It’s been a big week for Rosenthal. Apart from the whole “new father” thing, he picked 14 of 16 games correctly in Week Two. (Again, I should have let him bail out on his decision to go with the Broncos over the Bengals.)
My only consolation for another 10-6 weekend? I came within one point of the prognostication equivalent of a hole in one. The Broncos beat the Bengals 24-22, and my wild-guess score prediction was 24-21.
Rosenthal leads the season competition by one game. He made his picks at some point last night, hopefully not while his daughter was actually being born.
Patriots at Bills
Florio’s take: The Patriots have beaten the Bills 15 straight times. New England coach Bill Belichick said that the guys who won most of those games will be watching the latest installment of the rivalry on TV. But not Tom Brady. One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is playing like a guy who thinks he can retire someday as the consensus greatest of all time.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Bills 27.
Rosenthal’s take: Raiders-Bills last week felt like an old AFL shootout. Patriots-Bills should be more of the same, except the old AFL Patriots weren’t very good. This New England group, even without Aaron Hernandez, can win shootouts with anyone.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 38, Bills 31.
Jaguars at Panthers
Florio’s take: No 0-2 team has ever inspired so much glee among its fan base. The good feelings will subside quickly, however, if the Panthers can’t beat the Jaguars. A year after the Jags opted to avoid a home-grown college spread one-read-and-run star quarterback, they’ll get a close look at another one.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 31, Jaguars 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Blaine Gabbert can take comfort that Cam Newton didn’t look that great in the preseason either. Still, Newton showed flashes of brilliance in August that hinted at what was to come. Gabbert looked a rookie last month, slow in his decision making and erratic with his throws. There’s no reason to think Gabbert’s ready now.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 26, Jaguars 14.
49ers at Bengals
Florio’s take: Though we (or at least I) continue to believe that the 49ers can win the NFC West, it doesn’t mean they’ll win 10 or more games. Though the Bengals are perceived to be at the bottom of the pro football barrel, they gave the Broncos all they could handle, with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie receiver A.J. Green looking pretty good so far.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, 49ers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: If you squint hard enough, Alex Smith looks a little better this year. Unfortunately, the 49ers running game went missing and the secondary has looked suspect. These are two bad teams. Cincinnati seems like the type of try-hard bad team that wins games like this.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 22, 49ers 20.
Dolphins at Browns
Florio’s take: The Dolphins already have their backs to the wall in the AFC East, two games behind each of the other three teams, after only two games. The good news? They’re not playing at home. The better news? The Browns’ still-evolving 4-3 defense may not be able to deal with the improving Miami offense, which is led by a former Browns offensive coordinator who likely would love to stick it to his old team.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 23, Browns 20.
Rosenthal’s take: No team has had an easier early slate than Cleveland, which is why they have a good shot to go 2-1 despite playing blah football. It wasn’t a great sign they couldn’t run on the Colts. For Miami, it’s already desperation time. Desperate teams usually play well. Both of these teams just look like 1-2 squads.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Browns 20.
Lions at Vikings
Florio’s take: The Vikings have owned the Lions lately, winning 22 of the last 26 and 16 of the last 18. But the Lions’ current six-game winning streak includes a one-game winning streak over the Vikings. And it’s time to extend it to two.
Florio’s pick: Lions 34, Vikings 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Lions haven’t given up a sack this year. The Vikings haven’t held on to a second half lead. I like Detroit’s stat better.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 31, Vikings 27.
Texans at Saints
Florio’s take: The Texans have gotten off to a good start with wins against the Colts and Dolphins. But there’s a huge difference between those teams and the Saints. Houston’s defense isn’t good enough to slow down a Saints’ offense that has more than enough ammunition to outscore the Texans’ offense.
Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Texans 24.
Rosenthal’s take: This isn’t about whether Houston’s “No. 1” defense holds up. The Saints will score. I’m more curious to see how many points Houston’s quietly uneven offense (so far) can put up on a New Orleans defense with holes. Drew Brees still runs the best offensive group in this game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 34, Texans 26.
Giants at Eagles
Florio’s take: One of the NFL’s best rivalries won’t lose any sizzle, even if Mike Vick doesn’t play. With all due respect to the Ravens and the Steelers, the Giants and the Eagles know how to get each other riled up, and they’ll deliver drama and intensity once it’s time to play. For now, the Eagles are simply the better, healthier team.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Giants season may come down to one question: Can New York’s pass rush cover up their shoddy secondary? With Eli Manning struggling out of the gate, the Giants defense needs to be dominant to give them a chance. It doesn’t look dominant enough to slow down Michael Vick yet, even if he’s not 100%. (Yes, I’m just going to guess Vick plays.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 31, Giants 21.
