Last week, Rosenthal’s delivery-room picks nearly matched mine, with the only disagreements coming in the Packers-Bears game and Falcons-Bucs. He picked the Packers and I picked the Bucs and so we tied for the week at 10-6.
For the season, Rosenthal holds a one-game lead. He’s 31-17, and I’m 30-18.
This week, Rosenthal can’t rely on the “wife is giving birth” excuse. But given the time at which his picks came through via email, look for him to play the “baby is awake and crying” card liberally.
Panthers at Bears
Florio’s take: I’ve picked the Bears to win each week this year. I felt smart after they beat the Falcons. I felt like I took a justified risk after they lost to the Saints. I felt stupid after they lost to the Packers. I’ve got a feeling I’ll soon feel like an idiot after they lose to the Panthers. If the Bears don’t win this one, they could be 2-5 at the bye. That should be reason enough to find a way to outscore a team that remains, for now, inferior to the Bears.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Panthers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: I want to take the Panthers. I’ve spent a while trying to think of a logical reason why they’ll win, and there isn’t one. Carolina’s defense is a mess. Cam Newton hasn’t faced a defense quite like the Bears. It just feels like bad times are brewing in Chicago and a home loss like this to a feisty young Panthers team is the logical next step.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 23, Bears 20.
Bills at Bengals
Florio’s take: This feels like a potential correction game, with the Bills drained emotionally after two big come-from-behind wins and looking ahead to a pair of NFC East challenges against the Eagles and Giants. But the new Bills, if they truly are different from the old Bills, won’t stub their toe against a team they should beat, especially since quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick used to play for the Bengals. It also would help to not fall behind by 18 or 21 points.
Florio’s pick: Bills 31, Bengals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The next step for the 3-0 Bills: Win a road game as a heavy favorite. The next step for the surprisingly ranked No. 3 Bengals defense: Stop a legitimate offense after three easy matchups. I like Buffalo’s chances better because they can slow down Cincy’s underrated pass rush.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 24, Bengals 17.
Titans at Browns
Florio’s take: Tennessee quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck gets a chance to face his mentor, Mike Holmgren, who knows everything there is to know about Hasselbeck. And that reminds me of Super Bowl XXXVII, when Bucs coach Jon Gruden used everything he knew about Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon to shut Gannon down. Though the Big Show likely won’t be jumping under center this week to show the Browns defense what to expect, Holmgren will supply Dick Jauron with everything he needs to know to put the clamps on an offense that suddenly doesn’t have Kenny Britt — and that is still waiting for Chris Johnson to snap out of his funk.
Florio’s pick: Browns 24, Titans 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Browns have to prove they aren’t just lucky. They won two close games against winless teams where they appeared to be outplayed. Tennessee’s defense doesn’t look lucky. They look rather good, with an emerging secondary.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 20, Browns 17.
Lions at Cowboys
Florio’s take: In 1985, the Bears put the entire football world on notice that their nine-game winning streak wasn’t a fluke by going to Dallas and pounding the Cowboys, 44-0. In 2011, the Lions can do the same thing with their seven-game winning streak (dating back to last year) by going to Dallas and pounding the Cowboys. A special season in Detroit gets an early exclamation point.
Florio’s pick: Lions 34, Cowboys 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cowboys are winning games they shouldn’t. The offensive line is a work in progress, to put it nicely. The receivers don’t know where to line up. Rob Ryan’s defense is making strides, but this amateur hour stuff won’t work against the juggernaut undefeated Lions. (How great is it to write “juggernaut undefeated Lions” with only a little sarcasm?)
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 31, Cowboys 27.
Steelers at Texans
Florio’s take: The Steelers got lucky in Indianapolis. They can’t count on luck when visiting a Texans team that needs to stay on the right side of .500 after blowing a chance to beat the Saints on the fifth anniversary of the return to the Superdome. The offensive line is getting worse, and the Texans’ defensive line is getting better. At some point, the Steelers may have to sign a couple of off-duty police officers to provide Ben Roethlisberger with on-field security.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Steelers 16.
Rosenthal’s take: There are two options for takeaway after this game: (1) these Texans are tougher than usual; (2) these are the same old Texans. I’ll roll with the first one because these aren’t the same old Steelers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Steelers 21.
Saints at Jaguars
Florio’s take: These teams have played four times, with the home team winning every game and the total point differential at two (Saints 100, Jags 98). But there’s a sizable gap between the two franchises right now, and the blitz-happy Saints will have something special for Blaine Gabbert in his home opener. Along with an offense that can’t be stopped, as evidenced by a conference-leading 104 points scored.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Jaguars 14.
Rosenthal’s take: This matchup is exactly what Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is looking for: A confidence booster. New Orleans will blitz Blaine Gabbert coming off the bus.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 30, Jaguars 13.
Vikings at Chiefs
Florio’s take: 0-3 vs. 0-3. First stop on the Andrew Luck Elimination Tour, where the winner loses and the loser wins. Look for Jared Allen to return to Kansas City with the kind of inspired play he has demonstrated all year, willing the Vikings to a big lead, that they will then try to blow. But they’ll succeed this time. And in succeeding, they’ll fail in the effort to get to the front of the Luck line.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 28, Chiefs 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Vikings have found the perfect opponent. You only need one good half to beat the Chiefs. (Rimshot!) This is the type of analysis you can come to expect until my daughter starts sleeping through the night.
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 21, Chiefs 13.
