Well, I’m finally gaining some ground.
Not much, but some.
A stellar 14-2 weekend could have been 15-1, but for that late collapse by the Cowboys. In that moment, a three-game win over Rosenthal slid to a one-game edge.
I’m nine back with three weeks to go. For the season, he’s 142-66. I’m 133-75.
This week, we disagree on four games. This is my last chance to make a push.
Hopefully, God likes me better than him.
Jaguars at Falcons
Florio’s take: If the Falcons can’t beat the Jaguars, the Falcons have no shot at winning at New Orleans on December 26. And if the Falcons can’t win at New Orleans on December 26, the Falcons won’t have to worry about another one-and-done performance in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Jaguars 16.
Rosenthal’s take: The Jaguars are back in prime time! Atlanta is a 10-point favorite, which seems crazy until you look at the state of the Jags. An undrafted rookie and journeyman will cover Roddy White and Julio Jones. At wideout for Jacksonville: Chastin West and Jarrett Dillard. Interim coach Mel Tucker isn’t playing with a stacked deck.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 28, Jaguars 13.
Cowboys at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The best way for Dallas to avoid blowing a close game late in the fourth quarter is to never allow it to be close in the fourth quarter. If this one gets too out of hand, Tampa coach Raheem Morris could be the fourth coach to go before Christmas.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs are slump busters. The Panthers defense couldn’t stop anyone, but they could stop the Bucs. Jacksonville’s offense couldn’t score on anyone, but they could score on Tampa. This game is exactly what Jason Garrett and the ‘Boys need.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 40, Buccaneers 27.
Dolphins at Bills
Florio’s take: Nothing takes the steam out of a team that is playing hard down the stretch to try to save its coach’s job than the coach losing his job. The Bills end a six-game losing streak with their sixth, and likely last, win of the season.
Florio’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 21.
Rosenthal’s take: It’s weird and a little sad that J.P. Losman’s status decides my pick. If Matt Moore is out, I like Buffalo. Bills fans will happily tell you not to bet on J.P. Losman in Buffalo. (Especially with Jake Long out.) If Matt Moore starts, I like the Dolphins. (Can we make conditional picks, Florio?)
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bills 17.
Seahawks at Bears
Florio’s take: If the Bears had Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, they’d be the clear pick to win. But they don’t, and if they can’t beat the Chiefs at home without these key players, they’ll have a rough time handling an underrated Seahawks team. The bell continues to toll for the Bears, whose only remaining hope will be to do to the Packers on December 25 what the Dolphins did to the Bears in 1985.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 14, Bears 7.
Rosenthal’s take: Bears fans swore Chicago could go 4-2 or 3-3 at worst with Caleb Hanie to close the season. They haven’t won a game yet. Seattle, meanwhile, has won four of five because of a physical defense and running game. After this game, the Seahawks will have a better chance to make the playoffs.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seattle 16, Bears 13.
Panthers at Texans
Florio’s take: The Texans keep losing key components. And the Texans just keep winning. This one won’t be easy without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but the Texans simply continue to find a way.
Florio’s pick: Texans 34, Panthers 24.
Rosenthal’s take: If Cam Newton and T.J. Yates faced off last year, Yates’ team would not be favored by a touchdown. Things change quickly. The Texans are a defense tough enough to withstand the loss of their best pass rusher. They can survive losing their playcaller for a week or two.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 21, Panthers 17.
Titans at Colts
Florio’s take: It’s time. Call it a gut feeling. Call it a hunch. Call it clinical insanity. But it’s time for the Colts to win a game. Especially since this very well could be their last chance to avoid going 0-16 and getting everyone not named Jim Irsay fired.
Florio’s pick: Colts 19, Titans 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Colts look likely to face three straight rookie quarterbacks. Unfortunately, Jake Locker isn’t a huge downgrade from Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans offense is different with Locker, but not necessarily worse. The Titans are just mediocre enough to let the Colts make this interesting.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 24, Colts 21.
Packers at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Interim coach Romeo Crennel could go a long way toward securing the permanent job by winning his first game. He likely wishes Todd Haley had lasted one more week.
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Chiefs 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chiefs have enough secondary talent to give the Packers offense some issues. Kansas City certainly upgrades this week at quarterback with Kyle Orton. And that ends the portion of this preview where I try to convince myself this game will stay interesting.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 31, Chiefs 14.
Saints at Vikings
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Vikings 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Drew Brees is peaking at the right time. The Vikings are peeking at the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. This is the game where Brees makes sure he wins the yardage crown for the season.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 33, Vikings 17.
