After a blind-squirrel 11-2 showing in Week Nine, I plunged to 7-7 last week. The good news? Rosenthal slid to 6-8, and now I’m only two games behind him. This week, if the Jags, Cowboys, and Raiders win, I’ll take the lead.
Overall, Rosenthal is 93-51. I’m 91-53. We’re both threatening to leave the entire ESPN crowd in the dust.
Bears at Dolphins
Florio’s take: A quarter of a century after the Bears took an unbeaten record to Miami and emerged with their only loss of the year, the Bears are back in town. Though Miami has plenty of injury issues right now, the battle-tested Dolphins have enough horses to take down a Chicago team that simply isn’t as good as its 6-3 record suggests.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bears 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Everything sets up well here for the Bears. Their defense looks like a balanced, top-five unit. They are coming off their best game of the year. On paper, they should shut down new Miami starting QB Tyler Thigpen -– especially with tackle Jake Long not at 100%. Despite all that, I still think the Dolphins are a tougher, smarter squad overall.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bears 17.
Ravens at Panthers
Florio’s take: Though the Ravens have struggled with at least one vastly inferior opponent (the Bills), Baltimore has had 10 days to get ready for the worst team in the league. And the Ravens should have no problem adding another loss to a franchise that is crumbling before our eyes. Even though the head coach has no responsibility for it. (If you don’t believe that, just ask him.)
Florio’s pick: Ravens 38, Panthers 9.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens’ pass defense has seemingly gotten worse since Ed Reed returned, with the future Hall of Famer having a particularly rough day against the Falcons. The entire Baltimore defense has looked good overall, but not great. Against Carolina, they will look like the 2000 Ravens on HGH.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 23, Panthers 7.
Bills at Bengals
Florio’s take: The Bengals play their best when trailing by 17 or more points. But the Bills aren’t good enough to build that kind of a lead. For a Cincinnati team that has no other cream puffs on the schedule and a Bills team that is still basking in the glow of avoiding an 0-16 season, look for the Bengals to get their third — and possibly final — victory.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 30, Bills 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bills are coming their first win, while the Bengals are coming off a game where they appeared to dominate the Colts if not for a measly five turnovers. Even though the Bills are “better” than their 1-8 record, the Bengals are really better than 2-7. The defense is average and Carson Palmer is playing better than people think. (He’s actually average.) Cincinnati is past due for another win.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 24, Bills 20.
Lions at Cowboys
Florio’s take: The Lions are 2-7, and they’re regarded as making progress. The Cowboys are 2-7, and they’re regarded as grossly underachieving. But the Cowboys caught the Giants flat-footed on Sunday, and it appears that new coach Jason Garrett is moving things in the right direction. Though it may not be enough to beat the Saints on Thanksgiving, it should be enough to take down the Lions on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 35, Lions 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cowboys are front runners. Give them a lead and they can win convincingly. Push them a little, and they cave while their fans boo on their way out of the building. The Lions are resilient, if nothing else. They don’t get blown out. Look for this one to end with the same result as when the Cowboys were last 6.5 point favorites at home.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 28, Cowboys 23.
Browns at Jaguars
Florio’s take: Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard typically can’t put two solid games together. But the Browns played nearly five full quarters on Sunday, and the Jags have been buoyed by their stirring last-second win over the Texans. And with five wins and four losses, the Jaguars have an outside shot at pulling themselves into the wild-card chase.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 23, Browns 20.
Rosenthal’s take: These two teams met in Week 17 last year. The Jaguars finished with the better record last season, but the Browns won the game because they had the better defense, offensive line, and the more complete team. The same scenario remains true this year. The Jaguars are in playoff contention, but the Browns have the better 53-man roster.
Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 20, Jaguars 17.
Cardinals at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Chiefs coach Todd Haley faces his former team, at a time when the quality of the players is a lot lower than it was when Haley was there. With the Chiefs returning home after another two-game road losing streak, Haley will be happy to welcome to town a Cardinals team that doesn’t feature Kurt Warner.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 28, Cardinals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: If it wasn’t for the Cardinals, I’d be killing Florio in these picks. [Editor’s note: Have you also been making these picks with shoulder, elbow, ankle, and foot injuries, Brett?] There isn’t a team I’ve irrationally thought would win more games. Derek Anderson gets blamed for a lot, but their defense is last in points allowed and 30th in yards. Beanie Wells has been a disaster. The Chiefs are 4-0 at home; they’ll find a way here. I’m done being irrational.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 28, Cardinals 16.
Packers at Vikings
Florio’s take: It’s Brett Favre’s last crack at the Pack, and it’s Green Bay’s final shot at Favre. Five minutes of good football against a bad team is hardly a reason to think that the Vikings can outscore one of the elite teams in the league.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This isn’t the Vikings last stand. That was last week in Chicago, and Minnesota played their worst game all year. The Vikings play like Brett Favre sounds: a dead team walking. They are too experienced to dream the impossible. They know they are mediocre at best. The Packers are starting to peak, and they smell blood.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 24.
Texans at Jets
Florio’s take: A week after an overmatched team from Texas came to New York (OK, New Jersey) and knocked off a much better team based in New York (OK, New Jersey), the other Texas team faces the other tenant of the New Meadowlands Stadium. Given that the Jets played nearly five full quarters of football in Week 10, they could be ripe for an upset. But then we remember that the Houston defense is one of the worst in the league, and that the Jets’ defense is one of the best.
Florio’s pick: Jets 24, Texans 16.
