Last week, Rosenthal reveled in his victory (victories) in the 2010 picks contest. This week, I can rub his face in the first week of 2011.
I accurately picked 10 of 16 outcomes. Rosenthal got only seven right.
And so I’ve got a three-game lead . . . with only 240 to play.
This week, we disagree on several games — including the much-expected return of Mike Vick to Atlanta as a starting quarterback.
Raiders at Bills
Florio’s take: Once upon a time, these teams got together for a conference championship game, which the Bills won big, 51-3. With the Bills going into Kansas City and beating the Chiefs 41-7, could a similar outcome be coming? Probably not. But the Bills have a new attitude — and the talent to match it. Oakland’s chasing a Monday night road trip with a cross-country visit to Western New York, and that’s even better news for Buffalo.
Florio’s pick: Bills 31, Raiders 20.
Rosenthal’s take: These two perennial doormats opened the season with convincing victories. Oakland only won by three, but they manhandled Denver on both lines of scrimmage. Buffalo dominated Kansas City through the air. This is a great test to see if the Bills are truly tougher than their usual lightweight groups, especially the rebuilt run defense. Here’s one vote they’ll pass the test.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 26, Raiders 21.
Packers at Panthers
Florio’s take: Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis thinks the Panthers can win the game. I think that’s a great attitude. But I also think that the Panthers don’t have the horses on defense to keep the score within range. That Thursday night opener gave the Packers a few extra days to get ready to face Cam Newton and company. Though it won’t be a blowout, the Panthers aren’t ready to defeat a team that seems to be ready to have a huge season.
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Panthers 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Cam Newton’s first start was almost too easy. Look for Dom Capers, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson to make life considerably tougher on the No. 1 pick. The only way to beat Green Bay right now may be in shootout. The way the Panthers defense looks, Newton may need to score 40 points.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 38, Panthers 20.
Chiefs at Lions
Florio’s take: As Mike O’Hara of the Detroit News recently put it, the Lions haven’t been this heavily favored to win since the days of the Roman Coliseum. The Chiefs are reeling after getting trampled by an up-and-coming Bills team. The Lions are even more up — and they’ll be coming hard every Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Lions 42, Chiefs 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Lions won in Tampa without a great performance by Detroit’s vaunted defensive line. Matthew Stafford threw a pick six, and it didn’t matter. Suddenly the Lions can beat inferior teams without their “A” game. The Chiefs, meanwhile, look inferior to just about every team.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 31, Chiefs 20.
Browns at Colts
Florio’s take: If the Colts can’t beat the Browns at home, the Colts may not win a single game all year. That should be enough incentive for pride to take over in the Indy locker room.
Florio’s pick: Colts 20, Browns 14.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the game to truly learn about the post-Manning Colts. It’s no surprise they couldn’t win a tough road game yet with Kerry Collins, but how one in the dome against a sub-par opponent? Expect Cleveland’s big offensive line to push the Colts defense around.
Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 22, Colts 17.
Buccaneers at Vikings
Florio’s take: The Bucs were held to 56 yards rushing last week, and the Vikings were held to 39 yards passing. This one-time NFC Central rivalry could get ugly, but the Metrodome crowd should carry Adrian Peterson and company, if Donovan McNabb can get the passing yardage on the right side of 50.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 22, Buccaeers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs defense needs to get “youngrier.” Detroit’s offensive line absolutely stoned Tampa in pass protection last week. Adrian Clayborn, Gerald McCoy, and company should have an easier time getting to Donovan McNabb. That’s especially true if Minnesota continues their revolutionary run-run-pass offense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bucs 21, Vikings 17.
Bears at Saints
Florio’s take: On Wednesday morning, I assumed that the Saints would return home to the Superdome and take care of business against an overachieving Bears team. On Wednesday afternoon, I watched every play of the Bears’ Week One win over the Falcons. The Saints will have their hands full, regardless of whether linebacker Brian Urlacher will be able to play only days after the sudden passing of his mother. The folks who vote for the Associated Press awards should ignore stats and study the performances from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. If he plays every week like he played against the Falcons, he should be the defensive player of the year, unanimously.
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Saints 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Perhaps the Bears offense is a little better than expected in year two under Mike Martz. The Saints defense may be a little worse than expected because it has no pass rush. I’ll still take New Orleans because the game is in a dome and the Saints need the win more. Even this early in the season.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, Bears 21.
Jaguars at Jets
Florio’s take: This one has “trap” written all over it for the Jets, given the emotional Week One win over the Cowboys. But even with the Jags surely primed to give the Jets their best shot and with the Jets sliding into a soft spot on the schedule before consecutive trips to Oakland and Baltimore, Rex Ryan and company will do everything they can to push their record to 2-0.
Florio’s pick: Jets 28, Jaguars 19.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the game of the week if you like smashmouth football. The Jaguars bludgeoned Tennessee, but couldn’t pull away on the scoreboard. The Jets seemingly only play close games with ridiculous endings. Gang Green used to find creative new ways to lose every week. Under Rex Ryan, the opposite is true.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 17, Jaguars 16.
Seahawks at Steelers
Florio’s take: A rematch of Super Bowl XL comes at a time when when the Seahawks have taken a big step backward, and the Steelers have uncharacteristically fallen down. They’ll likely find a way to get up against Tarvaris Jackson and company — especially with referee Bill Leavy breaking out his black-and-yellow striped shirt. (Again.) The Steelers shouldn’t need any extra help from the officials this time.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 34, Seahawks 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hinted this week the young Seahawks may take a step back before taking two steps forward. Tarvaris Jackson will take roughly three steps backward this week before he gets hammered by Pittsburgh’s ornery defenders.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 41, Seahawks 17.
