Still nine games back with 43 to go, I need a minor miracle to catch Rosenthal. But I’m not going to start pulling out Hail Mary-type maneuvers by doing something like Picking the Chiefs to beat the Packers.
I mean, that would be kooky.
Rosenthal and I emerged from that crazy, upside-down Week 15 at 9-7 each. For the year, he’s 151-73. I’m 142-82.
Texans at Colts
Florio’s take: Not long ago, it was presumed that the Colts would beat the Texans. That was before the Colts lost Peyton Manning — and before the Texans found their defense. The ongoing absence of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips makes this one less of a sure thing for Houston, but the Colts surely won’t be looking to risk losing the Andrew Luck pick.
Florio’s pick: Texans 28, Colts 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Texans were reminded last week that their margin for error isn’t huge with T.J. Yates at quarterback. But that won’t be a problem this week. Houston’s defense will want to make amends after getting manhandled against Carolina. Expect 35 rushing attempts by the Texans.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 26, Colts 10.
Browns at Ravens
Florio’s take: The Browns are one of the few inferior teams the Ravens managed to beat on the road. This time, the Browns come to Baltimore, where the team that used to play in Cleveland has lost once in the last two seasons. With the division title only two wins away, the Ravens won’t be blowing their chance to play a postseason game at home for the first time in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco tenure.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 31, Browns 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Seneca Wallace looked like a slight upgrade from Colt McCoy. Peyton Hillis is slightly healthier and more effective than he was earlier in the season. So I’ll predict the Browns will make this slightly more interesting than the last time these two teams played.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 17.
Broncos at Bills
Florio’s take: Tebowmania takes Buffalo, where the Bills have seen a 4-1 start disintegrate, via seven straight losses. With a trip to New England looming, this one gives the Bills their last, best shot at winning another game. Though a playoff berth seems inevitable for the Broncos, it’ll have to wait until Week 17.
Florio’s pick: Bills 24, Broncos 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Timing is everything. If the Bills started the season at 0-7, losing by an average of 18 points per week, Chan Gailey would be on the hot seat. But the Bills started fast before the bottom fell out, so no one has noticed that Buffalo is arguably the worst team in football at the moment.
Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 23, Bills 16.
Buccaneers at Panthers
Florio’s take: The Panthers have gotten better on the fly. The Bucs have fallen apart, with eight straight losses. Though anything can happen when teams from the same division square off, the Bucs haven’t made much of anything happen this year. The Panthers won’t need to annex Puerto Rico or any other U.S. territories to win this one on Saturday.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 34, Buccaneers 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs also have an argument for the worst team of the second half. They’ve lost eight straight, with the last three by 21 points per game. Tampa is no longer even the up-and-coming “Youngry” team in the division with the cool franchise quarterback; that’s now Carolina.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 36, Buccaneers 23.
Cardinals at Bengals
Florio’s take: One of the best games of the weekend will unfold before another way-less-than-capacity crowd in Cincinnati. The Cardinals have won six of seven, and the Bengals still find themselves in the thick of things in the AFC wild-card chase. But the Bengals have lost some of their punch in recent weeks, barely beating a pair of bad teams and losing four games to playoff contenders. The Cardinals may not make it to the postseason, but it won’t be because they failed to handle their business.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 20, Bengals 17.
Rosenthal’s take: A legitimate quarterback controversy between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton is a surprising development. Arizona winning six of seven games in insane final possession fashion is even more surprising. The streak of luck ends against a Bengals team that was the surprise of the early season.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 28, Cardinals 24.
Raiders at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Chiefs players want to win for interim coach Romeo Crennel. If they’d wanted to win as badly for former head coach Todd Haley, Crennel wouldn’t have the job he currently holds. Kyle Orton and company keep making an unlikely push to the playoffs, as the Raiders continue to wonder how good they could have been if Darren McFadden hadn’t injured his foot the last time they played the team from Kansas City.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Suddenly this game means a great deal. Both teams are trying to stay alive in the AFC West race. Romeo Crennel is trying to win a job. Hue Jackson is trying to justify his trade for Carson Palmer. Unfortunately, I fear that all the drama in the AFC West race will be over after this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 30, Raiders 20.
Dolphins at Patriots
Florio’s take: Yes, the Dolphins aren’t as bad as they were when they lost seven straight games. Yes, the Dolphins played the Patriots tough in Week One. But the Patriots are two home wins away from the No. 1 seed for the second straight year. Defensive warts and all, the Pats won’t be choking — at least until they host the Jets or the Ravens in January.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Dolphins 23.
Rosenthal’s take: The Dolphins are 5-2 in their last seven games. The defense that got strafed in Week One by Tom Brady has improved greatly. Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Vontae Davis are all playing much better for Miami. This is a dangerous game for the Patriots as they try to lock up the No. 1 seed.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 26, Dolphins 24.
Giants at Jets
Florio’s take: I’ve said for days that, if there were a way for both teams to lose this one, that’s what would happen. (Maybe that means a tie is coming.) The Giants have the better team on paper, but on paper the Giants shouldn’t have lost five of six games. Recent trends have the Jets pulling things together and getting to the playoffs and the Giants completing a slide out of postseason contention. Though all reason and common sense points to a Giants win, neither team’s performance this year has meshed with reason and common sense.
