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 (4-0)
Last week: Patriots.
Why: The Packers saw Aaron Rodgers turn the ball over three times at home. The Bengals had to come from behind to win at home. The Broncos won without scoring an offensive touchdown. Again. The Falcons finally dug a hole that was too deep to get out of in New Orleans on Thursday. But what did the Pats do? They went on the road and won 30-6 at Dallas.
2, Packers (5-0); 3, Bengals (5-0); 4, Broncos (5-0); 5, Cardinals (4-1); 6, Panthers (4-0); 7, Jets (3-1); 8, Giants (3-2); 9, Steelers (3-2); 10, Colts (3-2); 11, Bills (3-2); 12, Seahawks (2-3); 13, Eagles (2-3); 14, Saints (2-4); 15, Falcons (5-1).
16, VIKINGS (2-2). (Last week: 14).
Why: They drop two spots during the bye week because the Saints vault from 26 to 13 with win over the Falcons on Thursday. And since the Saints jumped that high, the Eagles had to jump a spot higher. The first and only rule for this power ranking is one team can’t rank ahead of the team it just lost to. And this is what has happened since last Saturday morning: The Eagles crushed the Saints and the Saints crushed the Falcons. With the weekly Thursday night game, the shelf life for meaningless NFL power rankings is two days. That will change when the NFL figures out a way to launch Tuesday Night Football followed by Wednesday Morning Breakfast with the NFL in London.
THE REST OF THE REST
17, Chargers (2-3); 18, Bears (2-3); 19, Raiders (2-3); 20, Redskins (2-3); 21, Rams (2-3); 22, Browns (2-3); 23, Cowboys (2-3); 24, Ravens (1-4); 25, Buccaneers (2-3); 26, Titans (1-3); 27, Jaguars (1-4); 28, Texans (1-4); 29, 49ers (1-4); 30, Chiefs (1-4); 31, Dolphins (1-3).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Lions (0-5). Last week: Lions.
Why?: When Dan Orlovsky is mentioned in any way, shape or form as someone the Lions should turn to, well, let’s just say this could be a long stay at the bottom for Detroit.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, The Vikings took one of Denver’s best punches on the road and stood with the Broncos until the closing seconds. Yeah, there are no moral victories around here, as coach Mike Zimmer likes to say, but being competitive tends to be a better confidence builder for a young program than getting pummeled.
2, The Vikings are back home, where they’re 2-0 this season and 7-3 under Zimmer. The pass protection and the pass rush are much better at home for obvious reasons. And the Chiefs will be even more one-dimensional with their best player and offensive identity, Jamaal Charles, out for the season.
3, I’ll throw this guy in because I can’t remember ever patting his back. Punter Jeff Locke is playing well, which shouldn’t be understated when a team’s identity is based on old-school tenets such as running the ball, playing sound defense and field position.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, As I sit here, I can’t imagine the Chiefs winning this game. As I sit here, I should also note that this same feeling came over me a week ago when I submitted “Chiefs over Bears” for the survivor pool in which I’m no longer a survivor. In the NFL, when feelings lean this hard toward one team, things often fall the other way on Sunday.
2, Blair Walsh. Hold your breath, folks. The Vikings will be doing the same until Walsh strings together a comfortable stretch of games in which Walsh isn’t asked about a mid-range miss or flubbed PAT.
3, Run defense. It shouldn’t be an issue this week with Charles out. Then again, it shouldn’t have been an issue two weeks ago when Ronnie Hillman was running 72 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.
Chiefs plus-3 ½ at Vikings. The Pick: Vikings 34, Chiefs 17.
Why?: The Vikings get a bye followed by a home game. The Chiefs get a home loss and Charles’ season-ending injury followed by a road trip.
Last week: Bye. Record: 3-1.
THE OTHER GAMES
Cardinals minus-3 ½ at Steelers: Steelers by 3
Bears plus-2 ½ at Lions: Lions by 3
Bengals minus-2 ½ at Bills: Bills by 3
Texans minus-1 ½ at Jaguars: Jaguars by 7
Dolphins plus-2 ½ at Titans: Dolphins by 3
Redskins plus-5 ½ at Jets: Jets by 7
Panthers plus-6 ½ at Seahawks: Seahawks by 3
Ravens minus-2 ½ at 49ers: 49ers by 3
Chargers plus-10 ½ at Packers: Packers by 7
Patriots minus-7 ½ at Colts: Patriots by 10
Giants plus-3 ½ at Eagles: Eagles by 7
Broncos minus-4 ½ at Browns. The Pick: Browns 23, Broncos 20 OT.
Why?: Josh McCown leads the Browns 98 yards in the closing seconds of regulation and the Browns kick the game-winning field goal in overtime as John Elway looks on with a sense that he's seen something like this before.
Last week: Saints plus-4 ½ at Eagles. The pick: Saints 34, Eagles 31.The score: Eagles 39, Saints 17. Record: 2-3.
Last week/overall: 6-7/46-27. Versus spread last week/overall: 4-9/33-39.
Final 2014 regular-season Record: Overall: 146-90-1. Versus spread: 125-111-1.