Just like the 9-2 Pats and the 9-2 Jets, and the 8-3 Ravens and 8-3 Steelers, the PFT picks competition is all tied up through 12 weeks of action.
With a 12-4 showing last week, I’ve finally pulled even with Rosenthal, whose 11-5 puts both of us at 114-62.
We now have a five-game lead over the best of the ESPN crew, and a whopping 19-game bulge over the Pittsburgh Pirates of the ESPN pick-’em pool.
Texans at Eagles
Florio’s take: With or without Andre Johnson, the Texans don’t have the weapons on defense to deal with the Eagles’ offensive firepower. Philly realizes that the margin for error is small in the NFC, with seven quality teams jockeying for five playoff spots other than the one that will go to the best of the four sub-.500 teams in the NFC West. Look for Mike Vick to have the kind of night that will rekindle MVP talk.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 35, Texans 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Eagles are a balanced team, but the Bears reminded folks that you can run on them. Look for a heavy dose of Arian Foster, who quietly leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage by 240 yards. Foster can keep this game interesting, but the Texans secondary will keep Houston from winning. DeSean Jackson should be all smiles after this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 34, Texans 27.
Saints at Bengals
Florio’s take: The Saints realize that they have their work cut out for them, if they hope to catch — and to pass — the Falcons. With games still to come against the Rams, Ravens, Falcons, and Bucs, the Saints can’t afford to look past the only game left on their schedule against a team that they easily should beat.
Florio’s pick: Saints 42, Bengals 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Getting Reggie Bush back didn’t help the Saints offense much. In fact, he almost cost them a game on Thanksgiving. Possibly getting Pierre Thomas back this week should provide a bigger boost. The Bengals rush defense has fallen apart, so Thomas, Bush, Chris Ivory, Julius Jones, Deuce McAllister, Ironhead Heyward, George Rogers, and the rest of the Saints backfield should run wild.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, Bengals 20.
Bears at Lions
Florio’s take: The Lions felt cheated in Week One at Chicago, after Calvin Johnson’s would-have-been game-winning catch was wiped off the board. Since then, Lions and Bears have gone in very different directions. Though the Lions may have the desire to settle the score with Chicago, the Lions don’t have the skill to get it done, especially with Drew Stanton at quarterback.
Florio’s pick: Bears 22, Lions 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This was setting up to be a dangerous letdown game for the Bears. The Lions have played well at home overall and they are working on extra rest. Drew Stanton starting at quarterback for Detroit is the real let down though. He can’t go deep, especially against the Bears secondary. His accuracy and pocket presence just aren’t ready for prime time. Or day time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 22, Lions 13.
49ers at Packers
Florio’s take: The Niners have come on strong of late, but they haven’t really beaten anyone. Operating on a short week after a Monday night trip to Arizona with a visit to Lambeau Field in December doesn’t bode well, especially since the Packers are smarting after a loss to the Falcons. The only question in this one is whether the Pack will claim their third head coach of the year.
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, 49ers 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Packers struggle to finish close games against quality teams. Luckily, this one shouldn’t be close. San Francisco has to travel for the second straight week after their most complete game of the season. Based on the 49ers track record this year, that means they are due to get walloped.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 31, 49ers 13.
Broncos at Chiefs
Florio’s take: The fact that Chiefs coach Todd Haley opted to wag a finger at Broncos coach Josh McDaniels after a 20-point loss three weeks ago could give Denver extra motivation. The fact that McDaniels reportedly nuked his bridge to Bill Belichick when explaining Spygate II could give the various former Belichick lieutenants who work for the Chiefs extra motivation. Call it a wash, and look for the superior football team to win.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Broncos 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chiefs are not the 2009 Broncos. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, they aren’t going to fade into Bolivian. Matt Cassel improves every week. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis puts Cassel in situations to succeed. Jamaal Charles runs more like Chris Johnson than Chris Johnson. The offensive line is vastly improved. Considering the schedules, it’s not that crazy to think the AFC West could get two playoff teams.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 33, Broncos 26.
Browns at Dolphins
Florio’s take: This one depends on whether the good Dolphins or the bad Dolphins choose to show up. Since a win will guarantee that they’ll pick up a game on the losers of this weekend’s prime-time showdowns in the wild-card chase, the Fins have every reason to do to the Browns what they did to the Raiders. The fact that the Browns could barely beat the Panthers without former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme serves only to bolster Miami’s chances.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Browns and Dolphins have a lot in common. Give the edge to Miami at quarterback, where Chad Henne has something to prove after his injury. Give the edge at running back to Cleveland, where Peyton Hillis is one three-touchdown performance away from running for mayor. The Browns have played two of their worst games of the year in a row, so I’ll give the edge overall to the team with something to play for.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Browns 21.
Bills at Vikings
Florio’s take: The Chilly-free Vikings managed to beat an average Redskins team in D.C. Though the resilient Bills won’t be an easy out, the Vikings should be able to turn their first of three straight home games into their first two-game winning streak since their last three-game home stand.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Bills 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the week where Leslie Frazier can show progress. Under Brad Childress, the Vikings would have followed up a road victory with an embarrassing home performance. The Bills are playing consistent football and have improved their rush defense. You know what you’re going to get from them. I still don’t trust the Vikings to give an honest effort each week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 26, Vikings 24.
