Through four weeks, Rosenthal and I both were doing well in the game-by-game picks contest. He had nailed 43 of 62, and I’d picked correctly 41 of them.
In Week Five, the bottom dropped out.
Rosenthal managed to break even at 7-7. I had a dreadful 4-10 showing. Yes, 4-10.
He’s now 50-26. I’m 45-31.
Hopefully, I can gain some ground this week. Or at least get five games right.
Dolphins at Packers
Florio’s take: The Packers are banged up,
and the Dolphins are desperate. With or without quarterback Aaron
Rodgers, who has a concussion, the Packers won’t be improving on their
3-1 record in the last four games against Miami, which came after losing eight times in a row to the
FIns. Look for the Dolphins to grind it out methodically, and to get on
the right side of .500 after 13 days to prepare for their return to
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Packers 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Packers can’t blame injuries for everything.
Their backups have mostly played well. Injuries don’t account for
play-calling, red zone play, clock management, Charles Woodson’s
decline, or the lack of a difference-making defender outside of Clay
Mathews. This is a matchup of truly inept special teams. It’s also a
major gut check game for both squads. The Dolphins have more healthy
players. I suspect they have more guts, whether Aaron Rodgers plays or
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 19, Packers 17.
Chargers at Rams
take: No one expected the Rams to be 2-3. Everyone expected it from
the Chargers, who have now done it four years in a row before turning it
on down the stretch. Winning in St. Louis won’t be as easy as the
Chargers think, but with quarterback Philip Rivers winging it all over
the place and with St. Louis rookie Sam Bradford having no one to wing it to (or, for you finicky English majors working at Best Buy, no one to whom to wing it), the Chargers should be able to outscore the Rams, absent
another special-teams meltdown.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 31, Rams 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers already lost three games on the road, matching their total losses from the 2009 season. (They were 7-1 on the
road last year.) The Rams already have two home wins, doubling
their total wins from ’09. These teams are clearly different this year,
but some things stay the same. Philip Rivers is playing at an MVP level
and a talent shortage in St. Louis’ secondary is finally starting to
Rosenthal’s pick: Charger 31, Rams 21.
Ravens at Patriots
take: Though we’ve seen plenty of teams lay eggs after their bye week,
the Patriots will be as focused and prepared as ever in their first
game after the trade that sent Randy Moss back to Minnesota. And the
Patriots will want to give a little something back to the Ravens, who
went to Gillette Stadium in the 2009 playoffs and took a lawnmower to
the Pats’ collective grass ass. Get ready for Aaron Hernandez to emerge
as an offensive rookie of the year candidate as a major play in the Pats’ new beardless passing game.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 28, Ravens 19.
Rosenthal’s take: If nothing else, trading Randy Moss gives Patriots
coach Bill Belichick good fodder for his “no one believes in you”
pregame talks. Against Miami, Belichick pointed out how no in-house
Patriots Football Weekly writers picked the Patriots to win. The same
may happen this week with the Ravens hoping for a repeat of their
playoff beatdown from a year ago. When the Patriots’ offense shows how
capable it is without Randy Moss, Belichick may ship the disbelieving
writers to Minnesota, too.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 28, Ravens 27.
Browns at Steelers
Florio’s take: In 1989, the Browns came
to Pittsburgh and won big, 51-0. A full 21 years later, it’s time for
the Steelers to exact full and complete revenge. With Colt McCoy in at
quarterback for the Browns and Ben Roethlisberger back from suspension
for the Steelers, this one could get out of hand, quickly.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 51, Browns 0.
Rosenthal’s take: Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy didn’t look
remotely ready for pro football for most of the preseason. And he was facing
the backups’ backups then. Now, McCoy gets real against the best
defense in football, coming off a bye. The Browns should seriously take a
page out of the ’06 Panthers playbook and roll with the Wildcat as
their base offense. Josh Cribbs can play quarterback and Peyton Hillis can dole
out punishment. It’s more likely Ben Roethlisberger can enjoy not
having to work much in his return to action.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 24, Browns 6.
Chiefs at Texans
take: The Chiefs faced the Colts with too much of a nothing-to-lose
mentality, taking risks that they simply didn’t need to take in order to
compete with an Indy team that isn’t as good as it was a year ago. The
Texans are fading after their Daytona 500-style showing in Week One
against Indy. This one is a toss-up. Literally. Heads, Chiefs.
