For the second straight week, I held a one-game lead over Rosenthal entering the Monday night game.
And, for the second straight week, Rosenthal got the Monday night game right and I got it wrong, forcing a tie.
We both finished 9-5 in the first 14-game weekend. Rosenthal won Week One and Week Two; in Week Three and Week Four, we tied.
Overall, Rosenthal is 43-19. I’m two games back, at 41-21.
For this week’s picks and explanations, read on.
Jaguars at Bills
Florio’s take: The Bills are bad, but in this season of parity they’re not bad enough to lose all 16. Even with former Bills quarterback Trent Edwards feeding the Jags with the Buffalo state secrets, Jacksonville is prime for a letdown after unexpectedly toppling the Colts.
Florio’s pick: Bills 20, Jags 19.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bills have no chance to move the ball against superior defenses. The Jaguars do not have a superior defense. In fact, the Jaguars’ secondary is one of the few groups in the league struggling as much as Buffalo during their transition to the 3-4 defense. The Bills aren’t going 0-16, and this looks like one of their most winnable games of the year. Bad David Garrard shows up this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 23, Jaguars 21.
Broncos at Ravens
Florio’s take: The Broncos pulled off an unlikely road win against a one-loss team on Sunday, but the Ravens has a few more horses than the Titans. Despite Baltimore’s so-so secondary, Denver quarterback Kyle Orton won’t have time to find an open receiver if he’s being chased and/or pummeled by the Ravens’ front seven. Meanwhile, the Baltimore offense finally is emerging from its vegetative state, with Joe Flacco looking more like Joe Flacco and less like Stoney Case.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Broncos 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens and Broncos both have the records you’d expect, but they’ve arrived there in surprising ways. Kyle Orton and his band of hodgepodge receivers are racking up passing yards like the ’99 Rams. Baltimore’s secondary has played great, but their run defense has been soft. Luckily, the Broncos don’t try to run. When they do, it doesn’t work. Denver is a tough out, but asking for back-to-back wins in Tennessee and Baltimore is asking too much.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Broncos 24.
Chiefs at Colts
Florio’s take: Scratch a little at the word “Chiefs” and a faint “Patriots” emerges, with the presence of Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Mike Vrabel, and Matt Cassel making this one a kinda-sorta renewal of one of the most compelling inter-division rivalries of the past decade. The Chiefs have nothing to lose, and the Colts have no easy answers for their lackluster start. It adds up to an upset. In a PFTV video previewing what we regard to be the game of the week, I picked the Colts, but I left a little wiggle room. I’m tempted to pick the Chiefs here, primarily because a win over the defending AFC champs would make this Chiefs team even more compelling. (Besides, what’s the point of having wiggle room if you don’t, you know, wiggle?) I’ll stick the home team, but I’ll gladly accept the “L” if I’m wrong.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Chiefs 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Chiefs fans are making too much out of this game. It’s not a litmus test for the rest of the season. It’s Week Five. There aren’t many teams that could go into Lucas Oil Stadium and win against an angry Peyton Manning. I’m most interested to see how Kansas City’s young secondary holds up. They have potential to carry this team, because Matt Cassel isn’t going to. A mismatch in special teams should keep the Chiefs close, but they will only get a moral victory here.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 27, Chiefs 21.
Packers at Redskins
Florio’s take: But for a fast start against the Eagles from quarterback Donovan McNabb, in no doubt fueled by the enthusiastic response that Philly fans gave to a guy about whom they had been ambivalent at best, the Redskins would be 1-3. Though the Packers have yet to develop a killer instinct, they suddenly feel the hot, stinky breath of the Vikings on their necks — and so the Packers can’t afford to lose games that they easily should win.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Redskins 21.
Rosenthal’s take: No one knows how good the Packers are because they’ve faced one of the easiest schedules in the league. No one knows how good the Redskins are because a wildly different team shows up every week. I know this much: The Redskins aren’t worse off with Ryan Torain starting at running back, but the Packers are much worse off without Nick Barnett at linebacker. Washington doesn’t have the passing attack to take advantage, though.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Redskins 20.
Rams at Lions
Florio’s take: Last year, the Rams’ only win of the season came against the Lions, who eventually won only two. This year, both teams are better, even though the Lions are 0-4. In fact, the Lions are good enough to win, even though the Rams are good enough to win the NFC West.
Florio’s prediction: Lions 20, Rams 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Due to a forgiving schedule and a surprising pass rush from James Hall and Chris Long, the Rams defense has been impressive this year. They haven’t allowed more than 17 points yet. The Lions offense has played well with Shaun Hill, which makes you wonder what they’ll do with Matthew Stafford. Detroit has lost three games by one score and played three games on the road. Like Cleveland last week, they are overdue for a victory.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 21, Rams 14.
Bears at Panthers
Florio’s take: A loss would send the Panthers to 0-5 at their bye, putting coach John Fox at risk of possible termination. Last week, Carolina showed progress against the Saints, and the Panthers have a blueprint for turning the Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) black and blue, courtesy of Big Blue. The correction for Chicago continues, and Carolina gets in the win column by sticking it former Panther and Tar Heel Julius Peppers.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 14, Bears 12.
Rosenthal’s take: A lot of fun questions can be answered here. What does the worst passing attack in football look like after Carolina loses Steve Smith? How many forward passes will John Fox call with a rookie quarterback and three rookie wide receivers? Would you rather have a wobbly Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) or a healthy Jimmy Clausen? I’ll take Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins), especially since the Bears rush defense can stop Carolina’s one strength.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 17, Panthers 10.
