After lucking my way into an entirely unlikely 11-2 slate of picks last week (thanks, Bills and Patriots, for keeping me from perfection), I know it’s time for a correction.
The better news is that I’ve finally cut two games into Rosenthal’s lead on the season, and even if there’s a correction this week I’m hoping to take a few more chops at the beanstalk.
Rosenthal was 9-4 in Week Nine, and for the season he’s at 87-43. I’m now making my move at 84-46. And we both now own the entire ESPN crowd. Ravens at Falcons
Florio’s take: NFL Network gets a great one to launch the 2010 Thursday night slate. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, first-round quarterback in 2008, lead teams with respective 6-2 records. Despite the identical won-loss performance, the Ravens have done it the hard way, against the likes of the Jets, Steelers, and Dolphins. The Falcons have lost to the Steelers and Eagles, and they barely beat the slightly-above-average Saints and Buccaneers. The Ravens are the better team, and they get a chance to prove it in prime time — even though the Ravens have struggled in domes and the Falcons have been stellar at home.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Falcons 17.
Rosenthal’s take: There isn’t a lot separating these two teams. The young quarterbacks are a draw. Atlanta’s running game is superior, but Ray Rice is starting to come around. The Falcons are susceptible through the air on defense, while the Ravens are surprisingly mediocre defending the run. With everything so equal, I’ll take the home team on a short week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 22, Ravens 21.
Lions at Bills
Florio’s take: The 0-8 Bills have remained competitive, losing the last three game by only a field goal each — and pushing the Ravens and Chiefs to overtime on their own turf. Look for the Lions to have a let down after blowing a shot at beating the Jets, and after losing Matthew Stafford. Again. Finally, the Bills get it done.
Florio’s pick: Bills 27, Lions 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Is this the Bills’ Super Bowl? It’s certainly the last game they will be favored in and their best chance for a win. This has to be one of the few times in NFL history an 0-8 team has been the favorite. Shaun Hill is at quarterback for the Lions, but they didn’t play much worse with him last time around. This is one “upset” pick I hope is wrong because Buffalo deserves better.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 20, Bills 17.
Vikings at Bears
Florio’s take: The Vikings are better than their 3-5 record would indicate. The Bears are worse than 5-3. And the Vikings need to continue the momentum they discovered late in Week Nine. Look for Minnesota to win their first road game in more than a year.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 28, Bears 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Lovie Smith says it sometimes feels like his team is 2-6 rather than 5-3. They certainly look like a 2-6 offense. The Vikings, on the other hand, deserve their 3-5 record. Last week’s overtime win represents false hope for Minnesota – Arizona is really bad. Luckily for the Vikings, Chicago is pretty dreadful too.
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 19, Bears 17.
Jets at Browns
Florio’s take: I wanted to take the Browns against the Saints, and I didn’t. I wanted to take the Browns against the Patriots, and I didn’t. I want to take the Browns against the Jets. And I will. Though they may have found their groove a bit too late, look for the Browns to make it three in a row.
Florio’s pick: Browns 24, Jets 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Browns have won with gadget plays, special teams, and perhaps the best offensive line football. They build quick leads that allowed them to limit quarterback Colt McCoy’s exposure. He hasn’t had to go vertical or throw much at all except in advantageous situations. The Browns can shut down the Jets’ rushing attack, so Mark Sanchez will be the difference here. That’s weird to write.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Browns 17.
Bengals at Colts
Florio’s take: The Bengals are playing great. Once they fall behind by 20 points. Look for them to be playing great on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Florio’s pick: Colts 34, Bengals 20.
Rosenthal’s take: I watched most of The T.Ocho Show on Tuesday night. Florio should hand out combat pay for that. During the show Chad Ochocinco called the Bengals the “laughingstocks” of the league and admitted he didn’t think the team could recover from their 2-6 hole. I won’t disagree.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 31, Bengals 21.
Texans at Jaguars
Florio’s take: The loser of this game can kiss the playoffs goodbye. The winner of this game can kiss the playoffs goodbye in a couple of weeks. Assuming the “good” version of David Garrard shows up, I’ll give the home team the edge.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 28, Texans 21.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s the AFC South championship to determine the worst secondary in football. The pass defense for the Texans and Jaguars will ultimately keep both teams out of the playoffs. With that out of the way, I’ll still take Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson over David Garrard and Mike Sims-Walker in a game that should make fantasy football owners smile.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 33, Jaguars 28.
Titans at Dolphins
Florio’s take: The Dolphins have yet to win a game at home this year. The Titans have had two weeks to get ready, and they have a legitimate deep threat for the first time since . . . since . . . well, since Kenny Britt popped a hamstring. With Chad Henne benched and Chad Pennington dusted off and thrust into the starting lineup, the Dolphins’ wait to win at home could continue, at least until Thursday night, when the Bears come to town.
