It’s here. The last week of the regular season. And I have even worse of a chance to catch Rosenthal as the Jets do of making it to the playoffs.
But I can’t give up now. With a two-game win in Week 16, the game is down to seven games. We disagree on four this week. With a sweep, the 11 postseason games could get interesting.
Last week, I finished 10-6. Rosey was a pathetic 8-8. For the year, he’s 159-81. I’m 152-88.
Lions at Packers
Florio’s take: The Lions should try to beat the Packers, in order to avoid having to go back to New Orleans for the first round of the playoffs. The Packers should try to beat the Lions, in order to force them to return to the Superdome. Green Bay remains the better team, as long as they go with their starters.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Lions 24.
Rosenthal’s take: The Packers aren’t likely to play their starters four quarters. That doesn’t mean this will be a cakewalk for Detroit. Ask the 2004 Bills about playing a No. 1 seed’s backups. Or the 2010 Patriots about facing Matt Flynn. Still, Detroit wants to avoid a trip to New Orleans. Their defensive line will make the difference.
Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 28, Packers 27.
Titans at Texans
Florio’s take: Technically, it’s a meaningless game for the Texans. But with two ugly losses in a row, the AFC South champs need to build some confidence and momentum before the postseason begins. Though Tennessee still has a shot at the postseason, they’re not ready to beat a quality-yet-flawed team on the road.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Titans 16.
Rosenthal’s take: I believe Gary Kubiak when he says he’ll play this game like any other. The Texans don’t want to hit the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. T.J. Yates needs his defense and running game to carry him. They will on Sunday.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 21, Titans 17.
Colts at Jaguars
Florio’s take: If the Colts win, they lose. If they lose, they win. So they’ll lose. And win. The question, of course, is what they’ll lose. And what they’ll win.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 10, Colts 6.
Rosenthal’s take: The Colts were in this spot in 1997. They had a random two-game winning streak in late December to put the No. 1 overall pick in jeopardy. They lost in Minnesota in the season finale, ensuring the top pick and Peyton Manning. Expect history to repeat. The Colts haven’t won on the road yet and the Jaguars aren’t lucky enough to lose.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 16, Colts 13.
Jets at Dolphins
Florio’s take: Of all the things that must happen for the Jets to make it to the playoffs, the hardest part could be the business to which the Jets must personally tend — beating the Dolphins in Miami. Once 0-7, the Dolphins have improved dramatically in the second half of the season. But the Jets seem to be destined to swipe another playoff berth, which means that the Jets will have to find a way to punch their way out of a corner yet another time.
Florio’s pick: Jets 20, Dolphins 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The Dolphins are playing well. The Jets are playing lousy, but I’m still convinced Rex Ryan’s lap band is made out of horseshoe particles. Don’t be surprised if the Jets still sneak in the playoffs.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Dolphins 17.
Bears at Vikings
Florio’s take: Last month, the Bears were 7-3 and poised to give the Packers a run for their money in the playoffs. After injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, the Bears have lost five in a row. Though the Vikings also have lost their starting tailback, they’re trying desperately to get a boost as they head into the offseason. As long as Chris Kluwe doesn’t kick to Devin Hester, the Vikings should be able to give the Bears the boot.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Bears 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Josh McCown remains at quarterback for the Bears. Toby Gerhart and Kahil Bell will be the primary running backs. I used to think the 18-game season could work, but can you imagine two more weeks like this?
Rosenthal’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 20.
Bills at Patriots
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Bills 17.
Rosenthal’s take: The way to beat New England: Hit Tom Brady, keeping Brady guessing by changing up your looks, and play great man-to-man coverage against the Patriots receivers. The Bills secondary can handle the last part of the equation, but Buffalo’s pass rush is non-existent.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 37, Bills 21.
Panthers at Saints
Florio’s take: The Saints plan to go “full steam ahead,” and they’ll need every ounce of it to beat the up-and-coming Panthers. Though it’ll take an epic upset by the Rams over the 49ers to help the Saints improve their playoff positioning, this one is as much about ensuring that Drew Brees will fend off Tom Brady for the all-time single-season passing yardage record.
Florio’s pick: Saints 42, Panthers 31.
Rosenthal’s take: I first picked the Panthers in this game based on the logic that Sean Payton will pull his starters once he sees the 49ers take a big lead in St. Louis. And then I remembered the Saints could score 30 in the first half.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 40, Panthers 38.
Redskins at Eagles
Florio’s take: With four straight wins to finish the 2011 season, the Eagles will give themselves a significant boost heading into 2012. Though neither team technically has anything to play for, the Eagles know the value of creating some doubt as to whether the best team will actually win the Super Bowl; there’s a chance that the best team as of right now won’t be in the playoff field at all.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 34, Redskins 20.
Rosenthal’s take: The Eagles have saved some jobs with their effort the last three weeks. One more win, and they will finish in second place in the division because of a tiebreaker advantage over Dallas and New York. So that’s pretty exciting. The Redskins have clinched double digit losses for a third straight year.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 26, Redskins 16.
