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. Panthers (12-0)
Last week: Panthers.
Why: They almost found a way to lose at New Orleans. But the streak marches on, even if the eyebrows start to raise on Carolina’s chances of an undefeated season.
2. Cardinals (11-2); 3. Broncos (10-2); 4. Seahawks (7-5); 5. Bengals (10-2); 6. Chiefs (7-5); 7. Packers (8-4); 8. Eagles (5-7); 9. Patriots (10-2); 10. Jets (7-5); 11. Steelers (7-5).
12, VIKINGS (8-5). (Last week: 12).
Why: Two losses in four days, but two completely different feelings about this team and its ability to reach the postseason. When they were expected to win, they were lifeless in a blowout loss at home to Seattle. When they were expected to get torn apart on a short week on the road against one of the league’s best teams, they played with great intensity and lost by only three despite losing the turnover battle, 3-0. This is still a good team. It’s just a developing team.
THE REST OF THE REST
13. Bills (6-6); 14. Buccaneers (6-6); 15. Texans (6-6); 16. 49ers (4-8); 17. Dolphins (5-7); 18. Redskins (5-6); 19. Colts (6-6); 20. Lions (4-8); 21. Bears (5-7); 22. Raiders (5-7); 23. Giants (5-7); 24. Titans (3-9); 25. Saints (4-8); 26. Chargers (3-9); 27. Jaguars (4-8); 28. Ravens (4-8); 29. Falcons (6-6); 30. Rams (4-8); 31. Cowboys (3-8).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Browns (2-10). Last week: Browns.
Why?: The NFL has been talking about moving its draft around to different cities. Cleveland would be the perfect place. No team seems to “win” more draft day titles that the Browns. Move the draft to Cleveland, create the Haslam Trophy and let’s get Cleveland a crown!
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, Teddy Bridgewater showed he’s a fighter. He made a mistake in holding on to the ball too long on the last play of the Cardinals game. But he also showed he’s not going to wilt when times are tough.
2, The coaching staff has the players’ attention, respect and faith. Otherwise, the Cardinals game would have been a blowout. Trust me. I’ve covered enough teams to recognize when the players’ faith tanks are full or riding the E.
3, Three extra days of rest before back-to-back home games against beatable teams in the Bears and Giants.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Injuries. When groins (Anthony Barr), hamstrings/knees (Harrison Smith) and big toes (Linval Joseph) start breaking down on your best players during playoff runs, playoff runs can disappear quickly. Hopefully, players are being diligent in their treatment and attentive to whatever they can do to get a body through this grind. And even then, avoiding injuries is mostly up to having good luck or bad.
2, Turnovers. Turnovers and injuries are the top two reasons this league is so unpredictable. And both come and go with no warning signals. The Vikings are marching down the field with power and precision, going 74 yards in nine plays. And then there’s a fumble at the 15-yard line. Poof. This team isn’t built to withstand sloppiness in ball security.
3,By the time we get to the Bears game, it probably will be assumed that the Vikings will win the game. Assumptions are rarely a good thing in this league.
Last week: Seahawks pick at Vikings: The pick: Vikings 23, Seahawks 21. The score: Seahawks 38, Vikings 7. Record: 8-4.
Thursday: I didn’t predict a score, but my, um, “Bold Prediction!” was the Vikings would lead at halftime (it was 10-10) but lose by seven when the world expected a blowout. Hey, one has to go more conservative on the bold predictions a week after boldly predicting that Adrian Peterson would rush for 175 yards and three TDs against Seattle. I only missed it that one by 157 yards and three TDs. Record: 8-5.
THE OTHER GAMES
Bills minus-1 1/2 at Eagles: Bills by 3
Lions plus-1/2 at Rams: Lions by 3
Colts plus-1/2 at Jaguars: Jaguars by 2
Saints plus-3 1/2 at Buccaneers: Saints by 7
Steelers plus-3 1/2 at Bengals: Steelers by 7
Chargers plus-10 1/2 at Chiefs: Chiefs by 7
49ers plus-1 1/2 at Browns: 49ers by 3
Seahawks minus-6 1/2 at Ravens: Seahawks by 10
Titans plus-7 1/2 at Jets: Jets by 6
Redskins plus-3 1/2 at Bears: Bears by 7
Cowboys plus-7 1/2 at Packers: Packers by 10
Patriots minus-3 1/2 at Texans: Patriots by 17
Giants minus-1 1/2 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 3
Atlanta plus-7 1/2 at Carolina: Panthers by 9
Raiders plus-7 1/2 at Broncos. The pick: Raiders 27, Broncos 24
Why?: Oakland is a dangerous team offensively and, besides, the football gods can’t possibly want this to be how Peyton Manning’s career ends. And it will end unless Denver experiences an urgency to get him back on the field healthy.
Last week: Panthers minus-7 at Saints. The pick: Saints 31, Panthers 30. The score: Panthers 41, Saints 38. Record: 5-8.
Last week/overall: 6-9/100-77. Versus spread last week/overall: 6-9/82-95.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.