Last week, Rosenthal and I disagreed on only two games. In the afternoon, I was feeling pretty good when the Titans had a 10-point lead over the Bengals.
And then the Titans blew it.
Later in the evening, I was feeling extremely good about my prediction that the Steelers would be the Ravens by a score of 20-17 when the Steelers were leading 20-16 and the Ravens were starting a drive from their own eight yard line with 144 seconds on the clock.
And then the Steelers blew it.
As a result, Rosenthal’s seven-game lead has expanded to nine. This week, we disagree on four games. Which means that he’ll likely have a double-digit lead soon.
For the week, Rosenthal was 8-6 and I was a dreadful 6-8. For the year, he’s 88-42, and I’m 79-51.
Raiders at Chargers
Florio’s take: The Chargers have lost three in a row, and the Raiders have lost two in a row. In the series, the Raiders have won two in a row after losing 13 in a row. Without Darren McFadden and with Carson Palmer still learning on the fly and with all three running backs ready to go for the home team, the Chargers should end a couple of those streaks.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Look past the unlucky interceptions. Carson Palmer actually made a number of great throws against Denver. Philip Rivers also found his mojo late against the Packers. The defenses for both teams are struggling, but Oakland has more talent. As long as the Chargers don’t run the read-option, the Raiders should prevail.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 30, Chargers 28.
Saints at Falcons
Florio’s take: After a disappointing start, Atlanta has found its groove. The Saints have looked good at times, not good at others. With Sean Payton still coaching from upstairs, the Saints could have a hard time if they fall behind. It’ll be important for the Falcons to take control early, and they have the talent to do it.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Saints 24.
Rosenthal’s take: The last time these teams played in Atlanta, the Saints won 17-14 in Week 16 last year. I’m not sure this Saints group is much better, but the Falcons are worse. New Orleans is coming off its most complete game of the year and has too many weapons for Atlanta’s secondary to handle.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 30, Falcons 27.
Titans at Panthers
Florio’s take: In this battle of underworked and overpaid tailbacks, DeAngelo Williams has the better supporting cast than Chris Johnson. Also, the 2-6 Panthers realize that, with two games to play against the up-and-down Bucs, a late-season hot streak could help Carolina finish in third place in the tough-as-nails NFC South.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Titans 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Titans coach Mike Munchak said Tennessee earned its 4-4 record. If they keep playing at their current level, they will earn a 6-10 season. Carolina struggles to finish close games, but they should be able to run right at Tennessee. Here’s an offense the Panthers can stop.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 27, Titans 17.
Steelers at Bengals
Florio’s take: When I pick the Steelers to lose, they win. When I pick them to win, they lose. Sorry, Steelers fans, but I think that the time has come from the Black and Gold to turn the Black and Orange black and blue.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Bengals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Steelers need to be careful. Coming off a devastating home loss, Pittsburgh faces a Bengals team eager to show they are contenders. Cincy’s deep defensive line will give the Steelers problems, but it won’t be enough. Andy Dalton has yet to face a defense this good since San Francisco in Week three. They scored eight points in that game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 16, Bengals 13.
Rams at Browns
Florio’s take: Yes, the Browns are 3-5. But their trio of wins came against the 1-7 Dolphins, the 0-9 Colts, and the 2-6 Seahawks. It could mean that the Browns are ripe for another win against the 1-7 Rams, but St. Louis has shown some improvement, whereas the Browns seem to be getting worse.
Florio’s pick: Rams 17, Browns 13.
Rosenthal’s take: There are a lot of great matchups this week. That means there are going to be some stinkers. It doesn’t get much worse than this. Cleveland does nothing well on offense, while the Rams couldn’t beat John Skelton. I’m taking St. Louis if only because the Browns don’t deserve to be 4-5.
Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 20, Browns 14.
Bills at Cowboys
Florio’s take: Most of the Super Bowl rematches played this year have resulted in the same outcome. When the participants in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII get together in Dallas on Sunday, history could repeat itself once again. Regardless of whether Fred Jackson loses his helmet.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Bills 21.
Rosenthal’s take: It must have been jarring to Bills fans to see Buffalo’s offense stopped cold by the Jets. The Bills had three first downs midway through the third quarter. It also must have been jarring to look at the schedule and see the Dallas defense up next. As the Cowboys-Patriots game showed, the Ryan brothers are sharing information effectively.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 28, Bills 21.
Jaguars at Colts
Florio’s take: The Colts perhaps have their best chance to win a game. But do they want to? The front office seems to be hot on the trail of Andrew Luck, and the locker room seems to be too complacent to care. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are rested and Jack Del Rio is coaching for his job.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Okay, it does get worse than Browns-Rams. Logic says the Colts will win eventually and this looks like the best chance. But Curtis Painter keeps playing worse, to the point where he’s no better lately than Blaine Gabbert. Only one of them gets to face the awful Colts defense on Sunday.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 20, Colts 16.
Broncos at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Let’s see. The Broncos beat the Dolphins in Miami. And the Dolphins beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. So it makes sense that the circle will be completed by the Chiefs beating the Broncos. Especially since the Chiefs will be ready for the read-option offense — and since the Chiefs will be ready to get out of their mouths the awful taste that comes from losing to a previously winless team.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Broncos 10.