Redskins at Giants
Florio’s take: After the Redskins beat the Giants in Week One, safety Antrell Rolle said that Washington would win five out of 100 games between the two teams. More recently, Rolle dropped that number to one. Though we’re not ready to agree with a 99-percent success rate, we’re comfortable with 50.
Florio’s pick: Giants 28, Redskins 14.
Rosenthal’s take: A Giants’ loss Sunday could make next week’s Jets-Giants game almost inconsequential. A win against the Redskins would guarantee Big Blue a “win and in” scenario in Week 17 against Dallas. Washington is feisty, but they are one-win-in-seven-games feisty. Rex Grossman is just good enough to get you beat.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 33, Redskins 28.
Bengals at Rams
Florio’s take: It won’t be easy to keep a young Bengals team focused and motivated after losing a heartbreaker to the Texans. But the Bengals are playing the Rams. The Rams. Yes, the Rams.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 34, Rams 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Despite winning seven games last year, the Rams are on pace to have the worst five-year run of any team in NFL history. Steve Spagnuolo coached the worst NFL team in 2009 and the second worst team this year. It may not be fair, but it’s hard to imagine any coach surviving that combination.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 23, Rams 13.
Lions at Raiders
Florio’s take: The Lions have struggled lately, but the Raiders have struggled more. Neither team may make it to the postseason after promising starts, but the Lions have at least shown a recent ability to find a way to win. Plus, while he’s not as dominant as he was in 2010, the return of Ndamukong Suh should help. The ongoing absence of Darren McFadden doesn’t.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Raiders 20.
Rosenthal’s take: These are two desperate teams that peaked too early. At least the Lions are getting players back: Ndamukong Suh, Kevin Smith, and cornerback Chris Houston all look likely to return for Detroit. The Raiders might get Denarius Moore back. The Lions win that trade.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 27, Raiders 24.
Browns at Cardinals
Florio’s take: Though a little too late, the Cardinals have found their groove, regardless of whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is playing quarterback. With a couple more wins, they’ll be one of the teams we’re all picking to make the playoffs in 2012. The Browns, on the other hand, continue to be the Browns.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 30, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Skeltonmania is sweeping the nation. The Cardinals are 4-1 in the former Fordham quarterback’s games, winning insane, inexplicable games late in the fourth quarter. They are 2-5 without him. Skelton fever could last into the playoffs. I’d bet on a 9-7 team making the playoffs and the Cardinals should be 7-7 after this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 22, Browns 13.
Patriots at Broncos
Florio’s take: The list of “thou shalt nots” now includes a line regarding picking against Tim Tebow. New England’s defense stinks, and Denver’s defense is good enough to keep it close. If the Broncos keep it close, the guy who says God has spoken to him will overcome the once little-known sixth-round pick who possibly struck a deal with the devil.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Patriots 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Patriots defense can barely slow down Grossmania, so Tim Tebow should have a big day. Tom Brady should be even better. There are weak spots in this Broncos’ secondary that Brady can exploit, especially at safety. This result will test Florio’s Tebow man-crush.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 31, Broncos 27.
Jets at Eagles
Florio’s take: The Dream Team is waking up too late, but not late enough to crush the dreams of Team Rex. And that will make next week’s Giants-Jets game even more intriguing.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Jets 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Eagles won last week, but Michael Vick looked very rusty. The offensive line got pushed around. The Jets are not a defense you want to face when your passing game is out of synch and your line is not recognizing blitzes. The Dream should finally die for good, to the delight of many Eagles fans.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 22, Eagles 10.
Ravens at Chargers
Florio’s take: The Ravens finally realize the connection between beating inferior foes and hosting home playoff games. Chargers fans finally realize that they could have a new coach and G.M. in 2012. Both could be very happy after Sunday night.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Chargers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This is Norv’s last stand, and he has a shot to win. Philip Rivers’ pinpoint accuracy returned the last two weeks. So did his pass protection. This is a dangerous game for the Ravens, but it’s hard to imagine Rivers’ rag-tag linemen holding up against the Baltimore pass rush.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 27, Chargers 24.
Steelers at 49ers
Florio’s take: When the Steelers enter the red zone at Heinz Field, giant ketchup bottles unleash their contents onto the scoreboard. When the 49ers get into the red zone on Monday night, the Steelers will be putting ketchup on Frank Gore’s legs and Alex Smith’s arm.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, 49ers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Cowboys’ 3-4 defense gave the 49ers problems. Baltimore’s 3-4 defense ate up the 49ers line. Arizona’s defense – coordinated by former Steelers coach Ray Horton – allowed two first downs to the 49ers in the second half last week. You see where I’m going with this one.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 13, 49ers 10.