I was so excited by the fact that Rosenthal and I disagree on six games — and that I feel very good about my position in each of them — that I posted the weekly PFT picks without the perfunctorily pithy opening comments.
Yes, we disagreed on five games last week. Yes, even though I picked the Packers when Rosenthal picked the Lions and the Broncos when he picked the Chargers, he got me on the other three and extended his season-to-date lead by a game.
It doesn’t matter. This week, his 12-game lead gets cut in half.
For the week, he was 11-5 and I was 10-6. For the season, he’s 120-56. I’m 108-68.
Eagles at Seahawks
Florio’s take: Vince Young gets another crack at Pete Carroll, nearly six years after Young stole from Carroll an NCAA title that the NCAA would have stolen from Carroll last year. The last time the Eagles faced a short week amid so many challenges and distractions, they blew out the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night, 2008. Though this one won’t be a blowout, it’ll be enough to prolong for another week or two the ultimate demise of the Dream Team.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Seahawks 19.
Rosenthal’s take: The Seahawks quietly have a strong defense, the fourth quarter of last week’s game notwithstanding. The Eagles don’t do anything quietly. Just when you think their season has bottomed out, they find a way to go lower. Losing a third game to an NFC West team is the new rock bottom.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 20, Eagles 17.
Titans at Bills
Florio’s take: The Bills are disintegrating and the Titans still see an opportunity to steal a playoff spot. With Chris Johnson waking up and the rest of the team doing enough to get more wins than losses, look for the Titans to extend Buffalo’s misery, without having to resort to any Music City Miracles.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Bills 16.
Rosenthal’s take: Buffalo’s meltdown has mostly been on the road. Things might look different at home against a mediocre opponent. Chris Johnson showed renewed quickness last week, but the Titans passing game remains limited. The receivers either can’t get separation or are in the wrong place. Matt Hasselbeck has worked wonders to get this team to 6-5.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bills 24, Titans 21.
Chiefs at Bears
Florio’s take: Kyle Orton wanted to return to Chicago. He gets his wish, in a roundabout way. But he won’t be starting and he may not be playing. Which is good news for the team for which he wanted to return.
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Chiefs 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Todd Haley may not start Kyle Orton, which would be a shame. Orton’s revenge tour starts Sunday in Chicago and ends in Denver on January 1. Don’t discount the Chiefs no matter who starts at quarterback. Caleb Hanie’s pocket presence was Gabbert-like last week. He’s no better than Tyler Palko.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bears 17, Chiefs 14.
Falcons at Texans
Florio’s take: Coach Gary Kubiak’s decision to entrust the offense to a rookie quarterback gets its toughest test against a team with an offense that has the firepower to test the Texans’ much-improved defense. Though Atlanta could still swipe a playoff berth in the NFC, the home team in this one has the horses to grind the clock, limit Matt Ryan’s chances, and ultimately outscore the Falcons.
Florio’s pick: Texans 23, Falcons 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Texans will have to throw more to win this week. The Falcons rush defense can slow down Arian Foster, especially if Houston stays ultra-conservative. I’m hoping for the sake of Texans fans that T.J. Yates shows promise, but it’s hard to see a fifth-round rookie beating many playoff-caliber teams.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 22, Texans 17.
Raiders at Dolphins
Florio’s take: The Dolphins played well enough to beat the Cowboys in Dallas. The Dolphins will play well enough to beat the Raiders in Miami. And the Raiders, still banged up, are due for a stumble. Tony Sparano may not save his job, but he’ll definitely throw a wrench into the franchise’s plans to draft a quarterback in the top ten.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Raiders 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Miami is favored by three partly because Oakland misses its big play threats. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Chaz Schilens, and Louis Murphy make too many mistakes. Michael Bush is playing well, but he’s no Darren McFadden. It’s a credit to Hue Jackson and Carson Palmer this team keeps winning. (And will keep winning.)
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 28, Dolphins 24.
Broncos at Vikings
Florio’s take: Tebowmania invades the Twin Cities, along with a Minnesota native who has become one of the best young receivers in the NFL. The only way to beat the Broncos is to build a big lead against them, something that the Vikings were able to do back in September, when they were blowing big leads. Look for this one to remain close and for Tebow to generate a Vick-in-2002 highlight for the winning touchdown run, possibly in overtime.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 23, Vikings 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Florio’s record would be a lot better if he didn’t go with the Vikings so often early in the year. This week, I’ll return the favor. The Vikings aren’t as bad as their record indicates. The Broncos aren’t as good as their winning streak indicates. Tim Tebow can’t exploit Minnesota’s big weakness in the secondary.
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 24, Broncos 21.
Colts at Patriots
Florio’s take: Once the greatest non-division rivalry in the NFL, the absence of Peyton Manning has made this one a stinker. The fact that the Colts haven’t won a game this year doesn’t help matters.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 42, Colts 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Dan Orlovsky has awful luck, becoming the Colts starter just in time to face back-to-back AFC powerhouses on the road. (The Colts head to Baltimore next week.) I think Orlovsky will avoid going down in 0-16 infamy again, but in a week where the Colts can compete. Bill Belichick is going to enjoy this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 38, Colts 17.
