Every time I feel like I’m going to gain some ground on Rosenthal, I just can’t close the gap.
This past weekend, it took an upset by the Chargers over the Titans (those should count as extra) to keep me from falling three more games back.
For Week Eight, Rosenthal went 9-4. I managed 8-5.
For the year, Rosenthal has moved to 78-39. I’m five games back at 73-44. Three-G still leads all ESPN talent; I’ve pulled into a tie with Mort and Stink for the best ESPN record.
While pondering how in the hell ESPN’s Eric Allen can be five games under .500 on the year when picking games straight up without the spread, please ponder our picks for Week Nine.
Jets at Lions
Florio’s take: There’s an upset alert in Detroit this weekend, as the surprisingly potent Lions take on one of the top-five teams in the AFC. But last weekend’s loss to the Packers will wake up the Jets, who’ll be ready to avoid what otherwise could have been a trap game. Detroit can still give the Jets a run for their money, but they’re not yet ready to improve on their 2-36 record over the last 40 games not involving the Redskins.
Florio’s pick: Jets 24, Lions 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Lions are a different team at home, which should worry the Jets. Jahvid Best is a little faster, and Calvin Johnson can jump a little higher. Ndamukong Suh is so frightening that Redskins center Casey Rabach kept stepping on Donovan McNabb’s foot last week as Rabach backed up to block Suh. The Jets can’t afford to be overconfident in this game, but their improving defense has the cardiovascular endurance to get it done.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 22, Lions 17.
Dolphins at Ravens
Florio’s take: This week’s “Something’s Gotta Give” game features the Dolphins, who are 4-0 on the road, and the Ravens, 3-0 at home. Though I’m tempted to pick the visiting team (and I was leaning that way during the PFTV game of the week segment), I need to stick with my preseason pick for the Super Bowl not named the Dallas Cowboys. Even though a loss will drop Miami to 4-4 and reduce their margin of error to one or two losses down the stretch (two years ago, 11-5 didn’t get New England into the playoffs at all), the Ravens are rested and motivated and ready to make a run at a division title.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 17, Dolphins 13.
Rosenthal’s take: I picked the Ravens to win the division and make the conference championship before the season started. They are generally considered one of the top teams in the league. After watching them for seven games, I just don’t see it yet. The defense hasn’t been special; it’s been average. The Dolphins look like a tougher team up front from top to bottom. Sunday could serve as a reality check in Baltimore.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Ravens 21.
Patriots at Browns
Florio’s take: Two weeks ago, I was tempted to pick the upset when the Browns went to New Orleans. As the Browns prepare to host the Patriots, I’m tempted to take the upset again. But coach Bill Belichick is on a roll when it comes to dispensing defeat to former employees, and Eric Mangini’s presence as coach of the Browns will make it even harder for Cleveland to win. Don’t count on a Moss-style man-hug for Mangini after this one.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 28, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a much more even matchup than it appears. The Browns are the best two-win team in football; a group greater than the sum of their spare parts. The Patriots are built the same way, but they have Tom Brady. Eric Mangini always did a nice job slowing down Brady while with the Jets, and this Patriots offense isn’t as explosive as usual. Expect another close Browns loss.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 20, Browns 16.
Chargers at Texans
Florio’s take: Momentum versus desperation takes center stage in Houston, where a team better than its current record visits a team arguably worse than its won-loss tally. With a weak Houston passing defense and a Chargers quarterback on pace to throw for nearly 5,300 yards, he could come close to throwing for that many on Sunday alone, even with a patchwork group of pass-catchers.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 30, Texans 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This game was going to be one of my upset specials. Then I noticed the 3-5 Chargers are actually favored on the road. Apparently, the lack of respect for the Texans defense is widespread. Even with replacement receivers, Philip Rivers could crack 400 yards Sunday. Matt Schaub and the Texans passing game needs to be elite to win, and they haven’t quite been the same this year.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 31, Texans 21.
Bears vs. Bills at Toronto
Florio’s take: The Bills have pushed a pair of likely playoff teams to overtime on the road in their past two games. The Bears aren’t a likely playoff team, so it finally could be time for the Bills to get a “W” against a Chicago team that remains in denial regarding its deep and profound flaws.
Florio’s pick: Bills 20, Bears 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bills have the worst luck. They get into overtime on the road against a quality team and their All Pro punter Brian Moorman and rock-solid kicker Rian Lindell let them down. After two straight tough road losses, they now get stuck playing at “home” in Toronto. Chan Gailey has the Bills offense playing well, and the defense can’t get worse. The entire team is hungry and playing hard. Despite being 4-3, the Bears aren’t a quality team. It’s time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 23, Bears 17.
Cardinals at Vikings
Florio’s take: Receiver Larry Fitzgerald comes home to face a struggling Vikings team that desperately needs to face a struggling team like Fitzgerald’s Cardinals. The Vikings have too much talent and too much pride to fall to 2-6, and they know that they need to get off to a fast start or they’ll be booed off the Mall of America Field. Look for lots of Adrian Peterson and a defense that remembers how to tackle people — and that possibly forces a turnover or two.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 17, Cardinals 10.
Rosenthal’s take: Brett Favre sounded remarkably optimistic at his press conference Wednesday, although he admitted things could always get worse. Losing to the Cardinals would qualify as much worse. Arizona hasn’t played well on the road. Their quarterbacks haven’t played well anywhere. I’ve taken the Vikings to win a grand total of one time this year. (Against Detroit. 1-for-1 baby!). This game shapes up as another one that all the bad mojo in the world can’t ruin.
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 26, Cardinals 19.