Florio’s pick: Texan 20, Chiefs 13.
Rosenthal’s pick: The Chiefs secondary is one of the few groups in the
league that can confidently shut down the Texans passing attack.
Brandon Flowers should make the Pro Bowl and Brandon Carr has seriously
improved. The Texans secondary is one of the few groups that Matt
Cassel can pass against. At least a little. Add it up, and you are
going to have a lot of pissed off Texans fans Sunday afternoon.
Rosenthal’s take: Chiefs 24, Texans 20.
Lions at Giants
take: The Lions have gotten their win for the first half of the year,
and the Giants are in the process of turning things around. Sure, that
38-point victory over the Rams could wake up a moribund franchise, but it
won’t be easy to go into New Jersey and steal one, even with
the Giants suffering more than a few injuries. Giants receiver Hakeem
Nicks has been too good, and the Lions don’t have anyone who can
shut him down.
Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Lions 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Lions and Giants both changed the perception of
their seasons dramatically last week. The Lions are suddenly a team
that can blow someone out. They can produce a thriving passing game
with their backup quarterback. They are (gasp) fun to watch. The
Giants defense has wildly improved despite injuries to Mathias Kiwanuka,
Kenny Phillips, and Keith Bulluck. Maybe it’s time folks start
noticing how much better Eli Manning is than when he won the Super
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 34, Lions 26.
Falcons at Eagles
take: Quarterback Mike Vick desperately wants to welcome his former
team to Philly, and the Eagles need him. Even though Kevin Kolb led the Eagles to methodical win over a desperate 49ers team, the Falcons are a cut above the 0-5 Niners. The
Philly defense was torched a bit by San Fran, with receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis each gaining more than 100 yards. That could spell
trouble against receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Though this one could be
a little bit of a shootout (which is better than calling it a
dogfight), the absence of left tackle Jason Peters should provide the
difference for the Falcons.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 33, Eagles 30.
Rosenthal’s take: The difference in Atlanta this year: defense. Despite
so-so play from free agent pickup Dunta Robinson, the Falcons are a
top-ten unit. A great defensive line rotation and deep linebacker group
is the key. The Eagles are still trying to figure out who they are,
especially on defense. Stopping Atlanta’s run game will be a challenge,
but we’d take LeSean McCoy over Michael Turner at this point. Bring on
another Eagles quarterback controversy!
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 20, Falcons 17.
Seahawks at Bears
take: Helping the Bears climb to 4-1 has been a soft schedule. The schedule
stays like oven-fresh bread on Sunday, when the Jekyll-and-Hyde Seahawks come to town.
So far, the ‘Hawks have been good at home, dreadful on the road. Even
with a bye week to prepare, the Seahawks will continue on a track that
could lead to an 8-8 finish — which could be enough to win the NFC
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Seahawks 10.
Rosenthal’s take: With a soft schedule coming up, the Bears have a great
chance to reach midseason at 7-1 or 6-2. Their defense has been
consistently above average. It’s hard for the Seahawks to hope for
better than 8-8 because they haven’t been competitive on the road.
Seattle gets to try out Marshawn Lynch this week, while the Bears get
Jay Cutler back. Advantage Bears.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 21, Seahawks 14.
Saints at Buccaneers
take: Last year, the Saints marched into Tampa and spanked the Bucs,
38-7. Later in the season, the Bucs rolled into the Superdome and stole
a 20-17 win in overtime, thanks in large part to the right leg of
Garrett Hartley. In 2010, the Saints aren’t the same Saints, and the
Bucs aren’t the same Bucs. But the Saints still have enough firepower
to keep an up-and-coming team down.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Buccaneers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Drew Brees keeps saying everything’s good with the
Saints. The numbers tell a different story. New Orleans is scoring 12
fewer points-per-game than last year, they aren’t stretching the field,
and the defense isn’t forcing turnovers. Brees takes the Saints on
long, slow drives that too often end in mistakes. The Bucs defense has
improved, but it’s hard to tell how much. The rush defense is among the
league’s worst and they’ve faced the following quarterbacks: Jake
Delhomme, Matt Moore, Charlie Batch, and Carson Palmer. The Saints will
look closer to good this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 21.