49ers at Eagles
Florio’s take: It would be easy (and likely accurate) to assume that the Eagles will dig deep and find a way to avoid falling to 1-3. But it’s far more fun to envision former Eagles kicker David Akers returning to Philly and making a 50-plus-yard game-winning field goal against a Dream Team that can’t seem to wake up. The San Fran defense is good enough to give Mike Vick fits, and the Eagles defense is bad enough to give the Niners an opportunity to score enough points — and to get in position late so that Akers can win it.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 25, Eagles 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Philly’s defense has problems, but they have more weapons than the 49ers offense. Frank Gore isn’t his usual self and the 49ers passing game is limited to put it nicely. LeSean McCoy can win this game on his own even if Michael Vick isn’t at his best.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, 49ers 17.
Redskins at Rams
Florio’s take: The Redskins played at Dallas on Monday night. They now play at St. Louis, on a short week. And the Rams are desperate to break a slide that easily could become 0-7. And Rex Grossman has come back down to earth after an unexpectedly strong Week One performance. And John Beck likely will be the starter after the bye.
Florio’s pick: Rams 23, Redskins 17.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s not just the tough schedule: The Rams have legitimately been one of the worst teams in the league. The Redskins, on the other hand, seem to maximize meager talent on offense. The defense is much improved. That should be enough against a Rams offense searching for answers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Redskins 24, Rams 18.
Giants at Cardinals
Florio’s take: After stumbling out of the gates against the Redskins, the Giants have found their groove, beating both the Rams and the Eagles. It’s impossible to pick against a team that is 2-0 all-time in GlenDale, given that the Giants also won an unlikely Super Bowl there.
Florio’s pick: Giants 27, Cardinals 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Giants are starting to find an identity on offense with Ahmad Bradshaw getting back to his old self and Victor Cruz getting back to his 2010 preseason self. The biggest mismatch in this game is the Giants DL against the Cardinals OL. Kevin Kolb won’t have time to think.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 26, Cardinals 21.
Falcons at Seahawks
Florio’s take: Last year, the Falcons won by 16 in Seattle. But the Falcons arguably were better last year. Then again, so were the Seahawks. Look for former Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards to get after former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and for the Falcons offense to play like it did against the Eagles.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 30, Seahawks 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Seattle’s defense has potential to be better than average, especially against the run. Unfortunately, you still need to throw the ball to win in today’s NFL. 13 points is not going to get it done most weeks, even against a scuffling Falcons squad.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 20, Seahawks 10.
Broncos at Packers
Florio’s take: A rematch of Super Bowl XXXII. That’s about the only reason to watch this one. And that’s not even a reason to watch it. The Broncos are mediocre and injured, the Packers are potent and healthy. The Broncos have never won in Wisconsin, and the streak continues.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Broncos 10.
Rosenthal’s take: Anything can happen in the NFL. The Panthers nearly beat the Packers a few weeks ago. The Broncos defense could be dangerous if they get Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey back. That doesn’t mean I’m going to pick “anything” actually happening.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 31, Broncos 16.
Patriots at Raiders
Florio’s take: A week after a reprise of the Heidi game, Raiders fans get a taste of the Go Tuck Yourself bowl. This time, Oakland has Richard Seymour and an offense that the Patriots may not be able to handle. The home team needs to grind the clock and get after Tom Brady, aggressively. Maybe after this one people will begin to actually notice that we may be in the early days of a Renaissance in Raider Nation.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 16, Patriots 13.
Rosenthal’s take: What a great matchup. The ultimate pass-first team against the best smashmouth squad in football. Richard Seymour and Oakland’s deep defensive line against his old buddies Logan Mankins and Matt Light. This matchup scares the Patriots because of Darren McFadden. It should scare the Oakland secondary even more. Tom Brady is the right guy to expose the Raiders’ depth issues.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 34, Raiders 30.
Dolphins at Chargers
Florio’s take: The Chargers’ wins have come by a combined 10 points over teams that are a combined 0-6. Enter another winless team, and give the Chargers another closer-than-expected win.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 26, Dolphins 20.
Rosenthal’s take: San Diego has won twice despite Philip Rivers not playing his best. I’m taking that as a good sign. Miami can’t even win when they play well (Week One against the Patriots) or when they dominate the flow of the game (Week Three against the Browns.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 31, Dolphins 21.
Jets at Ravens
Florio’s take: Last year, the Ravens and Jets found themselves in a Week One defensive struggle. Look for more points this time around. But with the Jets struggling to run and stop the run, the bulk of those points will likely be scored by the home team.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Jets 16.
Rosenthal’s take: We’re still learning about these teams. Baltimore’s offense looks more complete, but it’s hard to ignore the Week Two stinkbomb. [Editor’s note: It’s good to see that soiled diapers already are influencing Rosenthal’s prose.] The Jets defense looks less intimidating, but it’s hard to ignore Rex Ryan’s track record. Anything less than a great game will be a huge disappointment.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 24, Jets 21.
Colts at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Bucs return to Monday night for the first time since an epic collapse against the same team they’ll be facing. With Jon Gruden in the broadcast booth to wallow in self-pity and generally gush about everything he sees, the team that fired him in 2009 will show the NFL that the time has come for a Tampa uprising.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 34, Colts 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Josh Freeman is off to a slow start, and none of his teammates really scare you on offense. Yet Tampa is greater than the sum of its parts (again) and the Bucs have won two straight. The Colts are just missing parts, and the spare ones don’t work very well.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bucs 27, Colts 13.