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 (9-0)
Last week: Patriots.
Why: The Patriots are No. 1 in scoring, No. 4 in points allowed and unchallenged when it comes to knowing that you know they know you know they're the best.
2. Panthers (9-0); 3. Cardinals (7-2).
4, VIKINGS (7-2). (Last week: 9).
Why: How good are the Vikings? Good enough that I'm going to pick them to win this week even though all of the NFL's leveling forces are screaming to pick the Packers. And try not to do a backflip off the bandwagon if they do indeed lose on Sunday. Must wins are really only must win when they're, well, must win.
THE REST OF THE REST
5. Giants (5-5); 6. Seahawks (4-5); 7. Texans (4-5); 8. Bengals (8-1); 8. Bills (5-4); 9. Chiefs (4-5); 10. Steelers (6-4); 11. Colts (4-5); 12. Broncos (7-2); 13. Dolphins (4-5); 14. Lions (2-7); 15. Packers (6-3); 16. Eagles (4-5); 17. Jets (5-4); 18. Bears (4-5); 19. 49ers (3-6); 20. Buccaneers (4-5); 21. Falcons (6-3); 23. Redskins (4-5); 24. Rams (4-5); 25. Raiders (4-5); 26. Jaguars (4-6); 27. Titans (2-9); 28. Ravens (2-7); 29. Saints (4-6); 30. Browns (2-8); 31. Chargers (2-7).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Cowboys (2-7). Last week: Lions.
Why?: They say tough times expose a man's true character. Someone forward that to Dez Bryant.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, The linebacking corps will be back to full strength. Eric Kendricks will return from his rib injury, Anthony Barr's left hand is healing and more NFL players should attack their roles the way Chad Greenway has this season.
2, Teddy Bridgewater is 5-0 when he throws for fewer than 200 yards. And he's a big reason the team is 7-2. What is this, 1967?
3, The Vikings are first in average starting point following kickoffs (23.7) and first in punt coverage (4.3 yards per return). So they start farther down the field and when they punt, the ball stays farther away from their goal line. That's how complementary football works on a team built around defense and Adrian Peterson.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Aaron Rodgers.
2, Aaron Rodgers coming off a loss at home to the Lions.
3, Aaron Rodgers coming off a loss at home to the Lions and then having to spend a week hearing how great the Vikings are and how bad his girlfriend might be for his career.
Bonus reason: All of the above.
Packers plus-1 at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 21, Packers 19.
Why?: This pick goes against my instincts. The instincts that keep shouting that the Vikings have been up too long, the Packers have been down too long and the two, per NFL custom, will meet in the middle come Sunday. The Vikings have won five straight. The Packers have not only lost three straight, they're coming off a home loss to the Lions for the first time since 1991. I'll pick the Vikings because they're the more physical team, they're at home and their talent is coached well enough to weather some of the typical NFL ebbs and flows. (But don't be surprised if Rodgers and his girlfriend aren't thumbing their noses at us come Sunday evening).
Last week: Vikings plus-3 at Raiders. The pick: Vikings 24, Raiders 21. The score: Vikings 30, Raiders 14. Record: 7-2.
THE OTHER GAMES
Redskins plus-7 at Panthers: Panthers by 3
Raiders plus-1 at Lions: Raiders by 7
Cowboys minus-1 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 6
Colts plus-6 at Falcons: Falcons by 3
Rams plus-2 ½ at Ravens: Rams by 3
Buccaneers plus-6 at Eagles: Eagles by 7
Broncos minus-1 at Bears: Bears by 6
Bengals plus-4 ½ at Cardinals: Bengals by 7
49ers plus-13 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 6
Chiefs minus-3 at Chargers: Chargers by 3
Bills plus-7 at Patriots: Patriots by 14
Jets minus-3 at Texans. The pick: Texans 24, Jets 14.
Why?: Houston has J.J. Watt, the home field and finally some confidence after manhandling the previously undefeated Bengals in Cincinnati last week.
Last week: Browns plus-5 ½ at Steelers. The pick: Browns 28, Steelers 27. The score: Steelers 30, Browns 9. Record: 3-7.
Last week/overall: 4-9/81-56. Versus spread last week/overall: 6-7/65-72.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.