Though I nearly pulled off the prognostication hole-in-one last week, picking the Niners to beat the Eagles by the score of 25-24 (the actual score was 24-23), Rosenthal had the last laugh, nailing 12 of the 16 games. I finished with only 11 right.
Rosenthal has extended his lead through four weeks to two games. He’s 43-21, and I’m 41-23.
We only disagree on two games this week, but that’s just enough to close the gap.
Eagles at Bills
Florio’s take: The Bills desperately need to avoid falling to 3-2, and the Eagles desperately need to avoid falling to 1-4. Though I remain a believer in the Bills, the Eagles seem to be realizing the connection between having a talented team and using that talented team to win some games.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Bills 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Every week, there’s one game that I just can’t decide on. Eagles-Bills is the game that keeps me up at night this week. (Or maybe it’s my new daughter.) The Bills have shown they can win shootouts, but it’s worth noting that their defense simply isn’t very good. Buffalo also has a lot of injuries up front and not a lot of depth.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 38, Bills 36.
Saints at Panthers
Florio’s take: The Panthers need to learn how to win games, not just lose close ones. The good news this week? They won’t lose a close one. Sure, tight end Jeremy Shockey will be motivated to stick it to his old team. But it won’t be enough to knock off a Saints squad has an impressive collection of weapons and a defense with just enough punch to keep Cam Newton and company in check.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Panthers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: It was remarkable watching Cam Newton move the ball at will on the Bears. If the Panthers defense was even average, Carolina could compete for a playoff spot. But the Panthers defense isn’t close to average. That will show up in this game especially.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 35, Panthers 31.
Raiders at Texans
Florio’s take: The Titans managed to win last week without their top receiver, Kenny Britt. The Texans tend to rely a little bit more on Andre Johnson. He has missed 13 games during his career, and the Texans have lost eight of them. With a better-than-advertised Raiders team coming to town and the Texans’ new-look defense having not yet seen a tailback like Darren McFadden, the record with Andre could be moving to 5-9.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 20, Texans 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This will be a different sort of test for the rebuilt Texans defense. Houston has shown they can get after the passer, but handling the smashmouth Raiders is altogether different. Both of these teams are talented, but make too many bone-headed mistakes. Look for Houston to make more mistakes Sunday.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 28, Texans 24.
Chiefs at Colts
Florio’s take: The Andrew Luck Elimination Tour moves to Indy, and it’s time for the Colts to join the ranks of the one-win teams. After three close losses and steady signs of improvement, the Colts are ready to outscore an opponent, especially since the opponent is the Chiefs.
Florio’s pick: Colts 21, Chiefs 16.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chiefs followed up two blowout losses with two respectable showings. The Colts followed one blowout loss with three narrow defeats. Curtis Painter should get the start again, and he’ll keep it as a reward for finally getting the Colts in the win column.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 24, Chiefs 21.
Bengals at Jaguars
Florio’s take: The Bengals have a surprisingly good defense, and the Jags have a characteristically mediocre offense. With Cedric Benson still not suspended and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton playing well and rookie receiver A.J. Green looking like the pass-catcher that Ochocinco never was, the Bengals are ready to move over .500 — and to nudge Jack Del Rio closer to his long overdue exit from Jacksonville.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 26, Jaguars 19.
Rosenthal’s take: The best unit in this game: Cincinnati’s swarming defense. They held Buffalo’s offense to one touchdown. The best rookie in this game: A.J. Green. Andy Dalton throws the ball anywhere near the kid, and Green pulls it down. Blaine Gabbert has no such weapon.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 20, Jaguars 13.
Cardinals at Vikings
Florio’s take: Larry Fitzgerald returns to Minnesota with a team that can’t seem to find a way to win football games, against a team that can’t seem to find a way to win football games. Either team could be 4-0 or 0-4. The Vikings are the latter, and the Cardinals are close to it. Though Donovan McNabb may not win many more games, this could be his best chance to save his job. At least through Halloween.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Cardinals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Kevin Kolb hasn’t received a lot of criticism yet, but he hasn’t played much better than his old teammate, Donovan McNabb. These are the two worst finishing teams in the league. They both keep it close, then find a way to lose. Someone has to win, though, and I’ll guess that McNabb finds a way to delay the move to Christian Ponder at least another week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 23, Cardinals 20.
