Last week, Rosenthal and I disagreed on four games: Eagles-Redskins, 49ers-Lions, Panthers-Falcons, and Bills-Giants.
And I picked the Redskins, Lions, Panthers, and Bills.
Rosenthal now leads by six games. The bastard.
For the week, he was 11-2. (I was 7-6.) For the year, he’s 63-27 and I’m 57-33.
This week, we disagree on three. So I’ll be nine back by Monday.
Redskins at Panthers
Florio’s take: The Panthers have had a crippling schedule to date, and they’ve been competitive in each of their five losses. The Redskins have worked their way to 3-2 against a less daunting slate of opponents. Throw in the fact that the ‘Skins are banged up and John Beck is getting his first start despite a belief in the locker room (at least in the mind of Santana Moss) that Rex Grossman should have kept the job, and it’s time for the Panthers to get an overdue second win.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Redskins 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This sets up as the perfect first start for John Beck. Carolina is on a three-game losing streak. The Panthers defense is searching for answers. Cam Newton is starting to get a little loose with the ball. And I still think Beck will find a way to lose.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 24, Redskins 20.
Seahawks at Browns
Florio’s take: Browns president Mike Holmgren gets his first crack at the team he coached longer than the team with which he’s most identified — the Packers. Sure, Holmgren isn’t coaching the Browns. But the Big Show is running the production in Cleveland, and the Browns have roughly equivalent talent. Though Holmgren’s new team isn’t ready to have the same kind of success that his old team had, his new team should be able to hold serve at home.
Florio’s pick: Browns 20, Seahawks 13.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s amazing the winner of this game will be 3-3. I heard talk in Cleveland that the Browns season is in real trouble if they lose to a team like Seattle, but the Seahawks have played better football this season. Colt McCoy is no more efficient than Charvaris Jackhurst. If I could choose a tie, I would.
Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 23, Seahawks 21.
Falcons at Lions
Florio’s take: It’s time to find out how the Lions handle adversity. We’ve seen them come back from 20- and 24-point deficits, but the sense of invincibility has been shattered with that loss to the 49ers. Also, the running game has taken a hit with Jahvid Best’s latest concussion and the scuttling of the trade for Ronnie Brown. But the Lions remain an elite NFC team . . . just like the Falcons were in 2010.
Florio’s pick: Lions 27, Falcons 16.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a huge game for Atlanta. They haven’t been over .500 all year or played well on the road. These two teams could be battling for a wild card spot, and Atlanta will have a lot of ground to make up if they lose. At some point Atlanta has to beat NFC contenders. They’ve lost to three already, and Detroit’s defensive line should ensure this becomes the fourth.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 31, Falcons 23.
Broncos at Dolphins
Florio’s take: The Suck for Luck Elimination Tour heads to Sun Life Stadium, where the Dolphins can’t win — which means they can’t lose their crack at the Stanford quarterback. Tim Tebow’s first start of the 2011 season comes against one of the few teams he can beat. And that’s just fine with Dolphins fans.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 20, Dolphins 10.
Rosenthal’s take: I’m picking the Dolphins out of mercy. Losing to the Broncos on Tim Tebow Appreciation day in Miami seems like an unnecessarily cruel way for Tony Sparano to go out. The football gods aren’t that vengeful.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 27, Broncos 20.
Chargers at Jets
Florio’s take: This one became a lot more interesting on Wednesday, with Jets coach Rex Ryan taking an unintended shot at Norv Turner and with Turner firing back in uncharacteristic fashion. Beating the Dolphins hardly cures what’s wrong with the Jets, and the Chargers have the horses to make the trek across the country and move their record to 5-1, even though LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie will be relishing this crack at their former team.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 20, Jets 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers haven’t looked very impressive while jumping out to a 4-1 record, but they should have Antonio Gates back. The Jets have looked even less impressive at 3-3. The offensive coaches have put the training wheels back on Mark Sanchez. The run defense has holes. Monday’s ugly win, however, feels like it’s going to be a springboard for more ugly wins to come.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 28, Chargers 23.
Bears at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: If the Bears play like they did last week, the Bucs don’t have a chance. But the last time the Bears looked great, against the Falcons, I fooled myself into thinking they could keep it up against a solid team from the NFC South. The Bucs rebounded incredibly well from a thrashing in San Fran, and they’re not likely to continue to build on unlikely momentum that has taken them to the top of the division.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Bears 19.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs think that getting to London four days before the Bears will give them an advantage. Another plus: Chicago didn’t magically solve their offensive problems in one win. Josh Freeman is coming off his best game of the season and can expose Chicago’s young safeties.
