As we reach the exact midpoint of the season — with eight weeks in the books and eight more to come after Sunday and Monday — I’ve managed to slap a temporary tourniquet onto the competition, matching Rosenthal with a record of 9-4 for the Week Eight picks.
But I’m still stuck in a seven-game hole. And I’ve only got two chances this week to gain ground.
Needless to say, I’ll be openly rooting for the Titans and Steelers on Sunday. To the chagrin of Titans and Steelers fans everywhere.
For the year, Rosenthal has a record of 80-36. I’m now at 73-43.
Jets at Bills
Florio’s take: Wins over the overmatched Dolphins and overrated Chargers have caused the Jets to spend the bye week thinking they’re better than they are. They’re not. The Bills have proven that they have staying power, and they have the firepower to stay ahead of the Jets for the full game, not just part of it.
Florio’s pick: Bills 27, Jets 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Jets think they found their running game and Plaxico Burress’ mojo before the bye. The Bills think they found a pass rush with Marcel Dareus moving to nose tackle. I think the Bills will find a way to keep their home record perfect because the Bills running game will roll and Mark Sanchez isn’t made for shootouts.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 30, Jets 27.
Seahawks at Cowboys
Florio’s take: Though the Cowboys can’t play up to the level of their competition, they know how to take care of business against bad teams.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 41, Seahawks 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Jerry Jones says Cowboys fans shouldn’t focus on the team’s humbling loss to the Eagles. That’s easier to say when Seattle is next on the schedule. Tarvaris Jackson amazingly isn’t the Seahawks’ biggest problem. He’s just not nearly good enough to overcome Seattle’s total absence of a running game and terrible special teams.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 30, Seahawks 17.
Browns at Texans
Florio’s take: With the Colts, Titans, and Jaguars vanquished, the Texans have a clear path to their first playoff berth. To get there, they need to drop the hammer when playing inferior opponents at home. The Browns had better get comfortable in the AFC North basement.
Florio’s pick: Texans 34, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Browns fans are starting to notice that the Browns offense is worse under Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren than it was under Eric Mangini. Houston’s offseason coaching move has worked much better. Wade Phillips is my pick for coordinator of the year, if that was actually an award.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Browns 13.
Falcons at Colts
Florio’s take: The Falcons need to keep winning. The Colts need to keep losing. Both teams will meet their objectives.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 36, Colts 19.
Rosenthal’s take: The Falcons have played in four straight dome games, and they get three straight in Atlanta after this one. In short: They should enter December in good playoff position. That little nugget was my way of not talking about the Colts, because there’s nothing left to say.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 26, Colts 21.
Dolphins at Chiefs
Florio’s take: The Chiefs need to keep winning. The Dolphins need to keep losing. Both teams will meet their objectives.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 31, Dolphins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: This looks like a dangerous spot for the Chiefs. The Dolphins keep every game competitive, even against good teams like the Giants. Kansas City isn’t talented enough to take any team lightly, and they are coming off an emotional high on a short week. Take the Dolphins to cover and the Chiefs to win. Yeah, I’m a wimp.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 23, Dolphins 21.
Buccaneers at Saints
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Bucs have won two in a row in New Orleans. The up-and-down Saints are reeling from a loss to the Rams. This one could go either way. Call it a hunch, but even while operating from the coaching booth it’s hard to imagine Sean Payton not coming up with a way to win this one.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 24.
Rosenthal’s take: The Saints are a different team at home, winning all three games by an average score of 44-17. (The Colts blowout looms large, but the Saints also waxed the Bears.) The Bucs are a different team than their record indicates. With all four wins coming in one-score games, the Bucs have been lucky. Tampa doesn’t stand out in any facet of offense or defense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 35, Bucs 28.
49ers at Redskins
Florio’s take: Last week’s win by the Rams over the Saints is a reminder that anything can happen in the NFL. And that’s precisely what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh needed to see in order to get his players to guard against a letdown in D.C.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Redskins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the wrong matchup for Washington. They give up too many big plays on the ground (hello Fred Jackson) and the collapsing offensive line can’t handle the 49ers’ front seven. John Beck is 0-6 in six career starts. If it goes to 0-7, Washington’s playoff hopes are just about done.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 23, Redskins 14.
Broncos at Raiders
Florio’s take: When Tebow tries to take a knee on Sunday, he’ll tumble into a Black Hole. The Raiders are rested and ready to make better use of Carson Palmer. With or without Darren McFadden, the Broncos can’t beat anyone but the Dolphins.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 37, Broncos 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The AFC West will likely get only one playoff team this year. That means the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers can’t afford any slip-ups to the division also-ran. The Oakland are lucky to face the Broncos at a good time: While they are still starting Tim Tebow.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 24, Broncos 10.
