The bad news is that I gained no ground on Rosenthal last week in the picks contest.
The good news? I lost no ground, either.
We matched our records in Week 11 with 10-4 efforts; he picked the Dolphins when I foolishly trusted the Bills. Fortunately, Rosenthal sided with the Jaguars while a scored a near hole in one, picking the Browns to win by the score of 13-10.
For the year, he’s 109-51. I’m 98-62.
This weekend, when factoring in the Thanksgiving picks, we disagree on five games. If I’m right on all of them, I can cut his lead nearly in half.
Now, where’s that damn wishbone?
Vikings at Falcons
Florio’s take: Barring a miracle, Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson will miss the game. And that will make it even harder for the 2-8 Vikings to avoid losing their ninth game of the season, especially since the Falcons now have a great opportunity to leapfrog the Giants and the Bears for a spot in the playoffs. The fact that former Falcons quarterbacks coach and current Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave knows the Atlanta offense could help keep it from being a blowout.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Vikings 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Falcons have shown an ability to consistently beat bad teams, which may be enough to get them back to the playoffs. While the Vikings don’t feel 2-8 bad, their offense will be among the league’s worst without Adrian Peterson. Heck, it was among the league’s worst with Adrian Peterson.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 28, Vikings 17.
Browns at Bengals
Florio’s take: After close losses to the Steelers and Ravens, the Bengals should believe that they can play with anyone. If the Bengals somehow can’t play with the Browns, the Bengals definitely won’t be playing past January 1.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 20, Browns 0.
Rosenthal’s take: It took a dropped pass and some bad playcalling by the Jaguars for the Browns to win their fourth game. The Bengals won’t be so forgiving. Jay Gruden has quietly been among the best offensive coordinators in the league. He’ll be happy to face a division rival that isn’t Baltimore or Pittsburgh.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 23, Browns 10.
Panthers at Colts
Florio’s take: Carolina has become an unexpected entrant in the “Suck of Luck” sweepstakes. It won’t last. The Panthers are better than the Colts, and the Colts are fine with that . . . at least until they clinch the top pick.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 28, Colts 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Colts have finally found a team they can score against! The Panthers defense is second-to-last in points allowed this year. The only problem: The Colts are dead last in the same category. And they don’t have Cam Newton.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 28, Colts 24.
Texans at Jaguars
Florio’s take: Publicly, the Texans see the glass as half full in the wake of Matt Schaub’s season-ending injury. Privately, they have to be worried that Matt Leinart isn’t the answer. If the Jaguars team that beat the Ravens last month shows up on Sunday, the Texans may be bidding farewell to their shot at a bye.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 20, Texans 17.
Rosenthal’s take: I don’t expect much out of Matt Leinart, but I do expect him to be better than Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars defense has been strong all year, but it struggled last week without Terrance Knighton and Clint Session. Allowing Colt McCoy and Chris Ogbonnaya to have breakout games was a bad sign.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Jaguars 17.
Bills at Jets
Florio’s take: With multiple teams clustered between 6-4 and 4-6 in the AFC, one of them likely will get hot and take the final playoff spot. Though there’s a good chance that neither the Jets nor the Bills will be that team, one of them has to win this one (barring a tie, obviously). Injuries have decimated the Bills, and the rollercoasting Jets will head back up the mountain once again, with three winnable games on tap before a trip to Philly and a “visit” from the Giants.
Florio’s pick: Jets 27, Bills 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Even the most cynical Bills fan couldn’t have imagined a collapse like this. They’ve lost three straight games by a combined score of 104-26. Fred Jackson is done for the year. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s future looks shaky. Their defense can even make Mark Sanchez look good. Bills fans deserve better.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 27, Bills 13.
Cardinals at Rams
Florio’s take: The Rams predictably struggled through the tough seven-game stretch of their schedule to open the season. But they’re now unexpectedly struggling through the supposedly soft spot. The Cardinals continue to have issues at quarterback, and if the Rams slide to 2-9, Steve Spagnuolo may not be around to get fired after the season ends.
Florio’s pick: Rams 23, Cardinals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a big game for Steve Spagnuolo. If the Rams can’t beat John Skelton in St. Louis, what games can they win? I have doubts the Rams will win many more games, but Spagnuolo should at least get his third win Sunday.
Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 20, Cardinals 17.