49ers at Rams
Florio’s take: If this were John Harbaugh’s team, we’d be worried about the Ravens playing down to the Rams’ level. Then again, the Ravens rolled the Rams in St. Louis earlier this year. With the No. 2 seed hanging in the balance, the Niners will, too.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 27, Rams 7.
Rosenthal’s take: The Rams aren’t competitive in a league where almost everyone is competitive. Only four of their losses were by less than a 12-point margin. Five losses were by more than 20 points. It’s almost impossible to survive a season like that when it comes in a coach’s third year.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 24, Rams 3.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Florio’s take: Before Week One, anyone would have assumed that a Week 17 battle between a pair of 7-8 NFC West teams would have involved a home playoff game for the winner. But with the 49ers at 12-3, it’s one of Sunday’s few meaningless games, except as it relates to draft order. With Kevin Kolb out, John Skelton has only one more chance to show what he can do. Until Kolb gets injured again in 2012.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Both the Cardinals and Seahawks have reasons for optimism heading into 2011 after second-half runs that fell short of the playoffs. Seattle’s success has a better foundation and is based less on lucky finishes. The Seahawks defense is the best unit in this game.
Rosenthal’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 17.
Buccaneers at Falcons
Florio’s take: The Buccaneers have played the Falcons tough in recent years. But the Bucs currently are in a full-blown free-fall. Even as they play for their coach’s job, the Bucs are struggling to simply remain competitive. And if/when the Lions lose to the Packers, the Falcons will have an opportunity to avoid having to go back to New Orleans for the wild-card round.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 35, Buccaneers 21.
Rosenthal’s take: If the Lions win in Green Bay early, the Falcons will be stuck in the No. 6 seed. That means Chris Redman could make an appearance in this game. And Chris Redman can throw on this Bucs defense.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 30, Buccaneers 21.
Ravens at Bengals
Florio’s take: The Bengals haven’t been able to take down the big boys in the AFC North. But they lost by only seven points at Baltimore, and Sunday’s game has high stakes for both teams. Still, since it’s essentially a playoff game for the Bengals and given that the Bengals are 0-2 in playoff games under Marvin Lewis, the Ravens’ desire to secure the bye and a home game likely will prevail.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 17, Bengals 16.
Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens can’t beat mediocre competition on the road (San Diego, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Seattle.) The Bengals can’t seem to beat playoff teams. (They’re 0-5 against teams already in the playoffs.) Something has to give here. It’s more likely to include the team with the rookie quarterback.
Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 17.
Steelers at Browns
Florio’s take: With or without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are the better team. And with the Ravens-Bengals game possibly going down to the wire, any scoreboard-watching by the Steelers will point to maintaining the pedal to the proverbial metal.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, Browns 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The combined record of the three teams that beat Pittsburgh this year: 33-12. The combined record of the Cleveland Browns: 4-11. The Steelers won’t need a lot from Ben Roethlisberger.
Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 23, Browns 10.
Chiefs at Broncos
Florio’s take: The Prodigal Son returns to Denver, with Kyle Orton looking to punish the Broncos for their good deed of giving him his freedom. And if the Chiefs can topple the Broncos and knock them out of the playoffs, it’ll be a long offseason for anyone and everyone who was involved in the decision to let Orton walk away. If Tim Tebow can save the front office from that fate, maybe he will end up with the starting job, for life.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 14, Chiefs 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chiefs have the personnel to play man coverage on the outside and load up the box to stop Denver’s run game. They also have a quarterback competent enough to score on a suddenly vulnerable secondary. Tebow struggled last week, but it was also alarming to see the Bills offense score on four straight drives of at least 55 yards.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 17, Broncos 14.
Chargers at Raiders
Florio’s take: The Raiders have a shot at their first winning season since 2002, and with a little help a playoff berth. The Chargers have no shot at saving the skin of Norv Turner. Reeling after last weekend’s blowout in Detroit, the Chargers could be in for a similar fate in Oakland.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Chargers 10.
Rosenthal’s take: San Diego’s no-show last week was the worst game by a team fighting for a playoff spot since . . . San Diego’s no-show in Cincinnati of Week 16 last season. The Raiders finally have their receivers healthy. Deion Sanders would call this a “U-Haul” game for San Diego. They are ready to go.
Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 33, Chargers 30.
Cowboys at Giants
Florio’s take: The 256th game of the 2011 regular season also will be the first game of the 2011 postseason. Since I picked the Cowboys to win the division way back in September, I can’t abandon them now. Even if logic and common sense points to the Giants finishing their unlikely late-season climb to the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 23.
Rosenthal’s take: They Giants are as dangerous as their pass rush allows. It was great last week, with Justin Tuck finally looking healthy. Osi Umenyiora returns this week. There is no figuring out this Giants team, but I took them to win the NFC East before the year and can’t give up now.
Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 21.