Redskins at Giants
Florio’s take: The Giants have beaten the Redskins seven out of eight times. But New York has lost four in a row to Donovan McNabb, including at home in the 2008 playoffs. But McNabb doesn’t have the supporting cast he enjoyed in Philly, and the Giants have new life after stealing an unlikely (based on the first half) win over the Jags.
Florio’s pick: Giants 17, Redskins 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Giants are an emotional, streaky team that just needs to survive until their offensive line and wideout corps gets whole again. Expect this game to be close, like the Jacksonville game last week. Expect the Giants to win again because Eli Manning can pick apart bad defenses even with Derek Hagan and Travis Beckum catching passes.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 21, Redskins 17.
Jaguars at Titans
Florio’s take: Kerry Collins is back, and the Titans are getting desperate. Unless Jeff Fisher is hoping that owner Bud Adams will make his quarterback-or-coach decision before the end of the season, Fisher needs this one, badly. The Jags do, too, but the Titans remain the better team, if they can only find a way to play that way.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 17.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s lonely being the last survivor on the Titans bandwagon. Somehow, Kerry Collins as a season savior isn’t a comforting thought. Old evaluations die hard, however. The Titans defense is still capable of dominating. Chris Johnson is still Chris Johnson. (Sort of.) Tennessee has four division games left and will stay alive in the race with a win here.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 20, Jaguars 17.
Raiders at Chargers
Florio’s take: The San Diego bandwagon is filling up, just in time for it to roll out of town to L.A. The climb to the playoffs continues, with the Raiders moving closer to giving Hue Jackson a test drive.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 31, Raiders 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Raiders responded to getting embarrassed in Pittsburgh by getting embarrassed in Oakland. The Chargers are playing as well as any team in the league. This looks like a blowout on paper, which means the Raiders will probably surprise everyone and play their hearts out. The talent on offense just isn’t there for Oakland. (Oh, and Jacoby Ford makes the Darrius Heyward-Bey apologists look more foolish than usual.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.
Rams at Cardinals
Florio’s take: Sam Bradford will be laughing. Hard.
Florio’s pick: Rams 28, Cardinals 14.
Rosenthal’s take: I think I’m 0-11 picking Cardinals this year. I’m not laughing about it. You may think this is funny, but I take this sh-t serious, real serious. I put my heart and soul into this sh-t. Every single week. I study my ass off. I don’t go out there every week trying to pick the Cardinals game wrong. It’s not funny. Nothing’s funny to me. I don’t want to get embarrassed on PFT Picks in front of everybody.
Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 24, Cardinals 20.
Cowboys at Colts
Florio’s take: Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera gave the Cowboys the blueprint for beating Peyton Manning in his own building. Some may think the Colts at 6-6 would be inconceivable. Some may not realize that the word doesn’t mean what they think it means.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Colts 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cowboys loss on Thanksgiving was more impressive than the two wins under Jason Garrett. The Wade Phillips Cowboys would have rolled over. The Colts are coming off their worst performance in memory, but only face one winning team (Jacksonville) the rest of the season. Peyton Manning should respond against a secondary that continues to struggle.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 27, Cowboys 20.
Panthers at Seahawks
Florio’s take: Finally, Pete Carroll gets a visit from a Fresno State-style opponent.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 30, Panthers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Panthers have a running game again. Mike Goodson has topped 100 yards from scrimmage in three straight games and Jonathan Stewart had his best game of the year last week in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch is showing why the Packers didn’t go after him. This is a game the Seahawks can’t afford to lose, yet it’s very easy to see them blowing it. Take the points. I don’t have the guts to take Jimmy Clausen on the road.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 19, Panthers 17.
Falcons at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Creamsicles could deliver the Bucs’ first — and likely only — win against a playoff-caliber team this year. The Falcons have been winning too many close games; it’s time for their luck to run out, if only for a week.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Falcons 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have yet to beat a team with a winning record. Atlanta is 1-2 in games played outdoors. Both team’s have a lot to prove and a division loss for the Falcons would erode any margin for error in the NFC South. While Josh Freeman is capable of taking over a game, Atlanta’s mistake-free brand of football will find a way to win against a vulnerable Bucs defense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 31, Bucs 27.
Steelers at Ravens
Florio’s take: In 2008 and 2009, the Ravens won three playoff games on the road. This year, they’re one home win over the Steelers away from essentially ensuring at least one home game in the postseason — and possibly a bye. The Steelers are too banged up to keep it from happening.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 16, Steelers 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens haven’t always played great this season, but they have played steadily. The Steelers are wildly up and down. The look like the best team in the league at their best, but don’t seem to be “up” for each game. They should be plenty ready for this one. The Steelers don’t have to pass protect much if Rashard Mendenhall runs the ball down Baltimore’s throat.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 23, Ravens 20.
Jets at Patriots
Florio’s take: Intentionally or not, the Patriots have developed the perfect offense to attack the Jets’ defense. With pressure coming from anywhere, the Pats can deliver the ball everywhere. Tom Brady currently has a level of determination and motivation rarely witnessed in any level of any sport, and he’s on his way to winning the second NFL MVP award of his Hall of Fame career.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 31, Jets 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This is billed as the biggest game of the year. It’s great theater. But it’s still not going to tell us much, especially if the Patriots win to split the season series. The remaining schedule for both teams is so difficult that it’s easy to see the loser of this game still winning the division. Both teams should make the playoffs, which also takes a bit of pressure off. The Patriots are playing slightly better overall and have the homefield advantage (and 16 straight December home wins), so I’ll take them in a toss up that will be lower scoring than expected.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 20, Jets 17.