Well, I called my shot, and I almost got it. Down 12 games with five weeks to go, Rosenthal and I disagreed on six games. I declared Rosenthal to be screwed.
In the end, I was right on four. Making him right on two. Allowing me to whittle his edge down to 10 games.
I was 11-5, he was 9-7. For the season, he’s 129-63. I’m 119-73.
But I think he’s starting to get nervous.
Browns at Steelers
Florio’s take: Colts McCoy is having a rough second season, and it gets no rougher than at Heinz Field. The Browns have caught the Steelers napping in the past, but the Steelers are wide awake as they try to wrest the AFC North from the Ravens.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Browns 13.
Rosenthal’s take: With every lifeless performance, it becomes less likely that Colt McCoy will be the Browns starting quarterback next year. Not helping matters: McCoy still has three games left against the Steelers and Ravens.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 30, Browns 13.
Colts at Ravens
Florio’s take: The Colts return to Baltimore with the kind of record that would have allowed not to sneak out in the middle of the night but to walk away at high noon. The Ravens have learned not to stub their toes against inferior foes. And the Colts will move a step closer toward “clinching” the Andrew Luck pick.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 30, Colts 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Dan Orlovsky was an upgrade from Curtis Painter, but let’s not get carried away. The Colts had three points through three quarters against the Patriots. This game pits the most physical team in the league against the least physical team. Orlovsky can only help so much.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Colts 6.
Falcons at Panthers
Florio’s take: Carolina played the Falcons tough in Atlanta, but the Falcons’ margin for error is getting narrower — and the Panthers are getting more and more banged up. Cam Newton will keep it interesting, but the Falcons will keep pushing toward the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 30, Panthers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a dangerous game for Atlanta. It’s the first time the Falcons will play outdoors since Week Four. Carolina has the better offense in this game and the better quarterback. Then again, the Panthers have an awful defense that is thinner than ever because of injuries.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 28, Panthers 27.
Texans at Bengals
Florio’s take: Every week, the Texans pick up a new injury — and a win. They’re moving toward the first playoff berth in franchise history, and they’re aiming higher than that. Though they may not be ready to win in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or New England in January, they’ll be able to take care of business in Cincinnati in December.
Florio’s pick: Texans 20, Bengals 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Texans were lucky Matt Leinart got hurt. Rookie T.J. Yates showed more pocket presence and willingness to make tough throws in one game than Leinart did in six NFL seasons. Houston’s swarming defense gives the Texans a great chance to earn a bye.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 16, Bengals 12.
Vikings at Lions
Florio’s take: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen says misery loves company, and he wants to make the Lions miserable. But the Minnesota secondary is way too miserable to keep this one close.
Florio’s pick: Lions 31, Vikings 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Jared Allen said on PFT Live that he’d love nothing more than to make the Lions miserable this week. The odds aren’t great unless Allen suddenly turns into a shutdown cornerback. If Tim Tebow can throw for 200 yards on 15 attempts against Minnesota, Matthew Stafford should go for 450.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 40, Vikings 30.
Buccaneers at Jaguars
Florio’s take: Not too long ago, the Bucs were losing games because they were playing tough opponents. Now the Bucs are losing games simply because they’re overmatched. Mel Tucker gets his first NFL win, and Raheem Morris keeps building on a losing streak that will hit seven.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 24, Buccaneers 20.
Rosenthal’s take: How low can the Bucs defense go? They give up more yards-per-pass than any team in football. Blaine Gabbert is dead last in the category. Someone has to win this game, so I’ll roll with the Bucs. Jacksonville’s once strong defense has collapsed because of injuries.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bucs 27, Jaguars 20.
Eagles at Dolphins
Florio’s take: The team that couldn’t win at home now hosts the team that can’t win anywhere. But the extra time to prepare for the game operates like a mini-bye for the Eagles, and Andy Reid always wins when he has extra time — even if he may not have much time left in Philly.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 28, Dolphins 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Last week, I stupidly picked against the Dolphins, the greatest 4-8 team in football. I luckily picked against the Eagles, the most disappointing 4-8 team in football. Andy Reid says his team needs more time because it’s so young. I’ll give them another week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 22, Eagles 17.
Chiefs at Jets
Florio’s take: The Jets continue to find a way to win when they have to. And the Cassel-less Chiefs continue to be just good enough to beat teams that have also lost their starting quarterbacks.
Florio’s pick: Jets 17, Chiefs 6.
Rosenthal’s take: The Jets are two-score favorites, which seems crazy because Mark Sanchez is the poor’s man Tim Tebow: He only plays well in the fourth quarter. (Matt Ryan, incidentally, is the rich man’s Tim Tebow.) Tyler Palko is the poor man’s Tyler Thigpen.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 17, Chiefs 13.