Buccaneers at Bengals
Florio’s take: The Bucs beat the Browns and the Browns beat the Bengals so the Bucs should beat the Bengals, right? Even though Tampa has had the benefit of the bye week, the Bengals are a better team at home than on the road and the Bucs are still learning how to become a good team anywhere.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 21, Buccaneers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: When the Bengals win, they don’t seem happy. When they lose, Carson Palmer keeps his fantasy owners happy. It’s a wobbly team [editor’s note: Rosenthal uses “wobbly” almost as much as Steve Young uses “leaking oil”], which makes this a huge game for Cincinnati. Despite all the offensive concerns, they can enter their bye week at 3-2, and then re-group. In the end, the veteran Bengals defense should be the best unit in this game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 17, Bucs 14.
Falcons at Browns
Florio’s take: The Browns have been competitive in every game, and they’re riding the momentum of a big win over the Bengals. The Falcons struggle
d with the 49ers last week, one game after stealing a win from the Saints. These two teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest; as a result, I’m giving the edge to the home team.
Florio’s pick: Browns 17, Falcons 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Falcons coach Mike Smith raised a good point this week. His team could be 1-3 just as easily as 3-1 after Garrett Hartley’s gaffe and Nate Clements’ fumble. The Browns are similarly incapable of playing in a blowout. These two teams have played eight games this year, with seven decided by an average of three points. Jake Delhomme’s likely return breaks the tie.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 23, Browns 21.
Giants at Texans
Florio’s take: The Giants played well with their backs against the wall, and now that their backs are a little bit off the wall, the Giants can dial up another lackluster effort. The Texans, though not dominant, have been solid, and they can sense that a playoff appearance could be coming.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Giants 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Outside of the embarrassment in Indianapolis, the Giants defense has shown steady improvement this year. Of course, that game against the Colts was their only road test yet. Houston’s wideouts are banged-up, but the offensive line is coming off its best performance of the year. They won’t let Matt Schaub get assaulted like Jay Cutler was last week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 28, Giants 17.
Saints at Cardinals
Florio’s take: The current Drew Brees meets up with the guy who eventually could be the next Drew Brees, Cardinals rookie Max Hall. But Hall gets a tough draw in his first start, and it will likely be a long day for the 2008 NFC champs when the 2009 NFC champs come to town. The only question is whether the Saints can display some of the same dominance from 2009, or whether they’ll continue to eke out narrow wins. For one week at least, I envision dominance.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Cardinals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cardinals are the most depressed 2-2 team in the land because they’ve played worse than some 0-4 squads. Derek Anderson has taken all the heat, but the offensive line is in shambles, there’s no running game, Larry Fitzgerald is hurt, Joey Porter looks his age, Darnell Dockett has been inconsistent, and they don’t have a second cornerback. Other than that, they look great.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 28, Cardinals 14.
Titans at Cowboys
Florio’s take: Two weeks after beating the team that currently plays in Houston, the Cowboys host the team that used to play in Houston. With a bye week to prepare and the Titans simply not as good as initially believed, the Cowboys will welcome the Titans back to the Lone Star State with a Texas-sized butt whipping.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 35, Titans 17.
Rosenthal’s take: I picked both these teams to win their division in the PFT Season Preview. One of them will fall into a major hole after this game. Tennessee may be getting called dirty, but where’s the toughness on offense? Their run-blocking has been abysmal. Chris Johnson is often breaking two tackles to get back to the line of scrimmage. The Titans need to air it out more, especially to Kenny Britt. The Cowboys are a tough defense to play when you are searching for answers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 23, Titans 17.
Chargers at Raiders
Florio’s take: The Chargers are continuing to dig out of their funk, just as the Raiders are settling in to theirs. The only question about this one is whether it will be the last one of Tom Cable’s career.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 35, Raiders 19.
Rosenthal’s take: Where did all that offseason optimism about the Raiders go? This looks like the same old team. The defense was supposed to carry the day, but they’ve been among the league’s worst. Bruce Gradkowski has improved the passing attack, but the offensive line still struggles. This is a game Oakland desperately needs to stay relevant, and they usually play the Chargers tough at home. They also usually find a way to lose. Mike Tolbert Fever: Catch it!
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 20.
Eagles at 49ers
Florio’s take: Though 0-4, the 49ers remain in contention to win the NFC West, especially since the three teams in front of them are 2-2 each. The 2-2 Eagles enter the game without the NFC’s offensive player of the month for September, and there are real concerns that quarterback Kevin Kolb won’t be able to perform as well as he can, given the problems with the team’s offensive line. With a national audience, an increasingly restless home crowd, and the ability to put together a string of four wins before their bye (the next opponents are the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos), the 49ers have every incentive to put together a powerful performance.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 28, Eagles 22.
Rosenthal’s take: How little respect is there for Kevin Kolb nationwide? The winless 49ers are favored in this game by 3.5. With Oakland and Carolina on the schedule next, San Francisco has a real opportunity to turn their season around. There’s just very little reason to believe they’ll do so. I’m taking the Eagles, if only for organizational superiority. They are a team that finds ways to win over the years, while Mike Singletary’s squad searches for new and painful ways to lose each week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 21.
Vikings at Jets
Florio’s take: Suddenly, the Monday night game at the New Meadowlands Stadium becomes as compelling as the Thursday night season opener. The Jets have won three in a row since losing on their home field to open the season, and the Vikings are desperately trying to keep pace with the Packers and the Bears. The Jets are 7-1 against the Vikings; even with Randy Moss, win No. 2 isn’t likely to come on Monday night.
Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Vikings 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Randy Moss can’t pass protect. He can’t make Brett Favre turn back the clock a year, and Moss definitely can’t re-arrange a challenging schedule that even the ’09 Vikings would struggle to win 11 games against. The Jets have lived up to the hype so far. The offense is playing better than the defense. Don’t expect that to continue with Calvin Pace and Darrelle Revis likely returning Monday night.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Vikings 13.