The tie after 13 weeks has become a three-game gap after 14.
And the bad news (for me) is that Rosenthal is back in the lead.
With three weeks to go (whether or not playoffs will be included depends on whether I’m trailing or winning after Week 17), Rosenthal has a record of 138-70, and I’m at 135-73.
Last week, he was an impressive 13-3. I was a mere 10-6.
I could catch him this week, or he could leave me in his dust; we disagree on six of the 16 games.
49ers at Chargers
Florio’s take: Both teams are chasing divisions titles that most people thought before the season they would easily own. The simple reality is that the Chargers are the better team, and they know that they have to prove it.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 42, 49ers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: This game oddly may not mean much to the 49ers. If the Seahawks and Rams continue to lose to winning teams, San Francisco just has to win their final two division games to sneak into the playoffs at 7-9. The 49ers are playing better improved overall, but not well enough to win in San Diego.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 30, 49ers 20.
Saints at Ravens
Florio’s take: Both teams are chasing division titles that most people thought before the season they would easily own. (Yes, there’s an echo in here.) The Ravens could be hampered by the fact that they’re coming off a road game on a short week, but playing in the elements should be enough to keep the Ravens within striking distance of the Steelers.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Saints 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Saints haven’t played a winning team since Halloween, so it’s tough to tell how much better their defense is this year. (It’s a matter of “how much” not if.) The Ravens offense is oddly worse in 2010 despite Anquan Boldin’s addition and Joe Flacco’s development. Baltimore’s defense, meanwhile, loves to give up fourth-quarter leads. Unlike the Texans, Drew Brees can finish the job.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 26, Ravens 20.
Cardinals at Panthers
Florio’s take: Two years ago, these franchises met for a berth in the NFC title game. Now, the only mystery is exactly where in the top ten they’ll be making their first-round draft pick. Look for the Panthers to maintain their “lead” over the Bengals.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 21, Panthers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: It really feels late in the season when there are matchups like John Skelton versus Jimmy Clausen. I’m excited. (As a true fan of ugly football.) My favorite bad quarterback matchup remains Brodie Croyle (as a rookie) versus Kellen Clemens in a pouring season finale in 2007. That was Herm Edwards’ return to New York. Can this game be more depressing? Tune in!
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 13, Cardinals 10.
Browns at Bengals
Florio’s take: Things just seem right in the world when the best team in Ohio plays its homes games in Columbus. With Carson Palmer, Marvin Lewis, Terrell Owens, and/or Chad Ochocinco destined to be done after this season and remaining games against the Chargers and Ravens, this could be their last chance to get a win together.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 30, Browns 24.
Rosenthal’s take: If Eric Mangini needs to take two of three games to remain Browns coach, consider this a must-win game. Cleveland has a better chance with Colt McCoy at quarterback, but I can’t shake the feeling the Bengals are not a 2-14 team that will end the season on a 13-game losing streak. They are too competitive each week and this is their best chance left to get a victory.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 20, Browns 17.
Redskins at Cowboys
Florio’s take: In Week One, this game was must-see TV. Fourteen weeks later, it’s interesting only for the inevitable moment on which Mike Shanahan bangs the gong on Donovan McNabb’s tenure as the starter. Though the Redskins were victorious in round one, the Cowboys are the better team now, their respective records notwithstanding.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 20, Redskins 10.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s hard to believe the Redskins were once 4-3. While they remain a game ahead of the Cowboys, there’s no question which team is playing better. All the drama appears gone from Big D, while Redskins coach Mike Shanahan remains preoccupied with mental warfare. Rex Grossman may not start, but it wouldn’t be a surprised if he finished this game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 27, Redskins 17.
Jaguars at Colts
Florio’s take: The Colts were hardly convincing against a demoralized Titans team, and the Jaguars have cobbled together the kind of magical season that just could result in the first sweep of the Colts since the Titans somehow pulled it off in 2002. Look for a crazy finish to this one, which could in turn finish Indy’s season.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 30, Colts 28.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the most underrated rivalry in football. Their Week Four matchup showed the 2010 Jaguars had a lot of fight. They were coming off two straight 25-point losses and scored 10 points in the final 2:10 to win. The contrasting styles of the franchises consistently create entertaining back-and-forth games. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis closed out Indy’s win last year in Lucas Oil Stadium with big-time pressure. Look for a similar ending.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 28, Jaguars 24.
Bills at Dolphins
Florio’s take: Surely, the Dolphins can find a way to win at home against the Bills. You know, the Bills team that beat the Browns last week. You know, the Browns team that one week before that beat the Dolphins in Miami. Well, maybe the Dolphins can find a way to win at home against the Bills.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Dolphins have bad timing. Their defense has finally evolved into a top-10 unit, led by defensive MVP candidate Cameron Wake. Unfortunately, the running game is now inept and Chad Henne is inconsistent at best. Buffalo has won three out of five, but Miami has a lot to play for. Look for only their second home win to keep the team alive in the playoff race for one more week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 17, Bills 13.
Eagles at Giants
Florio’s take: The winner will have the inside track to the NFC East crown. The loser may have to hold off the Bucs or the Packers for a spot in the six-team field. And if the Giants don’t make the playoffs, it could be the end of the road for coach Tom Coughlin. We’d feel better about this pick if Tiki Barber would declare that the Giants are destined to lose. Hey, we’ve still got three days.