Rosenthal’s take: I watched Kansas City’s 31-3 loss to Miami. It was hard to believe the Chiefs were a real playoff contender after that. I watched Denver’s win over Oakland too. It was hard to believe any team but the Raiders would be so ill prepared for the zone-option. If nothing else, the Chiefs have shown the ability to rebound after embarrassing results.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 21, Broncos 17.
Redskins at Dolphins
Florio’s take: The Dolphins are 1-12 at home since December 2009. This is their chance to move to a not-quite-as-pathetic-but-still-pretty-damn-bad 2-12. It’s fitting that, to get there, the Dolphins will be facing a guy who started four games during Miami’s 1-15 fiasco in 2007. It’s yet another rematch of two prior Super Bowls, and it would be fitting for the team that won Super Bowl VII by seven points to duplicate that feat.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 14, Redskins 7.
Rosenthal’s take: The return of John Beck to Miami! All this game needs is Cam Cameron and Greg Camarillo to remind Dolphins fans of an era just as depressing as this one. Depressing for Redskins fans: Miami is favored by four points. It’s for a good reason. Miami no longer starts John Beck.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 20, Redskins 14.
Cardinals at Eagles
Florio’s take: Kevin Kolb may miss his first crack against his old team, which given the quality of his current team may not be a bad thing. Like 2008, with the Eagles backed against the wall and fans clamoring for Andy Reid to be fired, Philly will be ready to filet the redbirds, extending by at least a week the Eagles’ inevitable exit from playoff contention.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 48, Cardinals 20.
Rosenthal’s take: John Skelton helped out Kevin Kolb in last week’s win. Skelton looked worse than Kolb, but the Cardinals still won. That should push the Cardinals down the draft, safely away from Andrew Luck. With Kolb likely out again, this game lacks a built-in storyline. It will also lack any drama.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 33, Cardinals 14.
Texans at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Bucs have sidled up to a defensive tackle who spends plenty of playing time down on his stomach. Which shows just how desperate they are to salvage a season that is slipping through their fingers. The Texans have developed the right formula to succeed, and the only other time the Bucs faced a 3-4 defense this year, they lost by 45 points.
Florio’s pick: Texans 30, Buccaneers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs aren’t as good as their record indicates. Their defensive stats are awful across the board. Josh Freeman is struggling with decision making, and he doesn’t have enough playmakers. Tampa will lose this game simply based on karma from adding Albert Haynesworth to a supposedly “youngry” defense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 27, Bucs 19.
Ravens at Seahawks
Florio’s take: The Jim Harbaugh/Pete Carroll feud expands a bit, with Jim’s brother getting a crack at Carroll’s team. That’ll help keep the Ravens from once again letting their guard down against an inferior team a week after beating the Steelers. And the fact that the Seahawks simply aren’t very good.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 30, Seahawks 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens lost in Jacksonville and Tennessee. They barely beat Arizona, another NFC West also-ran. That’s a long way of saying this game is no layup for Baltimore. That doesn’t mean I’m crazy enough to take the Seahawks to win straight up.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 20, Seahawks 16.
Lions at Bears
Florio’s take: The Bears have improved on the fly, just like they did last year. And the Lions have struggled on the road this year, narrowly beating the Bucs, Vikings, and Cowboys. The Bears have been unpredictable this year, but they get the benefit of the doubt since they’re playing at home.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Lions 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Perhaps the Lions did the Bears a favor a month ago. Chicago’s embarrassing Monday night showing in Detroit forced Mike Martz to give his offensive line help. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte have done the rest. Matthew Stafford may prove to be a better player than Cutler long term, but I’d take Cutler right now.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 24, Lions 21.
Giants at 49ers
Florio’s take: The 49ers haven’t beaten the Giants since that crazy 39-38 playoff game from nine years ago. Though this one likely won’t involve half (or maybe a fourth) of the same scoring, Jim Harbaugh is crafting a masterpiece this year, and it’s time for him to add a little Big Blue to the canvas.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 7, Giants 3.
Rosenthal’s take: This could easily be a playoff preview, something that Trey Junkin is surely rooting against so he doesn’t get famous all over again. The 49ers play almost every game tight because their conservative offense can’t pull away from teams. Eventually, that’s going to come back to bite them.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 24, 49ers 20.
Patriots at Jets
Florio’s take: The Jets finally have a clear path to an AFC East crown, which would give them at least one home playoff game. It won’t be easy to send the Pats to their third straight loss, but the Jets likely realize that this is their golden opportunity to finally take control of the division.
Florio’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 17.
Rosenthal’s take: For last week’s Sunday night game, I debuted my revolutionary strategy to simply pick against what I thought Florio would do. Let’s try it again. This game reminds me a lot of Ravens-Steelers. Everything points to the Jets winning at home, but momentum is only as good as your next fourth quarter drive. I don’t trust Mark Sanchez to pull a Flacco.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 27, Jets 21.
Vikings at Packers
Florio’s take: Early on, the Vikings will take their best shot in this border war. And then the Packers will take care of business, as they always seem to do.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Vikings 20.
Rosenthal’s take: As bad teams go, at least the Vikings have some fun players to watch. Jared Allen could be the defensive player of the year. Christian Ponder has added life to the offense. Adrian Peterson is playing some of the best football of his career, and Percy Harvin is finally healthy. So at least this should be an entertaining blowout.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 38, Vikings 21.