What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.’
1, Texans (8-1)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Since their 42-24 loss at home to Green Bay, the Texans are 3-0 with a 30-point win over the Ravens and a grind-it-out victory at Chicago.
2. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: Yeah, the Packers beat the No. 1 team by 18 points less than a month ago. But do you really expect NFL Power Rankings to make any sense? The Packers also lost to the Colts. And the Colts lost to the Jaguars. So maybe the Jaguars are the best team, eh?
3. Falcons (8-1)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: Obviously, they aren’t done just because they lost at New Orleans last week. NOBODY wants to play the Saints right now. But the only way this team will be taken seriously is if it finally produces in the playoffs.
30. Eagles (3-6)
Last week: No. 30.
Comment: Andy Reid will be coaching the Browns in about two months. Will he keep Chilly as his offensive coordinator?
31. Chiefs (1-8)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: The Chiefs led a game in regulation! Until they lost – again – in overtime. But, hey, Romeo’s guys showed some life in Pittsburgh. So we’ll bump them up a notch.
32. Jaguars (1-8)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: At least Jacksonville didn’t lose last week. But all good things, including bye weeks, must come to an end.
2. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 3.
4. Bears (7-2)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Thirty takeaways and eight touchdowns defensively. Think about that. Through nine games in 1985, the Bears also had 30 takeaways but only two defensive touchdowns. Wow.
15. Vikings (6-4)
Last week: No. 18.
Comment: Win over the Lions saved the season. At least until Dec. 2. To keep the season alive beyond that, the Vikings need to win one of their next three games. That won’t be easy since they play the Bears in Chicago, the Packers in Green Bay and the Bears back home.
19. Lions (4-5).
Last week: No. 14.
Comment: We buried the Lions prematurely a few weeks back. But they play the Packers Sunday and the Texans at home on Thanksgiving. That could be a 4-7 hole the Lions won’t climb out of.
5. Ravens (7-2); 6. Steelers (6-3); 7. 49ers (6-2-1); 8. Patriots (6-3); 9. Broncos (6-3); 10. Saints (4-5); 11. Colts (6-3); 12. Giants (6-4); 13. Buccaneers (5-4); 14. Seahawks (6-4);
16. Cowboys (4-5); 17. Bengals (4-5); 18. Rams (3-5-1); 20. Titans (4-5); 21. Chargers (4-5); 22. Bills (4-6); 23. Dolphins (4-6); 24. Panthers (2-7); 25. Redskins (3-6); 26. Raiders (3-6); 27. Cardinals (4-5); 28. Browns (2-7); 29. Jets (3-6).
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Ponder bounced back: QB Christian Ponder no longer looks like a child who dropped his ice cream cone in the sand. After a four-game personal slump that also helped drag the Vikings from 4-1 to 5-4, Ponder completed 75 percent of his passes to nine people not named Ponder in Sunday’s win over the Lions. He had two touchdowns, no turnovers and his highest passer rating (114.2) since Week 2. To me, Ponder has now had six games in which he has played winning football (the first five games and last Sunday). That’s pretty good considering this is a team that was expected to win six games at most.
2, Adrian Peterson is an MVP front-runner: Only 15 running backs have won league MVP. Quarterbacks have won it 35 times. So the odds are against Peterson winning MVP. Of course, the odds against him rushing for a league-leading 1,128 yards and a 5.8-yard average through nine games were even greater when his left knee was blown up last Christmas Eve. This has the feel of a 2,000-yard, MVP-caliber season.
3, Healthy roster: While the Packers seem to ship players off to injured reserve every week or so, the Vikings remain amazingly healthy. Of course, the Packers are OK so long as Aaron Rodgers remains healthy. But it is amazing to think that the Vikings will come out of their bye with a 6-4 record and only one opening-day starter (cornerback Chris Cook) unavailable to face the Bears. Receiver Percy Harvin and nose tackle Letroy Guion are expected back next week.
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, The schedule: The Vikings head into their next three games needing to win one to stay above .500. And even if they do that, chances are they’d have to win at least two of their final three games to even have a chance of making the playoffs. Can the Vikings go 3-3 against this schedule?: at Chicago, at Green Bay, home against the Bears, at St. Louis, at Houston, home against the Packers.
2, Run defense: Sorry, but holding a woeful Lions running game to 60 yards does not erase the concerns about the run defense. Detroit is the only team in the league without a rush of 20 yards or more. So the Vikings’ run defense wasn’t really tested. But it will when it faces the Bears twice in the next three weeks. That’s when we’ll find out if the Vikings’ run defense is back or whether it’s still the shaky unit that allowed an average of 165.8 yards in the four games leading up to last week’s win over the Lions.
3, Turnover margin: Helmets off to the Vikings for being able to win six games with a minus-4 turnover margin. They’re one of only three teams in the bottom 10 in turnover margin to have a winning record. But look out because five of the final six games are against teams that have a positive turnover margin. That includes the Bears (plus-14) twice, the Packers (plus-4) twice and the Texans (plus-10) once.
Record picking Vikings games: 5-3.
PHI plus-3 ½ at WAS: Redskins by 6.
GB minus-3 ½ at DET: Packers by 7.
ARI plus-10 at ATL: Falcons by 3.
TB minus-1 ½ at CAR: Panthers by 4.
CLE plus-7 ½ at DAL: Browns by 3.
IND plus-9 ½ at NE: Patriots by 10.
JAC plus-15 ½ at HOU: Texans by 10.
CIN minus-3 ½ at KC: Chiefs by 3.
NO minus-5 at OAK: Saints by 14.
SD plus-7 ½ at DEN: Broncos by 3.
BAL plus-3 ½ at PIT: Ravens by 7.
CHI off at SF: 49ers by 7.
Overall Record Last Week: 6-5-1. Vs. Spread: 4-8.
Record Season: 71-45-1. Vs. Spread: 53-59-3.
NYJ plus-3 ½ at STL:
Jets 16, Rams 10 OT: You think the Jets are a circus now? Get a load of them after Tim Tebow comes off the bench to win at game in OT.
Last week: ATL minus-2 ½ at NO. Prediction: Saints 31, Falcons 28. Actual: Saints 31, Falcons 27.
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