A kind gentleman took time out of his busy Thursday this week to send me an email saying my preseason NFL power rankings will, in due time (a week), look like something his 12-year-old daughter put together on the fly.
I disagreed. Strongly, in fact. It’s quite possible, I pointed out, that they’ll look more like something my 11-year-old daughter put together on the fly.
In a confusing league, Week 1 in the NFL is especially confounding. If you don’t believe me, take it from a guy infinitely more qualified to talk about the added difficulty of Week 1s.
I asked Vikings coach Mike Zimmer if he truly knows his Week 1 opponent even after all the extra film study and lengthier-than-normal preparation that goes into a Week 1 game.
“Not as good as you would have in Week 6 of 7,” he said. “First games are always – especially with basically new staffs – they’re always a little bit concerning, because what you’ve seen on tape may not necessarily be what you see in the game.”
Players change teams, but, unlike baseball or basketball, a great player on Team A can become an invisible player on Team B. (See DeMarco Murray, 2014/2015). First-teamers barely play in the preseason. Superstars sometimes don’t play at all. And anyone who does play is following a vanilla script with no game-planning.
So, good luck trying to figure out who’s more powerful than whom. I have the Vikings ranked 11th. Honestly, I have no idea if that’s too high, too low or spot on. That happens when the starting QB goes down for the season 12 days before the opener.
Even the boys in Vegas seem to struggle with Week 1. This Sunday/Monday, there are six games with a line of fewer than three points, including a pick ‘em. And anyone who feels comfortable spotting Bill Belichick a touchdown, with or without Tom Brady, isn’t as attached to his or her disposable income as am I.
Here, for entertainment purposes only, is the weekly picks and power rankings:
WEEK 1 PICKS
Vikings minus-2 ½ at Titans: Vikings 16, Titans 13
Why?: The Vikings are too talented at too many positions to let an opportunity like this – a season-opening road win despite an 11th-hour upheaval at the quarterback position – slip away. Defense and Adrian Peterson carry the day.
Buccaneers plus-2 ½ at Falcons: Falcons by 3
Browns plus-3 ½ at Eagles: Eagles by 3
Bengals minus-2 ½ at Jets: Bengals by 7
Raiders plus-1 ½ at Saints: Saints by 3
Chargers plus-6 ½ at Chiefs: Chiefs by 10
Bills plus-3 at Ravens: Ravens by 7
Bears plus-6 at Texans: Texans by 3
Packers minus-5 at Jaguars: Packers by 10
Dolphins plus-10 ½ at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7
Giants pick at Cowboys: Giants by 3
Lions plus-3 at Colts: Colts by 7
Steelers minus-3 at Redskins: Steelers by 7
Rams minus-2 ½ at 49ers: Rams by 3
Patriots plus-6 at Cardinals: Patriots 27, Cardinals 23
Why?: Can’t you just feel this one happening? A vintage Bill Belichick moment. Sort of like when he coaxed 11 wins out of Matt Cassel when Tom Brady went down in the season opener years ago. Yes, the Cardinals might be the best overall team in the league. And, yes, they’re at home. And, yes, so is Tom Brady as he begins serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. Somehow, some way, I see Jimmy Garropolo winning his first start with Belichick barely cracking a smile.
CRAIG’S LIST: Power Rankings
9, Broncos (1-0)
10, Panthers (0-1)