Ravens at Titans
Florio’s take: Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson believes the Ravens tried to hurt him in the 2008 playoffs. If nothing else, it will prepare him for Sunday, when a team with an offense that nearly matches its defense comes to town with good prospects — and bad intentions.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 28, Titans 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Titans had five first downs in he first 50 minutes against the Jaguars. What is going to happen against the Ravens? Even if Tennessee can move the ball, Baltimore’s offense is ahead of schedule. Bryant McKinnie completes the offensive line and the young tight ends grew up fast. Tennessee is still playing post-lockout catchup.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Titans 14.
Cardinals at Redskins
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Redskins were supposed to lose the Giants. The up-and-down Redskins are now supposed to beat the Cardinals. But the Cardinals often struggle in East Coast games, even when they had a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman eventually will have a bad day (or more), but not yet.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 30, Cardinals 24.
Rosenthal’s take: It is getting more difficult to resist Redskins fever. The good vibes built throughout the preseason, exploding in a Sexy Rexy Grossman crescendo in the opener. My heart thinks it will come crashing down this week in typical Redskins fashion. But my head thinks Washington is further along than Arizona on both sides of the ball.
Rosenthal’s pick: Redskins 24, Cardinals 23.
Cowboys at 49ers
Florio’s take: In the early 1990s, the Cowboys and 49ers ruled the NFC. Neither has had much success since. Though the Niners have plenty of potential in a watered-down NFC West, they’re not quite ready to knock off a Cowboys team that is determined to play strong for four quarters.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 26, 49ers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: I know what Jerry Jones was trying to say. Tony Romo did play three outstanding quarters against the Jets. He made good decisions, beat the Jets’ tight coverage often, and the new line mostly held up. Playing three great quarters against the 49ers should be enough, no matter what happens in the final 15 minutes.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 27, 49ers 20.
Bengals at Broncos
Florio’s take: Two years ago, these two teams gave us a finish to remember in Week One. There’s a good chance that they’ll give us four quarters to forget on Sunday. Look for the Tebow chants to continue. And to intensify. Even in victory.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Bengals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Tebow chants were loud last week. What will happen if Brandy Daltonkowski puts the Bengals ahead in the second half Sunday? The Bengals have a shot here if they follow Oakland’s pass rush and ground game model. As the official PFT Kyle Orton beat writer, however, I can’t give up on the former neckbearded one yet.
Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 23, Bengals 21.
Texans at Dolphins
Florio’s take: After beating the Colts in Week One of the 2010 season, the Texans lost 10 of their next 15. Though they likely won’t suffer a similar fate in 2011 after again taking down the Colts, winning at Miami against an improving offense won’t be an easy feat. The Dolphins played the Pats tough on Monday night, and it wasn’t until that 14-point swing fueled by a failed fourth-and-goal and a 99-yard touchdown pass that the game was decided.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Texans 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Cutting Benny Sapp was an odd solution to Miami’s problems. Perhaps drinking more water during the week to avoid cramps would be a better approach. Miami’s defensive line is very deep and can slow down Houston’s rushing attack. I still like the Dolphins corners. The Dolphins didn’t get their first home win until mid-November last year, but they’ll get it out of the way early this time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 27, Texans 24.
Chargers at Patriots
Florio’s take: In what could be an AFC championship preview, the winner gets the inside track toward hosting the rematch. The Pats look every bit as unstoppable as they were in the 2010 regular season. Even though the Chargers should run away with the AFC West, the home team could run away with this one — no matter how “lubed up” the fans are, or aren’t.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 38, Chargers 27.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers possess the rare defense that can slow Tom Brady down. (San Diego did it last year, but still lost.) Philip Rivers is the rare quarterback that can match Brady throw for throw. Yet I still can’t pick against Brady at home coming off his 500-yard bonanza. This mid-September game could loom large during December playoff positioning.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 33, Chargers 28.
Eagles at Falcons
Florio’s take: Mike Vick returns to the Georgia Dome for the first time as a starter. The Falcons return to the Georgia Dome after looking lethargic and predictable against the Bears. Expect a virtuoso performance from Vick, who surely believes that his personal journey of redemption includes going back to Atlanta and playing like he never played there before. If/when the Falcons lose, it won’t be time to press the panic button — it’ll be time to stomp on it.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 28, Falcons 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Mike Smith Falcons usually win by doing the little things: Tackling well, playing situational football, and avoiding big mistakes. Atlanta did none of this last week against Chicago. Now the Falcons get a chance to do a very big thing: Beat Michael Vick in Atlanta. I’m not ready to believe the fundamental Falcons are gone just yet.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 28, Eagles 24.
Rams at Giants
Florio’s take: These teams can compare injury lists like a couple of stuntmen comparing scars. With Steven Jackson out and Sam Bradford banged up, the home team with the healthy quarterback is the safe choice.
Florio’s pick: Giants 20, Rams 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Bad vibes and big injuries make this game feel more desperate for the Giants and Rams. New York looks better equipped to bounce back. Justin Tuck’s return should help the Giants pass rush, while Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels don’t look ready to take advantage of a shaky Giants secondary.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 21, Rams 14.