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 (2-0)
Last week: Patriots.
Why: In a week that saw nine favorites fall, including five at home, the Patriots did what they normally do: Do whatever it takes to win.
2, Packers (2-0); 3, Broncos (2-0); 4, Cardinals (2-0); 5, Bengals (2-0); 6, Steelers (1-1); 7, Bills (1-1); 8, Jets (2-0); 9, Falcons (2-0); 10, Panthers (2-0); 11, Chargers (1-1); 12, Cowboys (2-0); 13, Chiefs (1-1); 14, Raiders (1-1); 15, 49ers (1-1).
16 (Last week: 29): The Vikings rest somewhere between their 20-3 clunker of an opener on the road and last week’s feel-good home win over the Lions. Time may reveal that a home win over Detroit, sans Suh, isn’t much reason for excessive celebration.
THE REST OF THE REST
17, Jaguars (1-1); 18, Dolphins (1-1); 19, Giants (1-2); 20, Redskins (1-2); 21, Rams (1-1); 22, Seahawks (0-2); 23, Browns (1-1); 24, Titans (1-1); 25, Buccaneers (1-1); 26, Ravens (0-2); 27, Eagles (0-2); 28, Colts (0-2); 29, Bears (0-2); 30, Lions (0-2); 31, Texans (0-2).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Saints (0-2). Last week: Buccaneers: After two weeks in the bottom slot, the Buccaneers ruined a lot of people’s suicide pools by beating the Saints in New Orleans. Now, the Saints are playing without Drew Brees to boot. Of course, in today’s NFL, a wounded Saints team without its star quarterback probably means a win at Carolina.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, They’re 6-3 at home under Mike Zimmer heading into Sunday's game against the Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium. On the road, they’re 1-7 since Zimmer’s debut in St. Louis in last year’s opener. The Chargers have the quarterback, the receivers and the offensive balance to control the tempo of this game, but a home Vikings crowd can help disrupt the no huddle and muddle huddle the Chargers like to use.
2, Adrian Peterson is talking about things feeling like “old times.” With 31 touches and 134 rushing yards a week ago, the rust should be knocked off to the point where he secures the ball better than he did last week. The Chargers rank 21st in run defense. It also helps Peterson’s determination that rookie running back Melvin Gordon is on the other side. “I’m not ready to give up the torch, I can tell you that,” Peterson said this week.
3, Here’s a little-known stat that could come in handy in a tight game of field position: The Vikings rank No. 1 in punt coverage. They’re allowing 0.7 yards per return. The Bears are No. 2 at 3.0.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Chargers running backs Melvin Gordon (4.6 yards per carry) and Danny Woodhead (4.0) are different backs, but both are the kind that can gash the Vikings when they're playing sloppy run defense. Unfortunately for the Vikings, that happens often.
2, Philip Rivers doesn't have Antonio Gates (four-game suspension), but he’s still packing a 107.4 passer rating and ranks second in the league in yards per attempt (9.5).
3, Even without Gates, the Chargers have a lot of targets to cover. Stevie Johnson looks like a strong addition with 11 catches and two touchdowns through two games.
Chargers plus-2 ½ at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 24, Chargers 21.
Why?: San Diego probably is the better team, but it’s on the road with no Gates, a suspect special teams unit and a less-than-stellar run defense. I just wouldn’t put a lot of money where this mouth is.
Last week: Lions plus-2 ½ at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 17, Lions 14. The score: Vikings 26, Lions 16. Record: 1-1.
THE OTHER GAMES
Falcons minus-1/2 at Cowboys: Cowboys by 3
Bengals minus-2 ½ at Ravens: Ravens by 3
Colts minus-3 ½ at Titans: Colts by 7
Jaguars plus-13 ½ at Patriots: Patriots by 10
Saints plus-3 ½ at Panthers: Panthers by 7
Eagles plus-2 ½ at Jets: Eagles by 3
Steelers minus-1 ½ at Rams: Steelers by 3
Buccaneers plus-6 ½ at Texans: Texans by 3
49ers plus-6 ½ at Cardinals: Cardinals by 3
Bills plus-2 ½ at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7
Bears plus-14 ½ at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7
Broncos minus-3 ½ at Lions: Broncos by 7
Chiefs plus-6 ½ at Packers: Packers by 7
Raiders plus-3 ½ at Browns. The pick: Raiders 27, Browns 24
Why?: The Browns changed quarterbacks after a win. We’d like to trust the decision, but there’s about 16 years of evidence to suggest that every step Cleveland makes at quarterback is a misstep.
Last week: Chargers plus-3 ½ at Bengals. The pick: Chargers 27, Bengals 24. The score: Bengals 24, Chargers 19. Record: 0-2.
Last week/overall: 8-7/17-13. Versus spread last week/overall: 7-8/14-16.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.