Rosenthal’s take: The Jets often play like an average team with a dash of luck. The Texans often play like an average team with negative luck. In theory, that should lead to a close game and a Jets win. In reality, the Jets are too physical for Houston on both sides of the ball. The Jets return for their second home game in six weeks, while the Texans play their second straight road game. Smells like a blowout.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 33, Texans 16.
Raiders at Steelers
Florio’s take: In each of the last two years that the Steelers defended a Super Bowl championship, they played the Raiders. And the Raiders won. This year, the Raiders are much improved, and the Steelers are sliding again due to another rash of injuries. It’s hard to imagine the Steelers losing two in a row at home. Then again, it was impossible to imagine the Steelers losing five in a row last season.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 20, Steelers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Raiders and their fans can happily play the no respect card here. They’re 7.5 point underdogs on a three-game winning streak. I’d take the points, but I’ll also take the Steelers to win because their defense can minimize Oakland’s greatest strength — the running game. The Raiders have won one game on the road all year, in Denver. Win this game and they’ll get plenty of respect.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 21, Raiders 17.
Redskins at Titans
Florio’s take: Former Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth is coming home. Where he can take a nap during the game on the same turf where he once stomped on Andre Gurode’s head. And where the Redskins can be beaten by less than 31 points by a team that needs to avoid falling to .500 if it wants to have any shot at getting to the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Redskins 20.
Rosenthal’s take: I’ve convinced myself the Titans are true Super Bowl contenders despite a 5-4 record because their pass rush is nasty and they score a ton of points. (Third in ponts, second in point differential.) With four out of the next five at home, this is their time to go on a run. Washington’s offensive line is just the group to make the Titans look like world beaters again.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 30, Redskins 20.
Seahawks at Saints
Florio’s take: The Saints are finding their groove from 2009, and they’re likely getting Reggie Bush back. The up-and-down Seahawks managed to thump the Cardinals, but the guy who coached an elite college program doesn’t have the team to take down an elite NFL squad.
Florio’s pick: Saints 41, Seahawks 27.
Rosenthal’s take: Despite all their problems, the Saints may still be the NFC favorites because of their defense. When no one was looking, New Orleans’ lesser-known side climbed to fourth in points allowed and third in yards. They don’t force as many turnovers, but it’s a better group overall compared to last year. The offense has a lot of room for improvement, especially in the red zone. If that happens, this team could be more complete than a year ago.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 30, Seahawks 17.
Falcons at Rams
Florio’s take: The Rams play much better at home than they do on the road. But it likely won’t be good enough to beat a Falcons team that is 7-0 outside of Pennsylvania this year. It likely won’t be a blowout, but the Falcons look too good for a letdown.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Rams 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Falcons are atop plenty of power rankings – like PFT’s – because they win close games. It doesn’t matter if they play the 49ers, Bengals, Ravens or Saints. The game comes down to the final minute. Expect the same to happen in St. Louis, where Atlanta should feel at home in the dome in another late nail biter.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 21, Rams 17.
Buccaneers at 49ers
Florio’s take: Previously, the Bucs have lost only to high-end teams. This week, they’re catching a Niners team that has gained some momentum and that still believes it can win the NFC West. With a trip to Baltimore coming up, there’s a chance the Bucs will look past this one — and that the 49ers will find a way to extend their winning streak to three games.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 21, Buccaneers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Frank Gore — the Inconvenient Truth — is enjoying one of his best seasons in a grossly underrated career. He’s second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, and third among backs with 41 catches. No one combines his power and speed. He could be first in yards by the time he’s through with Tampa’s rush defense, arguably the worst in football.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 20, Bucs 14.
Colts at Patriots
Florio’s take: After losing six straight to the Pats from 2001 through 2004, the Colts have taken five of six from New England. It’s time for a correction, especially since this year’s version of the November sweeps special will be played in Foxboro. The Pats looked as potent as ever in Pittsburgh, and the Colts couldn’t deliver the knockout punch to a staggering Bengals team.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Colts 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This game never gets old. Even though the last five meetings have been decided by one score, the Colts have won five of the last six meetings. Something has to give because Tom Brady has won 24 straight starts at home, one away from Brett Favre’s record. Take away all the history and you see New England’s passing attack is operating more efficiently. The Colts’ offensive line is shakier than usual and Peyton Manning is averaging 5.65 yards per attempt in his last 3 games. I like the Pats just a bit more on grass. [Editor’s note: Rosenthal is not claiming that the Patriots are “on grass.” We think.]
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 34, Colts 31.
Giants at Eagles
Florio’s take: The Giants arguably have peaked too soon, again, and the Eagles arguably haven’t peaked yet. And Mike Vick is having a season for the ages. And the Giants have a few too many injuries. And the Eagles are playing at home. Advantage(s), Philly.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 35, Giants 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Fascinating matchup. It comes at a perfect time for NBC, but a terrible one for the Giants. Big Blue is banged up and Dallas’ vertical pass game showed a way to beat the Giants. This is great test to learn what Michael Vick and these Eagles are made of. The game comes on a short week against a hungry opponent after the football media crowned Vick king of football again. A true coin flip game goes to the home team.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 24.
Broncos at Chargers
Florio’s take: The Broncos snapped out of an extended funk by thrashing the Chiefs. But the Chargers ain’t the Chiefs, and the Chargers have had two weeks to get ready for their second-half assault on the AFC West crown. A mile-high cloud of gloom and doom returns to Denver.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 37, Broncos 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers are suddenly everyone’s favorite to win the AFC West, but they have no margin for error with two division losses on the books. Don’t expect a third on Monday night. Both teams are healthier and the Broncos may even have a running game now. Unfortunately, they still don’t have a trustworthy defense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Broncos 26.