Florio’s pick: Giants 28, Eagles 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Just when the Giants start getting healthy, Eli Manning loses his most trustworthy wideout Steve Smith for the season. Luckily, this team is far more about running and defense this year. Philly’s front seven can be pushed around on the ground and the Giants have the players to slow down Michael Vick.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 28, Eagles 27.
Chiefs at Rams
Florio’s take: These two teams play a meaningless preseason game every year and, lately, a meaningless regular-season game every four. On Sunday, they’ll square off as leaders of their respective divisions. The slight edge goes to the home team in what could be a memorable game. Unless it isn’t.
Florio’s pick: Rams 14, Chiefs 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the biggest Rams game since 2004 and the biggest Chiefs game since the 2006 season. It might be the biggest battle of Missouri since the Civil War. All this history is just a way of filling space before saying the Chiefs are a more complete team. Watching Jamaal Charles on turf should be sweet.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 26, Rams 21.
Lions at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Lions are no pushover, but the Bucs continue to win the games they’re supposed to win. And with the Bucs closing in on an unlikely playoff berth, this is also one they need to win.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Lions 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Matt Millen era was so ugly that the Lions still uncover terrible losing streaks to end each week. The last one standing is their 26-game road losing streak. This could be the week to end it. Shaun Hill may return at quarterback, Detroit has found a running game, and Tampa’s defense is hemorrhaging starters by the week. The Bucs are 8-0 against losing teams this year, but all good streaks must end.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 30, Bucs 26.
Texans at Titans
Florio’s take: They meet again, three weeks after the lowly Texans defense held the Titans scoreless. With the Tennessee locker room divided over Vince Young and Jeff Fisher eyeballing his exit, look for the coach more interested in trying to save his job emerge with the win.
Florio’s pick: Texans 21, Titans 16.
Rosenthal’s take: The Titans entered their bye week at 5-3, with four of their next six games at home. A loss this week would put them at 0-6 during the stretch. There is a good chance Tennessee will finish the season on a nine-game losing streak. The Titans’ biggest problem surprisingly is on both lines. A thinned-out defensive front should get steamrolled by Arian Foster.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 26, Titans 16.
Falcons at Seahawks
Florio’s take: The Falcons don’t get enough credit for being 11-2. And though we’ve tried to give them more credit for being 11-2, I can’t help but think that it’s time for the Falcons to not find a way to outscore an opponent. Whether they’re due to lose or whether they’ll take the Seahawks lightly or whether they’re looking ahead to a Week 16 visit from the Saints, it’s time for the Falcons to pick up their first loss of the season outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Falcons 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Seahawks don’t just lose; they get manhandled. They have lost their seven games this season by an average of 21.4 points. Their closest loss was 15 points. Seattle has been blown out by much worse teams than Atlanta, like last week in San Francisco. So just give the points if you are into that sort of thing.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 30, Seahawks 13.
Broncos at Raiders
Florio’s take: When these two teams met in Denver, the Raiders racked up an epic blowout, hanging 59 points on their AFC West foe. This time around, the Broncos are in a full-blown free fall, and the Raiders are continuing to push toward a winning record (or, at a minimum, not a losing one).
Florio’s pick: Raiders 31, Broncos 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Great quote by Jack Del Rio on Raiders running back Darren McFadden this week: “The guys that are fast enough to catch him aren’t strong enough to bring him down.” The Broncos defense doesn’t have many strong or fast guys, and their quarterback is hurt. A rib injury has turned Kyle Orton from a possible Pro Bowler into a cross between Jimmy Clausen and Craig Krenzel.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 26, Broncos 14.
Jets at Steelers
Florio’s take: The last time the Steelers hosted a team from New York without Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh lost. This time around, Holmes will be on the field, but as a member of the visiting New York team. But before Holmes can beat the Steelers, the ball has to get into his hands. And there’s a former USC safety who will be repeatedly confounding the efforts of a former USC quarterback to pull that off.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, Jets 15.
Rosenthal’s take: This isn’t the mismatch the point spread indicates. The Jets defense is playing well, and the Steelers offense is a disaster. Big Ben’s boys have two touchdowns in their last 30 possessions. The offensive line has fallen into early-season Bears territory and won’t handle Rex Ryan’s blitzes well. A defensive score may carry the day.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 13, Jets 10.
Packers at Patriots
Florio’s take: It’s unclear whether Aaron Rodgers (concussion) will be playing. It’s clear that it doesn’t matter. The Patriots have become this year’s dominant team, and they’re dominating at the right time.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Packers 10.
Rosenthal’s take: I was all set to go on a long rant that the Packers were the toughest matchup possible for the Patriots. They have a diverse defense that can slow Tom Brady down. More importantly, they have the offense to out-score New England. Then I realized Matt Flynn was probably starting at quarterback. What a shame. (Except for the Bears.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 30, Packers 17.
Bears at Vikings
Florio’s take: Last week, Vikings fans got a glimpse of what life would be like if the Vikings move. This week, they could get a glimpse of what life would be like with an open-air stadium. Both experiences would be more interesting if the Vikings had a capable quarterback.
Florio’s pick: Bears 31, Vikings 7.
Rosenthal’s take: The Vikings-Giants game was a great reminder why talent, play-calling, and statistics can’t predict football. Football comes down to effort more than any other sport. The Giants played sloppy, but wanted to win. The Vikings played like a team that can’t believe the roof collapsed on their season. The Bears’ second half run picked up steam with a dominant effort against the Vikings and will re-start Monday.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 24, Vikings 10.