Florio’s pick: Jets 17, Giants 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Giants don’t have much if they don’t have a pass rush. And they don’t have much of a pass rush right now. At least the Jets have one reliable strength: Their pass defense. That should be enough to stop a Giants team that relies too much on Eli Manning.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 22, Giants 17.
Rams at Steelers
Florio’s take: Against any other team, the question of whether the Steelers would use Ben Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch at quarterback would matter. But these are the Rams. The 2-12 Rams. The hopelessly hapless Rams. The Steelers would be likely to win this one even with one of the St. Louis backup quarterbacks taking the snaps for the home team.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, Rams 3.
Rosenthal’s take: Charlie Batch is 37 years old. He was once teammates with Barry Sanders. At some point, the Steelers are going to roll him out there, and he just won’t be able to play the position anymore. Batch looked rough in his brief appearance two weeks ago. On the plus side: The Rams look rough every week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 16, Rams 6.
Jaguars at Titans
Florio’s take: Though the Titans lost to the winless Colts last week, the Jaguars have been looking even worse in recent weeks, notwithstanding the contributions of Maurice Jones-Drew. So with Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, or even Vince Young at quarterback, the Titans should be able to take care of business — despite the fact that the Jaguars pulled off the win the last time around.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 14.
Rosenthal’s take: Analysts have crushed Blaine Gabbert for his weak pocket presence all year. So interim coach Mel Tucker overcompensated by calling Gabbert “courageous” and “super-tough” this week. The Jaguars might be better off with a coach that recognizes Gabbert’s faults and tries to improve upon them.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 17.
Vikings at Redskins
Florio’s take: Last year, the Vikings played their butts off against the Redskins in D.C., hopeful of helping Leslie Frazier lose the “interim” tag. This year, most Vikings don’t seem to care about Frazier or anyone else. On a weekly basis, it shows. It’s likely to show again on Saturday.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 23, Vikings 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The Vikings feel like a 3-13 team, but their last win is more likely to come next week against the Bears. The Redskins feel exactly like a 6-10 type of team. They will hit their magic number on Sunday. This “analysis” made more sense in my head.
Rosenthal’s pick: Redskins 26, Vikings 17.
Chargers at Lions
Florio’s take: Norv Turner’s team has launched another impressive late-season run. But the Lions have rediscovered their explosiveness on offense. It’s time for Detroit to nail down its first playoff berth in more than a decade — and to do so not by the skin of their teeth but by flexing some Motown muscle.
Florio’s pick: Lions 35, Chargers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: Both quarterbacks in this game are playing very well. Matthew Stafford saves his best stuff for the fourth quarter, while Philip Rivers has simply been on fire for three weeks. The Lions are 4-5 since beating the Bears on Monday Night Football. I’m not convinced they can beat good teams. The Chargers finally are a good team.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 33, Lions 30.
Eagles at Cowboys
Florio’s take: Jerry Jones fears the Eagles. And for good reason. Philly has found its groove, perhaps too late. But not late enough for the Dream Team to complete a sweep of America’s Team.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 33, Cowboys 27.
Rosenthal’s take: I predicted the Eagles would miss the playoffs at the beginning of the year. Despite a 6-8 record, they are somehow still alive and look like the best team in the division. I’m trying not to fall for it. It’s all part of an elaborate plan for Andy Reid to torture Eagles fans in the most painful way possible.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27.
49ers at Seahawks
Florio’s take: The Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll rivalry is renewed, weeks after we’d all forgotten about it. But even if the Seahawks can’t get the help they need to make it to the playoffs, they can throw a wrench into the Niners’ plans for an easier path to Indy by killing Harbaugh’s shot at a bye.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17.
Rosenthal’s take: This is a dangerous game for the 49ers on a short week. Seattle’s defense continues to improve, while Tarvaris Jackson is playing his football of the season. (Without both his starting wideouts.) Both teams play a style designed to keep the game close. That favors the home team.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 17, 49ers 13.
Bears at Packers
Florio’s take: Not long ago, this looked like it could be one of the best games of the year. Now, it’ll mainly be an opportunity for the Packers to get the bad taste out of their mouths that came from losing to the Chiefs.
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Bears 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Josh McCown was coaching high school football four weeks ago. On Christmas night, he’ll show that he’s better than Caleb Hanie, and that it doesn’t really make a difference. The Packers have solved bigger injury problems than a few missing tackles.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 31, Bears 14.
Falcons at Saints
Florio’s take: The Falcons beat the Saints in New Orleans last year. Somehow. This year, the Saints are unstoppable in the Superdome, thanks to a record-smashing season from Drew Brees. But the Falcons have the firepower to keep it interesting. Get your popcorn ready. And your abacus.
Florio’s pick: Saints 45, Falcons 38.
Rosenthal’s take: Exactly three points decided the last four games in this series. Atlanta will do enough to remind everyone the Saints’ defense really hasn’t improved much. But the Falcons won’t do enough to hand New Orleans their first home loss of the year.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 34, Falcons 31.