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 (7-0)
Last week: Patriots.
Why: There are four undefeated teams. On Nov. 7! But we all know the only one with a chance to go 19-0 (20-0 if you count court decisions involving the overturning of suspensions dealt to Hall of Fame quarterbacks) is New England. More importantly, the Patriots know that you know that they know that they know they’re the only team that has what it takes to go undefeated.
2. Broncos (7-0); 3. Packers (6-1); 4. Bengals (8-0); 5. Panthers (7-0); 6. Saints (4-4); 7. Rams (4-3); 8. Cardinals (6-2); 9. Seahawks (4-4).
10, VIKINGS (5-2). (Last week: 14).
Why: First, they couldn’t win on the road in the division. Then they couldn’t win at Chicago. Now, they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. Beating the Rams (4-3) would take care of that. Of course, a Raiders win would set up next week’s storyline: The Vikings haven’t beaten a team with a winning record on the road.
THE REST OF THE REST
11. Raiders (4-3); 12. Eagles (3-4); 13. Giants (4-4); 14. Jets (4-3); 15. Redskins (3-4); 16. Buccaneers (3-4); 17. Falcons (6-2); 18. Colts (3-5); 19. Steelers (4-4); 20. Chiefs (3-5); 21. Texans (3-5); 22. Cowboys (2-5); 23. Jaguars (2-5); 24. Bills (3-4); 25. Dolphins (3-4); 26. Titans (1-6); 27. Bears (2-5); 28. Browns (2-7); 29. Ravens (2-6); 30. Chargers (2-6); 31. 49ers (2-6).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Lions (1-7). Last week: Lions.
Why?: The football world was introduced to Martha Firestone Ford this week. Who knew that a person with the last names Firestone and Ford could work a broom and clean a house like that .
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, In a battle between similar teams built around defense, running the ball and a field position, the Vikings could have an edge on third downs. The Rams have the worst third-down offense (25.88 percent), while the Vikings have the fifth-best third-down defense (32.94).
2, Adrian Peterson is healthy, third in the league in rushing and loves a challenge. This week’s challenge: Prove that the current Adrian Peterson is better than the next Adrian Peterson (Todd Gurley).
3,Coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record, but there are no Division II teams in this league. He’s developing a battle-tested team that competed on the road at Denver, survived a low-scoring struggle at home against Kansas City, came back from a slow start at Detroit and outscored the Bears 10-0 in the closing minutes to win at Chicago for the first time since 2007.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Gurley might just be the next Adrian Peterson. Or the first Todd Gurley, which could be pretty good, too. The Vikings’ suspect run defense has done well the past three weeks, but it also got fortunate. It faced Kansas City without Jamaal Charles, a Detroit team that makes little effort to run and a Bears team that lost Matt Forte for most of the second half.
2, Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks has been one of the team’s best defenders since becoming a three-down player coming out of the bye. He won’t play because of injured ribs. Audie Cole will start while Chad Greenway is expected to return to his role in the nickel.
3, Receiver Stefon Diggs, the team’s star player the past 3-4 games, has a hamstring injury. He’s listed as probable and will play. But keep an eye on tender hamstrings attached to anyone who plays the game with Diggs’ speed, quick cuts, stops and starts.
Rams plus-2 1/2 at Vikings. The prediction: Vikings 19, Rams 17.
Why?: This is a risky pick since the Rams have wins over Seattle and at Arizona while the Vikings are still without a signature win (sorry, Chicago). But the Vikings are, as Zimmer says, becoming a team that’s learning how to win. It will be a low-scoring defensive struggle, but this is a home game the Vikings should win.
Last week: Vikings minus-1/2 at Bears. The pick: Vikings 24, Bears 21. The score: Vikings 23, Bears 20. Record: 5-2.
THE OTHER GAMES
Packers minus-2 at Panthers: Panthers by 3
Jaguars plus-7 1/2 at Jets: Jets by 7
Dolphins plus-3 1/2 at Bills: Bills by 6
Raiders plus-4 1/2 at Steelers: Raiders by 3
Titans plus-7 1/2 at Saints: Saints by 14
Redskins plus-14 1/2 at Patriots: Patriots by 10
Falcons minus-5 1/2 at 49ers: Falcons by 3
Broncos minus-3 1/2 at Colts: Broncos by 14
Eagles minus-2 1/2 at Cowboys: Cowboys by 3
Bears plus-3 1/2 at Chargers: Chargers by 7
Giants minus-2 1/2 at Buccaneers. The score: Buccaneers 24, Giants 20
Why?: Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes and the Giants scored 49 points and lost last week. The assumption would seem to be they’ll keep piling on the points against the fifth-worst scoring defense. Assumptions don’t work in the NFL.
Last week: Bengals minus-1 ½ at Steelers. The pick: Steelers 23, Bengals 20. The score: Bengals 16, Steelers 10. Record: 3-5.
Last week/overall: 9-4/72-40. Versus spread last week/overall: 5-8/53-58.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.