will be their first five-game winning streak since starting 6-0 in 2009.
THE REST OF THE REST
10. Eagles (4-4); 11. Giants (5-4); 12. Bills (5-4); 13. Jets (5-4); 14. Steelers (5-4); 15. Rams (4-4); 16. Raiders (4-4); 17. Redskins (3-5); 18. Buccaneers (3-5); 19. 49ers (3-6); 20. Titans (2-6); 21. Chiefs (3-5); 22. Texans (3-5); 23. Saints (4-5); 24. Falcons (6-3); 25. Bears (3-5); 26. Cowboys (2-6); 27. Jaguars (2-6); 28. Dolphins (3-5); 29. Ravens (2-6); 30. Browns (2-7); 31. Chargers (2-7).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Lions (1-7). Last week: Lions.
Why?:Will the last team official fired please turn out the lights at Lions headquarters? Thank you.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, You know you're getting good and gritty when you lose your quarterback, and your nose tackle – reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week Linval Joseph – ends up being the star of the game.
2, You know you're developing a team concept when your quarterback is 4-0 when he throw for FEWER than 200 yards.
3, Raise your hand if you knew the Vikings have a league-low three penalties on special teams. Or that they've only committed five special teams penalties in their past 16 games.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Except for a handful of NFL teams, four-game winning streaks just mean you're overdue to lose. Especially on the road on the West Coast.
2, Coach Mike Zimmer won't say if Anthony Barr's left hand is broken. And I'm not a doctor. However, I do believe doctors don't put casts on hands that are operating correctly. Throw in Eric Kendricks' lingering rib issue and, well, a very talented linebacking crew is looking very beat up.
3, The Raiders are confident. (Previous sentence has not been written by anyone on the face of the earth since pre-game warmups for Super Bowl 37).
Vikings plus-3 at Raiders. The pick: Vikings 24, Raiders 21
Why?: The Vikings are due to lose and they're on the road. But they're also becoming good enough and well-coached enough to just pick them when they're the better overall team. So here goes … Vikings win.
Last week: Rams plus-2 1/2 at Vikings. The prediction: Vikings 19, Rams 17. The score: Vikings 21, Rams 18 OT. Record: 6-2.
THE OTHER GAMES
Lions plus-10 ½ at Packers: Packers by 14
Cowboys plus-1 at Buccaneers: Bucs by 3
Panthers minus-5 at Titans: Panthers by 7
Bears plus-6 ½ at Rams: Rams by 3
Saints pick at Redskins: Saints by 7
Dolphins plus-6 at Eagles: Eagles by 7
Jaguars plus-5 ½ at Ravens: Ravens by 3
Chiefs plus-5 ½ at Broncos: Broncos by 10
Patriots minus-7 at Giants: Patriots by 3
Cardinals plus-3 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7
Texans plus-3 at Bengals: Bengals by 7
Browns plus-5 ½ at Steelers. The pick: Browns 28, Steelers 27
Why?:No potential upsets jumped off the page, so let's go with the blind NFL team finding the nut in the city in which it usually starves to death in year after year after year.
Last week: Giants minus-2 1/2 at Buccaneers. The pick: Buccaneers 24, Giants 20. The score: Giants , Buccaneers . Record: 3-6.
Last week/overall: 5-7/77-47. Versus spread last week/overall: 6-6/59-65.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.