Broncos at Titans
Florio’s take: The Titans didn’t get lucky against the Ravens. With quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck giving Tennessee its best quarterback since Steve McNair and with Hasselbeck quickly establish a rapport with Kenny Britt and the other receivers on the team, this team could do a lot of damage — especially if Chris Johnson can get back to being Chris Johnson.
Florio’s pick: Titans 30, Broncos 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Tennessee’s secondary, led by a revived Cortland Finnegan, blanketed the Ravens last week. Consider it a very good sign the Titans could win a game against Baltimore without much from Chris Johnson. I have my doubts Denver will have a win that impressive all year.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 24, Broncos 13.
Jets at Raiders
Florio’s take: Nearly 43 years after one of the best games between these two franchises was interrupted by NBC’s broadcast of Heidi, paving the way for pro football games to carry over into prime time, both teams have significant talent at the same time, arguably for the first time since 1968. Another classic could be in store. The Jets are better on paper, but they’re banged up. The Raiders are underrated, and they may be ready to make a statement after blowing an 18-point lead in Buffalo.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 24, Jets 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Jets pummeled the Jaguars last week without running well or stopping the run. That combination will get them killed against Oakland. Oakland’s intensity in both games this year has made me a believer. Don’t let me down, Raider Nation.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 27, Jets 24.
Chiefs at Chargers
Florio’s take: Last year, when the Chiefs won 10 games and captured the AFC West, they lost in San Diego, 31-0. This year, the Chiefs are coming apart at the seams and the Chargers are ready to seize the division crown. This one could prompt the NFL to implement a mercy rule.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 49, Chiefs 10.
Rosenthal’s take: Norv Turner said immediately after last week’s loss that he couldn’t wait to play again. That’s because the Chiefs were next on the schedule.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Chiefs 14.
Ravens at Rams
Florio’s take: St. Louis is struggling through a crippling early-season schedule. The Ravens got a wake-up call last week against the Titans, and it should be enough to get Baltimore to put the Rams into an even deeper slumber.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Rams 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Rams don’t the type of roster that can withstand injuries. Their backups (Cadillac Williams, Greg Salas, Al Harris/Justin King) were all exposed a week ago. The Rams also don’t have the type of roster that can win many games outside the NFC West.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Rams 17.
Packers at Bears
Florio’s take: So the Packers beat the Saints and the Saints beat the Bears and now the Bears play the Packers. Green Bay likely won’t win all 16 games, and if they’re going to lose anywhere, it’ll happen in Soldier Field.
Florio’s pick: Bears 20, Packers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Yes, the Bears are a different team at home. Yes, their defense slows down Aaron Rodgers better than anyone. No, I’m not going to believe Chicago will actually beat Green Bay until it happens.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 24, Bears 21.
Cardinals at Seahawks
Florio’s take: The battle for the NFC West will determined in large part by the ability of teams to win division games away from home. The Seahawks couldn’t do it in San Francisco in Week One. The Cardinals get a chance to break serve in Seattle.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 26, Seahawks 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Even the 12th man can’t save this special sort of awful. I’d explain more, but I’m writing this at 3:00 a.m. after my wife give birth, so that’s really all I have.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 24, Seahawks 17.
Falcons at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Bucs believe they should have beaten the Falcons twice last year. If the Bucs can figure out how to put 60 minutes of football together, they can at least beat the Falcons once in 2011. Atlanta may have left too much on the field in an emotional, come-from-behind win over the Eagles. The Bucs are energized after coming back from a 17-0 halftime deficit in Minnesota.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 26, Falcons 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a great litmus test for two teams that haven’t looked impressive. The Bucs played six lame quarters before their comeback in Minnesota. The Falcons have been outplayed in both games, but gutted out a win over Philly. While I like Tampa’s quarterback better, Atlanta has more talent on both sides of the ball.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 28, Bucs 23.
Steelers at Colts
Florio’s take: Yes, this would be a more compelling Sunday night game with Peyton Manning. But it’ll still be interesting to see which Steelers team shows up, and whether the Colts will improve on offense as Kerry Collins continues to get more time with his new team.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Colts 17.
Rosenthal’s take: I’ve watched both Colts games. They are actually run blocking well and stopping the run somewhat. None of it matters because Kerry Collins and company simply can’t pick up a third down or hit a vertical play. The timing is so off with guys like Austin Collie. Is it too late to flex out of this game?
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 23, Colts 12.
Redskins at Cowboys
Florio’s take: The Redskins are better than anyone expected. But no one expects it to continue all year. Buoyed by Tony Romo’s courageous effort on Sunday, the Cowboys are ready to get the home portion of their schedule off to a solid start, regardless of whether Miles Austin or Felix Jones will be able to play.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 28, Redskins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Rex Grossman has played well against the blitz and he’ll see plenty of blitzes against Rob Ryan’s crew. Dallas’ injuries and total inability to run block are concerns, but I’m taking the home team in what is ultimately a very even matchup.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 30, Redskins 27.