Saints at Titans
Florio’s take: The Saints have plenty of confidence when playing at home. They need to develop more confidence when playing on the road. They get a chance to do it this weekend against a surprisingly stout Titans team. If the Saints can’t win in Nashville, they’ve got no shot in San Fran or Green Bay.
Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Titans 27.
Rosenthal’s take: The Titans have the secondary — and the field — to slow the Saints down. New Orleans is 2-2 outdoors this year, including a loss to the Bucs and a narrow win in Carolina. Look for another narrow win Sunday, despite a big day from Chris Johnson.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 31, Titans 27.
Patriots at Redskins
Florio’s take: Though still possessing plenty of flaws, the Pats are winning games. And the Redskins aren’t. While the D.C. defense could be able to keep the Patriots from ringing up a ton of points, the offense can’t hold up its end of the bargain, especially with the suspensions of Trent Williams and Fred Davis.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Redskins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The mediocre Redskins offense will be without its leading receiver (Fred Davis) and its best offensive lineman (Trent Williams) for the last four games. The Redskins defense has quietly decayed throughout the year. Combine those two factors with an ornery Pats team and you get a blowout.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 37, Redskins 17.
49ers at Cardinals
Florio’s take: Arizona has improved lately, but not enough to handle one of the best teams in the conference. The Niners know that they need to keep winning in order to secure a first-round bye, and Jim Harbaugh knows not to ice his own kicker. And not to kick to Patrick Peterson.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Cardinals 16.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a tougher test for the 49ers than it appears. The Cardinals are playing great defense lately. Kevin Kolb is coming off his best game with his new team. That should make for a close one, but Arizona’s offensive line figures to get overwhelmed this week. Like it does every week.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 20, Cardinals 14.
Bears at Broncos
Florio’s take: The last time the Broncos hosted an NFC North team, the Broncos were blown off the field. This time around, the outcome will be very different. The Bears lack the punch on offense to score points, and Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy knows how to exploit the holes in a Cover 2 defense, as he did last week in Minnesota. (I wrote that entire take without mentioning Tim Tebow. Until then.)
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Bears 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Broncos have made their own luck, but they are living a charmed life. The Dolphins dropped an onside kick that led to a win. The Chargers missed a game-winning field goal. Denver faced Carson Palmer in his first start, Minnesota without Adrian Peterson, and now takes on the Bears without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Greater forces are clearly at work.
Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 26, Bears 14.
Raiders at Packers
Florio’s take: In the latest Super Bowl rematch destined to end with the same outcome, the Raiders should be happy to match the score from the first meeting between these teams, way back in 1968. Especially in light of the way the Raiders played last weekend in Miami.
Florio’s pick: Packers 33, Raiders 14.
Rosenthal’s take: This game looked more dangerous for Green Bay a week ago. The Raiders looked more dangerous when their three most explosive offensive players were healthy. Oakland’s secondary doesn’t have enough depth or discipline to deal with the Packers. Who does?
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 34, Raiders 24.
Bills at Chargers
Florio’s take: Have a pair of 5-7 teams ever been any different? In fact, the only similarity between the Bills and the Chargers is that both have been decimated by injuries. Buffalo is falling apart, and the Chargers see an opportunity to reprise their 2008 late-season surge.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 31, Bills 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Philip Rivers suddenly looked healthy because he had a full complement of weapons for the first time since Week One. Facing the Jaguars secondary didn’t hurt either. The Bills pass rush makes a lot of struggling quarterbacks look healthy too.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 33, Bills 28.
Giants at Cowboys
Florio’s take: If anyone thinks that the league wasn’t bracing for a lockout that would last into November, look no farther than the fact that the annual series between the big-market Giants and the big-country Cowboys didn’t begin until December 11. It’s do-or-die for the Giants, and the Cowboys will be happy to oblige.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 28.
Rosenthal’s take: My head says the Cowboys are the better, healthier team. My preseason pick says the Giants are going to win the division (with the Cowboys as a wild card). I’m stubbornly sticking with Big Blue. The Cowboys love drama and there won’t be any drama left in this division if Dallas wins.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 21.
Rams at Seahawks
Florio’s take: In April, this looked to be a pretty good game. Now that it’s December, only the most passionate fans of the teams involved and the immediate family members of the players will be watching. Even Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo may choose to cover his eyes.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 35, Rams 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Rams offense didn’t even cross the opposing 35-yard line last week. Seattle’s defense isn’t dominant enough to pull that off, but it’s dangerous enough to hold the Rams out of the end zone for 60 minutes. A Monday night game like this is the reason why fantasy football was invented.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 9.