Bengals at Titans
Florio’s take: Rosenthal and I make our picks without knowing the other guy’s selections. But since Rosenthal apparently is preparing to add a tiger head tattoo to a collection that includes Pat Patriot on one shoulder and a fleur-de-lis on the other, and given that I have a lot of ground to gain in the season-to-date standings, I’ll assume that he continues to buy the Bengals, who have yet to play the Steelers or the Ravens. This week, I’ll trust in the team that already has beaten one of Cincinnati’s chief AFC North rivals — even though I’m prepared to put no trust in Chris Johnson.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Bengals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: A matchup of two winning teams that no one takes seriously. The Bengals look closer to being contenders because of a truly stout defensive line, strong special teams, and the belief of a young team that doesn’t know any better. Perhaps the Bengals will be taken seriously once they are 6-2.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 16, Titans 13.
Rams at Cardinals
Florio’s take: The two teams for which Kurt Warner starred currently are struggling at the quarterback position. Sam Bradford continues to deal with a high ankle sprain, and Cardinals fans can’t figure out whether they prefer a healthy or an injured Kevin Kolb. The battle-hardened Rams get the benefit of the doubt after shocking the Saints behind A.J. Feeley.
Florio’s pick: Rams 28, Cardinals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: I’m not sure whether the quarterback matchup will be Sam Bradford versus Kevin Kolb or A.J. Feeley versus John Skelton. The Rams won in spite of Feeley last week; he was spraying passes. Skelton is popular in Arizona only because fans forgot how he played last year. I’ve already spent too many words on a game no one is going to watch.
Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 24, Cardinals 20.
Giants at Patriots
Florio’s take: It’s yet another Super Bowl rematch (there are at least 15 of them this year), and most of them have seen the team that won the Super Bowl prevail in the 2011 regular-season reunion. Last week, the Bills broke that trend by beating the Redskins. This week, the trend of beating the trend continues. Even though the team that first figured out how to beat Tom Brady will likely try to use the same formula (i.e., pound the pretty boy into the ground), the Pats are dangerous when motivated — and they typically are extremely motivated after losing a game.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Giants 27.
Rosenthal’s take: I was attending my first Super Bowl the last time these teams played, way back when I was 11. This matchup has a lot of similarities. New York’s pass rush can get after Tom Brady and Eli Manning comes into the game playing well. That’s a long way of saying this game will be tight, but the Patriots are too good coming off a loss, especially at home, to suffer another upset.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 31, Giants 27.
Packers at Chargers
Florio’s take: In this craziest of NFL seasons, it would be fitting for the suddenly struggling Chargers to take a chunk out of the unbeaten defending champs. But the Packers are playing like a team on loan from a higher level of football, and they’re coming off a bye. Throw in the fact that they’ve never lost to the Chargers in San Diego, and the Packers are poised to move to 8-0.
Florio’s pick: Packers 33, Chargers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: In theory, the Packers could be walking into a hornet’s nest. This is a huge game for San Diego coming off two home losses. Philip Rivers wants to put The Phumble behind him. In reality, the Chargers defense doesn’t do anything well. The secondary is searching for answers. That’s not how you want to enter a game against Aaron Rodgers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 35, Chargers 24.
Ravens at Steelers
Florio’s take: The Steelers carry a four-game winning streak into a game for which they may not have four healthy linebackers. But it doesn’t matter. Motivated by a 35-7 Week One thumping that seems so distant it may as well have been Week One of the 2004 season, the Steelers will find a way to hold serve at home. They might even turn the tables with a blowout of Baltimore, but I’ll stick with a close game in the hopes that NBC will be able to carry a huge rating for all three hours on Sunday night.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 16, Ravens 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Everything points to the Steelers based on the last two weeks. Everyone will pick the Steelers in this game. Florio will pick the Steelers. All of that makes me want to pick the Ravens because that’s usually how things work out. (Plus picking against Florio is generally a profitable strategy.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 20, Steelers 17.
Bears at Eagles
Florio’s take: The Dream Team is back, so spread the word. Actually, they’ll do a good job of spreading the word on their own, by spreading the ball in balanced fashion between passes and runs. Andy Reid does some of his best coaching with his back pressed firmly against the wall. At 3-4 and two games behind the Giants, his back will remain their indefinitely.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 28, Bears 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Eagles aren’t the only team coming into this game playing well. Chicago tightened up its pass protection and defense before the bye. Jay Cutler is playing well. This is a huge game in the NFC playoff picture and won’t be the cakewalk for Philly everyone expects.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 28, Bears 27.