Buccaneers at Titans
Florio’s take: The Bucs gained some confidence via a loss at Lambeau Field, and the Titans haven’t shown an ability to take advantage of opportunities to gain ground on the Texans. With the seat heating up for Raheem Morris, look for Tampa to string a few wins together during a rare respite from their tough schedule.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Titans 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Titans are 5-5 because they beat bad teams. Tennessee is 4-0 against teams that currently have a sub .500 record. The Bucs are a bad team. Raheem Morris’ defense is near the bottom of every meaningful statistical category for a reason. He can’t complain about the schedule when they lose this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 24, Bucs 17.
Bears at Raiders
Florio’s take: The banged-up Raiders and the healthy-but-for-the-most-important-position-on-the-field Bears each need this one. Badly. The Raiders are fending off the Broncos, and the Bears need to guard against a gaggle of would-be wild-card contenders. Even without Jay Cutler, the Bears have the firepower to overcome an Oakland team that isn’t as good as its record would suggest, especially in light of all the injuries.
Florio’s pick: Bears 21, Raiders 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This would have been Sunday’s best game before Jay Cutler’s thumb injury ruined it. I’m not buying that the Bears will survive without Cutler. He made Chicago’s offensive line look a lot better than it really was by making throws Caleb Hanie shouldn’t even attempt.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 24, Bears 14.
Redskins at Seahawks
Florio’s take: But for the 49ers, the Seahawks — even at 4-6 — would be on track for a second straight NFC West crown. They remain tough to beat at home; just ask the Ravens. Or the Redskins come Sunday night.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, Redskins 13.
Rosenthal’s take: This game looks close (and uninteresting) on paper. It won’t be close. It will be uninteresting. The Seahawks’ defense has quietly grown into a difference-making unit. Tarvaris Jackson is playing well enough at quarterback. By well enough, I mean “better than Rex Grossman.”
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 28, Redskins 14.
Patriots at Eagles
Florio’s take: The New England defense is improving, and the offense can’t get much better. The longest-tenured coach in the NFL never has beaten the second longest-tenured coach in the NFL, and that’s not likely to change, regardless of whether Mike Vick or Vince Young is playing quarterback for the home team.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Eagles 20.
Rosenthal’s take: This is probably the toughest game left on New England’s schedule, even if Vince Young starts. Philadelphia’s wide receiver talent can overwhelm the Patriots’ undrafted afterthoughts. The Eagles have the secondary to slow down New England in man coverage. That’s a long way of saying Philly will be in position to win, but blow another fourth-quarter lead.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 35, Eagles 31.
Broncos at Chargers
Florio’s take: What you gonna do, Chargers, when Tebowmania runs wild on you? It’s illogical and counterintuitive, but after seeing what I’ve seen over the last three weeks, I can’t pick against the Broncos. And after what I’ve seen from the Chargers since they started 4-1, I can’t pick San Diego to win, either.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 15, Chargers 12.
Rosenthal’s take: A month ago, who would have believed that Tim Tebow would be in position to bury Philip Rivers’ playoff hopes in this game? And who would have believed John Elway would be rooting for Rivers?
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 24, Broncos 20.
Steelers at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Blown out four times this year, the fifth one is coming, courtesy of the team for which Todd Haley’s dad once worked. The Steelers have too much firepower on offense, and the Chiefs simply have no answer for it.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 38, Chiefs 13.
Rosenthal’s take: If Tyler Palko led the Chiefs to three points in Foxborough, he may score negative three points against Pittsburgh. Perhaps Kyle Orton will come in woefully unprepared during the second half like Carson Palmer did in his first Raiders game. That may be the only way this game stays interesting into the fourth quarter. (But, uh, watch it. It’s on NBC.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 30, Chiefs 10.
Giants at Saints
Florio’s take: With a bye week plus an extra day to prepare for the Giants, the 7-3 Saints will do their best to keep pace with the 49ers for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Or possibly to cut San Fran’s lead in half, if the 9-1 Niners slip up in Baltimore on Thursday night.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Giants 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Conflicting emotions here. As Florio has mentioned, I got a fleur de lis tattoo while in college at Tulane. I also picked the Giants to win the NFC East, a choice that isn’t looking as good these days. When in doubt, take the team that hasn’t lost at home. (Note: I didn’t actually get that tattoo. Also: I’m not actually 15. I’m 19.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 33, Giants 30.