Jets at Broncos
Florio’s take: In
1998, the Jets stood on the cusp of their first Super Bowl berth since
1969. To get there, they had to beat the Broncos in Denver. Despite
leading at the half, the Jets failed to finish the job. So it’s
fitting, I suppose, that with the Jets in the best position to finally
get back to the Super Bowl in 12 years, they get a chance to go back to
Denver for the third time since that fateful day and pound the crap out
of the Broncos. (By the way, look for receiver Santonio Holmes to have a
huge day as his timing with quarterback Mark Sanchez improves.)
Florio’s pick: Jets 30, Broncos 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Broncos return after bruising games in Tennessee
and Baltimore left them wounded. A nondescript defense has lost many
of its best players, just in time to face a quietly efficient Jets
offense. These are the bizarro Jets. They give up way too many
third-and-long conversions. Their pass defense may be the team’s weak
spot. This is a dangerous game for the Jets since Kyle Orton can exploit
their secondary, but New York’s overall balance and talent should win
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 24, Broncos 22.
Raiders at 49ers
take: There’s a new Bay of Pigs in the NFL. Though the Raiders are
right about where everyone thought they would be after five games, the
Niners have performed miserably. Owner Jed York thinks they’ll win the
division; the first step will be to win a game. Look for the Niners to
get it done, finally.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 30, Raiders 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Raiders coach Tom Cable loves to fire his team up with
bulletin board material. This week, he should just print out the
betting line. The winless 49ers are the fourth biggest favorite of the
week. What’s it going to take for people to realize San Francisco just
aren’t that good? (I’m looking at you, Jed York.) In the immortal words of
Jim Mora, “Playoffs?! Playoffs?! You kidding me?” The 49ers should
just hope they win a game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 19, 49ers 17.
Cowboys at Vikings
take: After the Vikings trounced the Cowboys in the 2009 playoffs,
Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking complained that the home team had run
up the score. Thus, the looming rematch took on a higher level of
significance. But with the Vikings and Cowboys currently struggling to
win games, they’ve got bigger problems than worrying about petty notions
of revenge. With Randy Moss making his return to the
Metrodome, the place will be a-rockin’. The Cowboys would be wise to
not go a-knockin’.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 31, Cowboys 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Great schaudenfraude game. [
Editor’s note: For some reason, I take satisfaction and pleasure in the fact that Rosenthal doesn’t know how to spell “schadenfreude.”] Thirty fan bases can sit back
and enjoy one of their least favorite teams go to 1-4. And the winning
team only goes to 2-3! Dallas has a losing record, but has mostly
looked unlucky and stupid. The Vikings have looked unlucky, stupid, and
simply bad for long stretches. This is a week Minnesota’s offensive
tackles and cornerback depth will get exposed. Again.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 26, Vikings 24.
Colts at Redskins
take: When Mike Shanahan was coaching the Broncos, he lost six of
eight games to Peyton Manning. And Shanahan’s Broncos teams generally
were better than his current team in D.C. Then again, Manning’s Colts
teams were better then than his current Colts team. But Peyton knows
how to show up in prime-time games, especially when he’s facing the
prospect of finishing his career with an 0-2 record at FedEx Field.
Florio’s pick: Colts 28, Redskins 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Redskins are impossible to figure out. They are
15th in offensive yards, but 24th in points. Their defense is dead last
in yards allowed, but have given up the ninth fewest points. Donovan
McNabb has received some early MVP buzz, yet he struggles in three out
of four quarters he plays. The Colts remain the Colts. Even with a
softer Indy defense than normal, we’ll take our chances with Peyton
Manning against this Redskins secondary.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 30, Redskins 24
Titans at Jaguars
take: At first blush, this is one of those mediocre Monday night
games, a short-term buzz kill sandwiched between a foursome of great
games featuring Pats-Fins and Vikings-Jets on the front end and
Giants-Cowboys and Texans-Colts on the back. But with the Titans
and Jags at 3-2 (tied with the Colts and Texans), the winner of this
game takes a huge step toward competing for an unlikely division title.
If the right Titans team shows up, Tennessee should be able to do in
Jacksonville what the Colts couldn’t.
Florio’s pick: Titans 17, Jaguars 13.
Rosenthal’s take: These teams are built similarly. They both want to be
tough, run the football, and stop the run. The Titans are better
at it. Both defensive backfields are vulnerable, but I like Kenny
Britt’s chances of getting deep better than Mike Sims-Walker on Monday
night. It’s too much to expect Good David Garrard to show up three
weeks in a row.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 16.