Rosenthal’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Bears 24.
Texans at Titans
Florio’s take: The team that used to be in Houston and the team that currently is in Houston are the only two teams with a realistic shot at winning the AFC South. Sunday’s round one will go a long way toward deciding a division that ultimately could be settled in Week 17, when the rematch unfolds. It’s time for the hard-luck Texans to make some good luck for themselves.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Titans 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The biggest game of the NFL weekend. If the Titans win, they have a two-game lead in the loss column in the AFC South. If the Texans win, they look like division favorites with a favorable schedule on the way. Wade Phillips will copy Pittsburgh’s gameplan to slow Matt Hasselbeck down. The Texans still have enough talent on defense to pull it off.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 28, Titans 21.
Steelers at Cardinals
Florio’s take: This rematch of Super Bowl XLIII features two teams that have gone in very different directions since February 2009. But the Steelers aren’t quite the same squad when they leave Heinz Field, and former Pittsburgh assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm will be looking both to settle scores and to avoid sliding to 1-5.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 20, Steelers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Steelers defense is suddenly first in yards allowed. They got ranked that high by mauling shaky offensive lines like Seattle and Jacksonville. Look for more of the same this week. There may not be a tackle combination in the league worse than Levi Brown and Brandon Keith.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 20, Cardinals 13.
Chiefs at Raiders
Florio’s take: Whether it’s Carson Palmer or Kyle Boller or Terrelle Pryor or JaMarcus Russell or Jeff George or Ken Stabler, the Raiders are riding the “just win, baby” vibe, and they seem to be on their way to a playoff berth. One way to get there is to continue their recent mastery of the AFC West.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Chiefs 23.
Rosenthal’s take: I’d pick the Raiders even if Kyle Boller were starting. Heck, I’d pick the Raiders even if Florio’s buddy Brett Favre were starting. Oakland is built on aggressive line play on both sides of the ball, not their quarterbacks. Kansas City’s season has been built on beating two bad teams.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 26, Chiefs 20.
Rams at Cowboys
Florio’s take: Like the Jets on Monday night, the Cowboys need to chase a loss at New England with a confidence builder against a winless team. After the Cowboys climb back to .500, they’ll think they’re a playoff team. At least for a week.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 31, Rams 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Someone asked me this week what losing team had the best chance to make the playoffs. I went with the Cowboys. The defense is way further along than expected. The three losses were to the 49ers, Lions, and Patriots. The offense has enough talent. Finally, the schedule eases up a bit starting now.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 37, Rams 17.
Packers at Vikings
Florio’s take: Last year, the Packers embarrassed the Vikings in the Metrodome, at a time when the Vikings were better than they now are — and the Packers were worse. This one could make Donovan McNabb happy he was benched.
Florio’s pick: Packer 42, Vikings 20.
Rosenthal’s take: No rookie quarterback looked more overmatched in August than Christian Ponder. Cam Newton also struggled somewhat in August, but I know Cam Newton. I’ve watched Cam Newton. Cam Newton is a friend of mine. Christian Ponder is no Cam Newton. (Note: I’m not actually friends with Cam Newton.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 30, Vikings 10.
Colts at Saints
Florio’s take: The rematch of Super Bowl XLIV would have been a great one for NBC, if Peyton Manning were playing. Instead, it’ll simply be a great one for the Saints.
Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Colts 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Indianapolis’ loss to the Saints in the Super Bowl suddenly feels like a long time ago. The big drama that regular season was whether the Colts would go undefeated. Now they could go winless. That shouldn’t happen because Curtis Painter has quietly looked like a competent quarterbacks the last few weeks. And I’m not just saying that because NBC can’t flex out of this game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 34, Colts 17.
Ravens at Jaguars
Florio’s take: On Monday night, plenty of people will be feeling nostalgic for the Dolphins-Jets barn burner.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 30, Jaguars 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens have the best defense in football and it’s not even close. It’s a perfect marriage of talent and aggressive scheme. The Jaguars have the worst passing attack in the league, and it’s not even close. This game will not be close.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 30, Jaguars 7.