Florio’s pick: Titans 30, Dolphins 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The game could turn into Chad Pennington vs. Kerry Collins, a rematch of two New York quarterbacks that faced off in 2003. Collins won that game in overtime, and he should win again because his defense is more trustworthy. The Dolphins are hungry for a win, but the Titans are also coming off a tough loss and a bye week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 24, Dolphins 21.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Bucs have been winning the games they’re supposed to win. The Panthers have been losing the games they’re supposed to lose. It adds up to a long afternoon in Tampa for Jimmy Clausen and company.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Panthers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs’ schedule should keep them right in the playoff mix to the very end. They have Carolina this week, then Seattle and Detroit at home in December. You can move the ball on Tampa’s defense, but not with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and Mike Goodson at running back. It’s insane the Panthers still have eight more games to play.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bucs 23, Panthers 10.
Chiefs at Broncos
Florio’s take: The Broncos are falling apart, and the Chiefs are holding together. Sure, Kansas City snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Oakland, but the Chiefs have more talent and they have been able to beat the teams they should beat. The Mile High advantage continues its disintegration toward a molehill.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Broncos are healthier, coming off a bye week, and playing at home against a division rival. That should mean Denver gives great effort. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they still manage to lose home games where they play well (Colts, Jets), partly because they are so easy to run against.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 26, Broncos 24.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Florio’s take: It’s the toss-up game of the week, between two teams who could make their fans want to toss their cookies. The Seahawks, who have been outscored 74-10 over the past two weeks, expect to see quarterback Matt Hasselbeck return to the field. The Cardinals could use anyone but the quarterbacks they have. I’ll lean toward the home team on this one.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 24, Seahawks 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cardinals have five home games left. They face their three division rivals and also host the Broncos and Panthers. You couldn’t create a more favorable schedule to win the division at 7-9. The march towards a sub-.500 playoff team in the NFC West starts Sunday!
Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 17.
Cowboys at Giants
Florio’s take: Jason Garrett was a big part of the problem in Dallas, and he can’t turn around a train wreck in only a week. Though the Giants are dealing with injuries along their offensive line, they’ve currently got the horses to extend their recent mastery of the Cowboys.
Florio’s pick: Giants 31, Cowboys 10.
Rosenthal’s take: Jason Garrett read the Cowboys the riot act at his first team meeting, and then had the Cowboys practice in full pads on Wednesday. Dez Bryant described a more “intense” attitude in Valley Ranch. That all makes for good copy, but it’s not going to make the Cowboys offensive line younger or less sloppy. They’d lose this one even if they tried their hardest.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 31, Cowboys 13.
Rams at 49ers
Florio’s take: Another NFC West toss-up game. Both teams have had two weeks to get ready, and the 49ers have shown some spark with Troy Smith at quarterback. Given the Rams’ struggles away from St. Louis, look for the Niners to continue to climb back to relevance in the most irrelevant division in the NFL.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 17, Rams 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Both teams return from a bye week hoping to have fixed what ails them. The Rams need to prove they can win on the road and throw the ball vertically. The 49ers want to prove they can win back-to-back games and that Troy Smith could be an answer at quarterback. It’s appropriate that the four NFC West teams could be separated by one game by Sunday night.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 19, Rams 14.
Patriots at Steelers
Florio’s take: The Steelers and Patriots have played four times at Heinz Field, twice in the playoffs. And the Patriots have won three times. Twice in the playoffs. The only victory for the Steelers came in 2004, when the Patriots were riding a record 21-game winning streak. With injuries on the Pittsburgh offensive line and a bruised ego for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady after Sunday’s 20-point loss to the Browns, look for that victory to remain the only one for the Steelers.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Steelers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Patriots are catching the Steelers at the right time. Pittsburgh has to play on a short week after a hard-hitting game in Cincinnati left the team bruised and battered. The Steelers are catching the Patriots at the wrong time; New England has consistently responded well to losses in the Bill Belichick era. The Steelers are still a better team.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 28, Patriots 27.
Eagles at Redskins
Florio’s take: From a national perspective, the McNabb-Shanahans feud simmered in the background last week, as a result of the Cowboys debacle and the Childress mutiny. This week, with the slate of games being capped by a Monday nighter between the Redskins and McNabb’s former team, all eyes will be on D.C. And if McNabb gets benched again, this instantly will become the biggest story in the league. And it could get very interesting. Look for Mike Vick to settle last month’s score with his former teammate.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Redskins 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Eagles’ defense has quietly improved throughout the season. Washington’s offense has consistently looked like a mess, especially on the offensive line. Mike Shanahan’s mental games with Donovan McNabb can’t cover up a lack of cohesion in Washington. This is a swing game for both teams. The Redskins season is about to swing drastically south.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 31, Redskins 17.