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. Patriots (10-3)
Why: Denver, Indianapolis, Denver again, Seattle … None could hold the top spot. But, ultimately, doesn’t just about every regular-season stretch run in recent memory end up with the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots being the one team that does what it’s supposed to do? (At least until it's time to play the Giants in a Super Bowl, eh?) This is not a great team. But that in itself makes New England a great team by modern, free-agency, salary-cap, let's-make-em-all-the-same-so-every-year-is-worst-to-first-and-first-to-worst standards. The ability to just keep winning no matter what – injuries, falling behind early, more injuries, lack of talented receivers, free-agent defections, coordinator defections, more injuries, the 31st-ranked run defense, etc. – is what defines the greatness of the Brady-Belichick machine in the free-agent, salary-cap era. But, remember, these power rankings are a snapshot. What happened three, four, five weeks ago might as well have happened 10 years ago. When Indianapolis was beating Denver, San Francisco and Seattle, there was no hesitation to put the Colts No. 1, even though one could predict a leveling off period that now has Indy at No. 16. The Chargers are 7-7, but they beat Peyton Manning on a short week in Denver. And that came two weeks after a win over the Chiefs. So hats off. Here’s the No. 5 seat for a Chargers team that wouldn’t be an easy out if it reaches the playoffs.
2. 49ers (9-4); 3. Seahawks (11-2); 4. Saints (10-3); 5. Chargers (7-7); 6. Broncos (11-3); 7. Chiefs (10-3); 8. Bengals (9-4); 9. Eagles (8-5); 10. Panthers (9-4); 11. Cardinals (8-5); 12. Dolphins (7-6); 13. Ravens (7-6); 14. Bears (7-6); 15. Lions (7-6); 16. Colts (8-5); 17. Cowboys (7-6); 18. Packers (6-6-1); 19. Jaguars (4-9); 20. Jets (6-7); 21. Steelers (5-8); 22. Titans (5-8); 23. Buccaneers (4-9); 24. Giants (5-8); 25. Rams (5-8).
26. Vikings 3-9-1 (Last week: 23): People have been heard saying the Vikings are unlucky because they’ve blown five leads in the final minute of regulation. Turn those five minutes around, they say, and the Vikings are 8-5 and leading the division. It doesn’t work quite that way. First of all, give the Vikings and coach Leslie Frazier credit for grit, determination and the professionalism to keep fighting in a lost season. But as an organization, the Vikings have earned 3-9-1. Losing five leads in the final minute of regulation has nothing to do with luck. It has everything to do with an unstable quarterback situation and lack of depth in the secondary.
27. Browns (4-9); 28. Raiders (4-9); 29. Falcons (3-10); 30. Bills (4-9); 31. Texans (2-11).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Redskins (3-10): Yeah, we know Houston has lost 11 straight and fired its coach. But you can’t embarrass yourselves on and off the field the way Washington has the past week and not spend some time at the bottom of the heap. The coach wants to be fired. The owner wants the coach to quit. The quarterback might be the only one who hasn’t given up, but he’s been benched. This is a disaster, even by Redskin standards.
Eagles minus-5 ½ at Vikings. The pick: Eagles 35, Vikings 21.
Why?: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, another quarterback (Nick Foles) playing extremely well. Offensively, the Eagles are just too diverse for an undermanned Vikings defense to contain, especially with Xavier Rhodes (ankle) doubtful to play. Defensively, the Eagles are the only team in the league to have gone the past nine games without allowing more than 21 points. So, even if Adrian Peterson plays on a right foot that’s less than 100 percent, the Vikings figure to struggle scoring points.
Last week: Vikings plus-6 ½ at Ravens. The pick: Ravens 34, Vikings 24. The final: Ravens 29, Vikings 26. Record: 8-4-1, 6-7 vs. the spread.
Bears minus-1 at Browns. The pick: Browns 31, Bears 28.
Why?: Life would be so easy for Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and the Bears if the now-healthy Cutler simply stepped back into the lineup for a red-hot Josh McCown and the Bears beat the lowly Browns to keep pace with Detroit or take sole possession of the NFC North. Well, life in the NFL is never easy. Raise your hand if you can sense some QB chaos coming to Halas Hall next week.
Last week: Chiefs minus-3 at Redskins. The pick: Redskins 28, Chiefs 23. The final: Chiefs 45, Redskins 10. Record: 4-10.
Redskins plus-7 at Falcons: Falcons by 10.
49ers minus-5 at Buccaneers: 49ers by 7.
Cardinals minus-2 ½ at Titans: Cardinals by 3.
Saints minus-6 at Rams: Saints by 7.
Seahawks minus-7 at Giants: Seahawks by 3.
Texans plus-5 ½ at Colts: Colts by 3.
Bills minus-2 at Jaguars: Jaguars by 7.
Patriots minus-1 at Dolphins: Patriots by 3.
Jets plus-11 at Panthers: Panthers by 10.
Chiefs minus-4 ½ at Raiders: Chiefs by 10.
Packers plus-7 at Cowboys: Cowboys by 10.
Bengals minus-2 ½ at Steelers: Steelers by 3.
Ravens plus-5 ½ at Lions: Ravens by 3.
Record: Last week: 12-3; 8-7 vs. the spread. Overall: 113-79-1; 87-101-4 vs. the spread.