Bengals at Steelers
Florio’s take: The Bengals get another chance to prove that they’re for real. Though they have managed to keep it interesting against the Steelers and Ravens, at some point the Bengals need to win one of these games. It’ll eventually happen, but the Steelers have been tougher than usual to beat at home this season, and they know they need to keep pace with Baltimore. Injuries to the Cincinnati secondary coupled with an improving corps of young wideouts could be the difference.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 28, Bengals 24.
Rosenthal’s take: This is the Bengals’ last stand in the AFC North. Andy Dalton did some good things against Pittsburgh last time out should be more prepared for the rematch. The bigger concern is the Bengals secondary. They don’t have enough bodies – especially at safety – to deal with the Steelers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 21.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Bucs finally get a break from their crippling schedule, which now features three of four games against three-win teams. If Tampa blows this one, Raheem Morris should go ahead and leave now.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Panthers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s a scary thought for the Bucs that they could be in the NFC South cellar with a loss Sunday. Another scary thought: Carolina has the diverse running game to pound the Bucs’ soft defense for four quarters.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 29, Buccaneers 28.
Jets at Redskins
Florio’s take: Once an intriguing rivalry given the pipeline of players between the two cities, this one has lost a lot of its pop. In large part because the Redskins aren’t very competitive. The Jets need this one badly, but perhaps not as badly as a head coach who hosts the Patriots next weekend. Perhaps Mark Sanchez will get some extra motivation once he realizes that his inconsistency could put him on the Rex Grossman career arc.
Florio’s pick: Jets 20, Redskins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Rex Ryan seasons have a formula. First comes the early overconfidence. Then the humbling midseason swoon. We’ve hit the portion of the schedule where the Jets go on a winning streak against bad teams with improbable fourth-quarter plays. It all wraps up with the Jets peaking in January.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 24, Redskins 21.
Ravens at Browns
Florio’s take: The Ravens chased three big wins against good teams with deflating losses against bad ones. Baltimore gets a chance to reverse the trend in Cleveland, where the team that used to be in Cleveland has won four out of five times. And coach John Harbaugh never has lost there. The Ravens can see the bye and the home playoff game(s) waiting for them the season’s finish line.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 30, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Peyton Hillis returned to the starting lineup just in time to face the Ravens and Steelers four times in five weeks. Hillis ran hard against the Bengals, but the Browns are too limited offensively to move the ball on Baltimore. This closing stretch will make Colt McCoy’s dreadful numbers even worse.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 22, Browns 13.
Cowboys at Cardinals
Florio’s take: An old NFC East rivalry renews, with the Cardinals having beaten the Cowboys two times in a row. This year, the Cowboys have found a way to consistently outscore inferior teams, and that’s simply what the Cardinals are in relation to the current kings of the division these franchises once shared. As long as the Cowboys don’t kick to Patrick Peterson.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 31, Cardinals 21.
Rosenthal’s take: All John Skelton does is win. That’s more proof that judging a quarterback by wins and losses is overrated. Kevin Kolb should be back, and he’ll upgrade the team’s passing game. That doesn’t mean they can beat Dallas. Arizona lost all four games they’ve played this year against teams that currently have a winning record.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 20.
Packers at Giants
Florio’s take: The possibility that the Giants could upset the Packers will prompt at least one prominent commentator to say, “That’s why they play the games.” After this one ends, there’s a chance Giants fans will be saying, “Why did they play this game?”
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Giants 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Eli Manning should keep the Giants competitive, but the rest of the team has fallen apart. I’ve been waiting for weeks to pick the Giants in this game, but it makes no sense after New York’s implosion in the Superdome. Justin Tuck isn’t the same guy this year and Osi Umenyiora is hurt. The Giants don’t have much if they don’t have a pass rush.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 33, Giants 24.
Rams at 49ers
Florio’s take: The firing of Jack Del Rio possibly has primed the pump for other coaches to be prematurely punted. If (when) the Rams get blown out in San Fran, Steve Spagnuolo could the next one to go.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 30, Rams 7.
Rosenthal’s take: The Rams offense scored three touchdowns combined in their last four games. Brandon Lloyd scored all of them. That slump came against mediocre competition. They’ll be lucky to score one touchdown in San Francisco.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 24, Rams 9.
Lions at Saints
Florio’s take: With or without Ndamukong Suh, who has in many respects been ordinary this season, the Lions won’t be able to stop an offense that is largely unstoppable in the Superdome. Unfortunately for the Saints, even running the table likely won’t prevent them from having to travel to San Francisco or Green Bay in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Lions 24.
Rosenthal’s take: The Lions have lost four straight games to winning teams. The Saints haven’t lost at home all year, with three of those wins coming against winning teams. That doesn’t bode well for the Lions. Detroit will make this more interesting than New Orleans’ last primetime game, but the result will be the same.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 34, Lions 28.
Chargers at Jaguars
Florio’s take: This could be the most uninteresting Monday Night Football game since Raiders-Seahawks in 2006. Or perhaps ever.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 17, Chargers 10.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s painful to pick a winner of this game. It may be even more painful to watch it. The Chargers defense versus Blaine Gabbert is the ultimate matchup of weakness against weakness. The difference here: Maurice Jones-Drew. He should go to the Pro Bowl for overcoming Gabbert.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 20, Chargers 17.