Seahawks at Giants
Florio’s take: The surprisingly 3-1 Giants host the not-as-surprisingly 1-3 Seahawks. Seattle hasn’t beaten the Giants in New York since 1983. With three home games and a bye over the next four weeks and a blast of motivation and confidence, the Giants keep pushing toward an unlikely playoff berth.
Florio’s take: Giants 17, Seahawks 12.
Rosenthal’s take: The Giants have won three straight by avoiding big mistakes. Against Seattle, that should be enough. Seattle is competent at home and among the worst teams in football on the road until proven otherwise. I’m not knocking the Seahawks; I’m giving the 12th man credit.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 27, Seahawks 13.
Titans at Steelers
Florio’s take: Maybe the Steelers aren’t very good this year. Maybe, like the last two times they went to the Super Bowl, they’ll miss the playoffs the next year. Maybe the team needs a complete overhaul. But it’s impossible to envision the Steelers losing at home this week. If they do, it’s quite possible that the wheels will fly off in 2011.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 23, Titans 20.
Rosenthal’s take: For all the talk about the “old” Steelers defense, the Steelers offense remains the problem. That won’t change when they face a Titans team allowing the fewest points in the NFL. The Texans earned newfound respect last week by beating the Steelers at their own game. People will start taking Tennessee seriously after this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 19, Steelers 17.
Buccaneers at 49ers
Florio’s take: But for the Sunday night clash between the Packers and Falcons, Bucs-Niners could be the best game of the day. Both teams are 3-1, and both have demonstrated an ability to win the old-fashioned way. The way that works best in January. Running the ball, and playing good defense. Though I still like the Niners to win the NFC West, the Isaac Sopoaga staph infection could make it hard for home team to get the Tampa offense off the field.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 17, 49ers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: They may as well just start this game in the fourth quarter. Both offenses play not to lose because they lack weapons. The Bucs rely on their young defensive line, while the 49ers lean on the best inside linebacker duo in football. (Seriously, watch Navorro Bowman.) In a battle of evenly-matched overachieving teams with serious mojo, I’ll take the home squad.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 20, Bucs 17.
Chargers at Broncos
Florio’s take: The schedule-makers have made it much easier for the Chargers to get off to a good start, despite playing so-so football against primarily bad teams. Look for that to continue on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Broncos 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers quietly haven’t played very well despite their 3-1 record. The Broncos have played like you’d expect a 1-3 team should. When John Fox fixes one problem on defense, another pops up. Kyle Orton gets the blame on offense, but the Broncos can’t run well either. The Chargers can get away with winning ugly for another week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Broncos 27.
Jets at Patriots
Florio’s take: Twice last year, these two teams met in New England, with two starkly different outcomes. The rubber match gives us a chance to decide which of the games was the aberration — the Monday night shellacking of the Jets, or New York’s unlikely toppling of a 14-2 juggernaut in the playoffs. Rex Ryan is coaching with his back pressed against the wall, and the so-so New England defense is just what the Jets need to build some confidence on the offensive side of the ball. But then Jets receiver Santonio Holmes decided to run his mouth, giving the Pats just enough bulletin board material to find a way to continue the Jets’ tailspin.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Jets 17.
Rosenthal’s take: These AFC East rivals are both still trying to figure out what they do well. Only one of them has Tom Brady to carry the team through choppy waters. Sometimes it’s that simple. The Jets’ run game and defense isn’t quite good enough yet to lift up a mediocre passing attack.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 31, Jets 27.
Packers at Falcons
Florio’s take: The Falcons’ strategy for dealing with the Packers seems to be, “If you can’t beat ‘em, try to outscore ‘em.” But the offense simply won’t have enough octane to keep pace with a Packers team that has decided to keep playing in 2011 like it did in the 2010 playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Falcons 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Falcons traded up for Julio Jones for this game. They wanted the firepower to hang around in a shootout. Unfortunately, the Falcons haven’t found solutions for the defense that gave up 48 points to Green Bay. If anything, Atlanta’s defense and offense have taken steps back since last year.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 38, Falcons 28.
Bears at Lions
Florio’s take: I thought the Lions would make a statement against the Cowboys on Sunday. In the end, what they did may have been even more significant. This week, it’s time for a more traditional statement game.
Florio’s pick: Lions 41, Bears 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bears beat Carolina with the run game and Devin Hester. That’s similar to their 2006 model, except it’s missing one key ingredient: A suffocating defense. It’s too easy to move the ball on the Bears. The Lions shouldn’t need to erase a 20-point deficit this time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 31, Bears 24.