Buccaneers at Falcons
Florio’s take: If the Bucs want to be known as the best team in the NFC, they need to beat one of the best teams in the NFC. They get their chance on Sunday at Atlanta. While the Bucs are moving in the right direction, they’re not ready to beat the elite teams. By next year, they possibly will. For now, they’re still learning how to be good.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: If you’re starting a franchise, who do you want for the next decade: Josh Freeman or Matt Ryan? If you said Ryan without thinking, please watch a few Freeman starts and get back to me. Then keep in mind Freeman is three years younger. It’s not all about the quarterback, though. Freeman is just starting to develop, and his team has even longer to go. This Falcons group is grown.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 30, Bucs 20.
Saints at Panthers
Florio’s take: The Saints finally are starting to look like the team that won Super Bowl XLIV. And that’s bad news for the team that has managed to win only one game this year. The Saints head into their bye on a high note — and they get Reggie Bush back when the bye ends. As to the Panthers, it remains only a matter of time until coach John Fox hears a sentence containing the word “bye”.
k: Saints 31, Panthers 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Why are these teams playing again already? The last time they met, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were already hurt. Jimmy Clausen was at quarterback for Carolina, and the Saints still barely escaped at home with a win. New Orleans proved last week they can beat elite competition. They’ve rarely shown they can win convincingly against inferior competition. Look for another tight division battle.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 24, Panthers 20.
Giants at Seahawks
Florio’s take: Undefeated at home, the Seahawks simply play better in an environment perfectly suited for coach Pete Carroll’s rah-rah style. Though the Giants are the best team (for now) in the NFC, the bye week may have disrupted their momentum (see New York Jets). Besides, the Giants haven’t won in Seattle since 1981. Though I’m tempted to go with the mild upset, the rash of injuries in Seattle would make it a much more than a mild upset. Besides, we think it may take a while to recover from that 33-3 loss to the Raiders.
Florio’s take: Giants 27, Seahawks 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Seahawks are undefeated at home, but they’ve lost three road games to mediocre opponents by an average of 21 points. The Qwest Field home crowd rocks, but this insanity has to stop eventually. The Giants have the best defense in the NFC and Seattle’s banged-up offensive line doesn’t have the players to stop them.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 24, Seahawks 16.
Colts at Eagles
Florio’s take: Mike Vick is back, and the Eagles have a chance to prove that they’re legitimate against a Colts team that is struggling at many positions, but thriving at the one that matters most. If this one were being played in Indy, I’d lean Colts. But this one will be outdoors in Philly, and the Colts (who haven’t been truly dominant yet this year) has been far less than dominant when playing outdoors. Even without DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have the talent to get it done at home — especially with an extra week to prepare for it.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 31, Colts 28.
Rosenthal’s take: There’s a feeling the AFC is vastly superior to the NFC. It’s certainly deeper. But when Green Bay wins at the Jets and the Saints beat the Steelers, it’s a good reminder that there are no dominant teams. The good NFC squads will win their share of games against AFC playoff teams. I still think the Eagles are a good team. The Colts – who have a brutal road schedule in the second half – aren’t the same group away from Lucas Oil Stadium.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 29, Colts 24.
Chiefs at Raiders
Florio’s take: With both teams relevant at the same time in years, this is one of the toughest calls of the season. The Chiefs have played well all year; the Raiders have been dominant the last two weeks. Given that the Chiefs tried to blow their game against the Bills, the smart play is to stick with the team that has left no doubt against the Broncos and Seahawks.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 23, Chiefs 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This game will shape the arc of the AFC West race. It’s over if Kansas City wins. The Chargers and Raiders won’t recover from a three-game deficit considering the Chiefs’ schedule. If the Raiders win, it’s game on. My heart is pulling for the Raiders because it would be a better story. My head thinks the Chiefs have the most complete team Oakland has faced since the Titans in Week One. Raider Nation wants PFT picking against them anyways.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 19, Raiders 16.
Cowboys at Packers
Florio’s take: I made the mistake last week of thinking that the removal of pressure and expectations would allow this team to relax and play good football. The repeated public apologies from Jerry Jones seem hollow, and there’s no reason to believe his team has finally gotten the message. Meanwhile, the Packers have shut out one of the best teams in the league in their own house, and Green Bay likely will delight in the opportunity to run up the score against the Cowboys — especially when a win will pull the all-time regular-season series to 12-12.
Florio’s pick: Packers 42, Cowboys 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a Sunday night game, so it’s hard to ignore. After this one, let’s all decide as a nation to completely ignore the Dallas Cowboys until Thanksgiving. Then we can not mention them once after that. Let them be miserable in silence. It’s the only way to truly get back at Jerry Jones for making us watch this dreadful group so regularly.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 13.
Steelers at Bengals
Florio’s take: When these two teams get together, throw out the records and the expectations. Either team can win this one — and quite possibly by more than 10 points. The Bengals swept the Steelers in 2009, the Steelers swept Cincy in 2007 and 2008. Pittsburgh’s postseason win in Cincinnati five years ago shattered Carson Palmer’s knee and propelled the Steelers to their long-awaited one for the thumb. This time around, the Bengals’ backs are against the wall, and the Steelers are stumbling a bit. Still, the Steelers are the superior team, and they know how much they have to lose if their losing streak expands to two.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: For roughly two drives each week, the Bengals offense looks like world beaters. The rest of the game they look like they 2009 Bengals. Cincinnati has enough weapons to give Pittsburgh’s occasionally leaky secondary trouble, but the Bengals defense isn’t the same group as a year ago. Cincinnati’s entire team has fewer sacks than 10 players this year. Ben Roethlisberger can get comfortable this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 30, Bengals 21.